Proposed amendments to the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act will incorporate provisions for the High Court to issue out unexplained wealth orders, as Government moves to consolidate efforts to curtail financial and economic crimes such as tax evasion.
This comes after President Mnangagwa made temporary provisions for such orders in the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act and Exchange Control Act) Regulations, 2018, gazetted in SI 246/2018, but have since recently expired.
The re-enactment of the whole of statutory instrument 246/2018 was catered for in the Finance (Number 3) Bill of December 2018, but the provision for unexplained wealth orders was not approved by Parliament, on the ground that it should not have been included in a money Bill.
The legislation was used only once in the case of former Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) chief executive officer Frank Chitukutuku, who is under investigation for fraud, and was given a 30-day ultimatum to give an account of how he acquired an array of immovable and movable assets worth over US$20 million.
High Court judge Justice Erica Ndewere, ordered a freeze of the assets of Chitukutuku pending finalisation of the criminal case.
Institutions that were authorised to apply for unexplained wealth orders were the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the Commissioner-General of Police as well as the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA).
In his inauguration, President Mnangagwa boldly declared that his government would have zero tolerance towards corruption, stating that every case would be fully investigated with no sacred cows.
The President said then that corruption remains the major source of some of the problems “we face as a country and its retarding impact on national development cannot be overemphasised”.
The aim of the legislation is to combat money laundering, terrorist financing, tax evasion and corruption activities in Zimbabwe. If no satisfactory explanation is provided, forfeiture of property may follow.
According to legal think tank, Veritas Zimbabwe, the court orders are designed to elicit explanations from persons who may exhibit possession of great wealth without having apparent and lawful means of obtaining such wealth.
“An unexplained wealth order, which can be obtained by specified authorities without prior notice to the person concerned, requires that person to explain his or her wealth and provide supporting documentation showing it was lawfully obtained,” Veritas Zimbabwe said.
Veritas said as temporary measures, however, the regulations were applicable for only 180 days from 9th of November, 2018, and unless if the regulations had been re-enacted by Act of Parliament.
“And, as they were not so re-enacted, they expired at midnight on Thursday 8th May.
“The result of this expiry is that from 9th May onwards no new applications for unexplained wealth orders can be lodged with the High Court,” Veritas said.
There has been concern among Zimbabweans that Government was not doing much to curb corruption.
However, without an enabling legislation many people accused or those known to have abused state resources are getting away unharmed.