Elita Chikwati, Harare Bureau
Law enforcement agents will now have powers to question people living flamboyant and swish life from inexplicable sources of income as the Government moves in to curb corruption, money laundering and tax evasion.
People who fail to explain or hide useful information pertaining to the source of their wealth will be jailed up to two years while the tainted property will be forfeited to the State.
This comes as Government yesterday gazetted the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Amendment Bill (2019) that seeks to give Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) and Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) powers to seek explanation from people who show wealth without the means of obtaining it.
The Bill which was published in the Government Gazette yesterday will amend the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act [Chapter 9; 24].
“The statutory instrument gives powers to ZACC, Zimra and ZRP to solicit explanation from people who exhibit great wealth without having any apparent lawful means of obtaining such wealth”.
“The amendments were initially effected under the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of the Money laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act) Regulations 2018, published in Statutory Instrument 246 of 2018, on the 9th November 2018 and according to the provisions of section 6 of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act [Chapter 10;20] the regulations expired on the one hundredth and eighty first day following the date of commencement of the regulations which was the 9th of May 2019.
“As such it is expedient to enact an Amendment Bill re-enacting the affected provisions – some proceedings were already commenced under the Regulations,” read the SI.
The amendments will further strengthen the provisions in the law to combat corruption, money laundering and terrorist financing and ensure members of the law enforcement are effective in carrying out their mandate. “The part will be inserted in the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act providing for unexplained wealth orders issued by the High Court at the instance of ZACC, Zimra or ZRP. These orders will require the addressee to explain his or her wealth and provide supporting documentation therefor,” read the SI.
According to the SI, the High Court may, on an ex-parte application made by an enforcement authority, issue an unexplained wealth order when it is satisfied that the requirements for such an order would have been fulfilled. An application for that order must specify the property in respect of which the order is sought and specify the person whom the enforcement authority thinks holds the property (the respondent) and the person specified may include a person outside Zimbabwe.
In deciding whether to make an unexplained wealth order the High Court must be satisfied that there is reasonable cause to believe that the responsible hold the property and the value of the property is greater than US$410 000 or its equivalent in any currency.
“The High Court must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the known sources of the respondent’s lawfully obtained income would have been insufficient for the purpose of enabling the respondent to obtain or hold the property.
“The High Court must be satisfied that the respondent is a politically exposed person or there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the respondent is or has been involved in serious crime whether in Zimbabwe or elsewhere or a person connected with the respondent is or has been is involved. Where the respondent fails without reasonable excuse to comply with the requirements imposed by an unexplained wealth order in respect of any property before the end of the response period, the property will be presumed to be tainted property for the purposes of any proceedings taken in respect of the property under this Act, unless the contrary is shown,” stated the SI.
A person who makes a false statement in response to unexplained wealth shall be guilty of an offence and maybe jailed for a period of up to two years.
The court also has the discretion to impose a fine of up to US$65 000 or the equivalent in Zimbabwe dollars at the prevailing interbank rate of exchange.