Austin Liato released on bail

Austin Liato released on bail

Former Labour minister Austin Liato has been released from prison.

Liato has been given a K50 million bail pending his appeal to the High Court.

Magistrate Aridah Chulu granted Liato Bail Monday morning and ordered him to be reporting to Lusaka Central police station every two weeks.

He has also been ordered to surrender his passport.

Last week, Austin Liato was sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour over the K2.1 billion dug out at his farm in Mwembeshi.

Liato, who was facing a charge of possessing property suspected to be proceeds of crime, also had his K2.1 billion and the farm forfeited to the State.

He was convicted of one count of being in possession of property suspected to have been proceeds of crime contrary to Section 71 (1) of the Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Act Number 19 of 2010 of the Laws of Zambia.

On November 24, last year, Liato, who is former minister in the MMD government, was found to have concealed K2.1 billion at his farm, Number L/Mpamba/44 Mwembeshi.

In convicting the former minister, principal resident magistrate, Aridah Chulu said she needed to mete out stiffer punishment looking at the circumstances under which the offence was committed which also led to distortion of the country’s economy.

She said the money found on Liato’s farm house could only have been derived from a crime and it was not necessary for the prosecution to prove a specific predicate offence.

“In the instant case, the accused elected to remain silent when placed on his defence. Though he was entitled to exercise his right to do so, the law required him at least to offer an explanation to the satisfaction of the court and in this case the accused has not discharged the onus placed on him,” Ms Chulu said.

She noted in her judgement delivered in under an hour that it was not in dispute that the money and the farm where the money was found belonged to Liato who did not dispute the facts.

“It is not denied by the accused that he owned the money in issue. In fact, the accused claimed under cross-examination that the money dug out was in excess of K2.1 billion which the prosecution declared,” Ms Chulu said.

She said the Zambian economy was distorted because Liato buried a huge sum of money and as such the court had a duty to protect the economy by meting out serious punishment to offenders.

“I, therefore, sentence you to two years imprisonment with hard labour effective from today. You can appeal to the High Court if you are not happy as I am not the last court,” she said.

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