It has sparked broad appeal since it started making its reports public. Civil Society organisation have hailed the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) as the last hope to fight corruption and promote transparency in the country.
Others have stated that the rise of the IFC has made the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) moribund.
But until the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) made the IFC it a strong item of discussion and concern at the last AGM, few people even knew if such an organisation even existed.
LAZ members were concerned that the FIC had sent demands that lawyers or their accountants should disclose financial transactions related to their clients and such details should also include source of funds for amounts and business transactions above $5,000.00.
It has also since been established that the FIC had also requested selected estate agencies to disclose to them any civil servants above the position of Assistant Directors, Ministers and any magistrates and judges, who had recently bought a property.
The order to compel banks to report all client’s transactions beyond the threshold of $5,000.00 has also instilled fear that businesses might begin to conduct transactions outside the banking and formal systems thereby creating a thriving black market and parallel economy.
The FIC also demanded for details such as source of funds or third party purchases.
It is at this stage that many were alarmed! Is this the reincarnation of the feared Special Investigations Team for Economy and Trade (SITET), a terror monster used by the one-party-state to terrorise businesses and political enemies under the cover of investigating economic crimes?
THE FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE CENTRE-What is it?
The Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) is exactly that! An intelligence arm of the state specialising in gathering and providing information related to suspected financial and economiccrimes and also help alert or flag financial support to terrorism activities.
The Finacial Intelligence Unit was established in November 2010 by an Act of Parliament. It’s a national agency designated and mandated to receive, request, analyse, and disseminate disclosure of information concerning money laundering, terrorist financing, and other serious suspected crimes to competent authorities for purposes of investigations.
According to the acts that establishes the Centre (Financial Intelligence Centre No. 46 of 2010 and Act no.4 of 2016) the FIC gathers this information from banks, financial institutions and others but must submit such information to law Enforcement Agencies and investigative wings and similar foreign entities related to cross border and international crimes.
But what the FIC is not is;
1. It’s not a law enforcement agencies
2. Its information is not prosecution material as it is intelligence information and usually sourced from third-parties. This information however, is actionable, but would require further investigations and verification to make it meet the pre-trial stage standard. At this stage like all intelligence information it is not fit for prosecution but for information and leads.
3. This information to be further processed and should not be put out to the public as it alerts the alleged criminal suspect and also endangers opportunities and effort to a successful prosecution.
SO WHY IS THE FIC PUTTING OUT THIS INFORMATION TO THE GALLERY
Many are alarmed at the grand-standing and populist manner the FIC has taken to even jeopardise in its work by making these unverified, un-researched information to the gallery.
Its own law that regulates the Unit mandates to provide it provide its findings to competent authorities (law Enforcement Agencies) and the Act forbids publication of this information to the public.
The Act provides that the Board is appointed by the President. He appoints the Chairperson and four persons with the experience in law, financial analysis, accounting, forensic auditing and financial investigations.
From the above it is clear that the Board is qualified enough even without reminding them of the law to work in a professional manner.
But Mary Chirwa-Tshuma contends that Act No.4 of 2016 section 3(e), (i) and section 5 (h) and (j) empowers her to make the findings public only if she protects the identity of such persons or entities. She also states that her reports will be rendered irrelevant if she publishes them but is not acted upon by Law Enforcement Agencies.
But this is not true as every Trends Report she has put out there comes out with a leakage of names and entities from her office.
WHO IS AFFECTED, WHO SHOULD REPORT TO THE FIC FOR “SUSPICIOUS” TRANSACTIONS AND ECONOMIC CRIMES?
Those directed by the law and the FIC to establish compliance or reporting officer for such transactions include sectors such as;
1. Banking Sector
2. Bureau de Change
3. Casino Sector
4. Insurance Sector
5. Legal Professionals
6. Ministry of Lands
8. Real Estate sector
This law is not home-grown but imposed by the United States of America that have pushed countries to establish anti-terrorism instruments, tools and laws. However, this law excited people who practiced similar laws during the one-party state, and saw the reincarnation of INDECO as IDC.
The issues around the rise of corruption and abuse of power is a matter of deep concern but should not bear laws and regulations that hinder economic progress and injure fundamental rights of individuals.
The perceived rise of corruption and lack of transparency cannot make us regress to oppressive instruments and mechanisms that not only harm our economy or the rights and freedoms of citizens as seen by the IFC,
Even in the USA and Britain, there has been successful court challenges to laws repugnant to fundamental rights to a free trial, right to innocence until proven guilty.