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Zambia’s Former President Challenges Graft Case Against him

Attorneys for former Zambian President Frederick Chiluba have challenged the government’s move to claim a $58 million fine imposed on him by a London judge in a recent ruling. In their argument, the lawyers said the British judgment had not been certified, as required by Zambian authorities. Chiluba’s lawyers also petitioned the Zambian judge to make the state establish whether an existing presidential order would allow judgments delivered in England to be enforced in Zambia. The state then accused Chiluba’s lawyers of “ambushing” and deliberately failing to include their arguments in initial affidavits to enable the state to respond appropriately.

Mike Mulongoti is the minister for information and broadcasting. From the capital, Lusaka he tells VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey that the state has a legitimate case against the former president.

“It’s a court process, the procedure is that the attorney general of Zambia made an application with the High Court of Zambia so that the judgment is administered in our local jurisdiction. And the judge did admit the application and invited the former president and all those in the group to go before him and make representation as to why judgment should not be registered in our local jurisdiction,” Mulongoti said.

He said the graft case against the former president has been adjourned.

“There was a meeting today (Monday), I think they moved the hearing to another date. He (Chiluba) will advance his argument and all his group against registration because, one, it is registered. The ultimate result is enforcement. Now, of course they have gone to court to say we don’t want you to register it because that’s the only thing left to them to do. So, it’s not up to him (Chiluba). It’s up to the judge to consider the merits and demerits of the argument and thereafter its determination,” he pointed out.

Mulongoti said the attorney general followed laid down regulations in registering the London graft ruling in the country’s High Court.

“Of course, the application had to be made in a formal way because the Foreign Judgment Registration Act does provide the procedure to follow, and if you don’t follow that procedure, of course the judge would not admit it in court. So, they followed the procedure and this is why the judge set a date for those in the opposition to also go and lay their argument before him,” Mulongoti said.

He said the state has a right to challenge the defense team after Chiluba’s lawyers failed to disclose some important information that would allow the state to prepare adequately.

“Anytime before you go to court, the normal thing is that there is what is called disclosure, so that the other party is made aware of the argument that you are going to advance in court. So if you are not given sufficient notice on the argument that you are going to raise in court, you’ve got every reason to ask the judge, taken to account the fact that, well these matters have just been raised at the spur of the moment. And it would be difficult for you to make appropriate representation,” he said.

Mulongoti disagreed with the former president’s argument that the London Court’s ruling does not have jurisdiction over him.

“Well, transnational crimes. There is a procedure to follow because if that wasn’t so, then it would make the whole exercise of trying to contain crime in the world fruitless. So what the world has done is that different jurisdictions have agreed to domesticate a law, which enables them to make applications to other jurisdictions to determine matters that come within their jurisdiction. And after they’ve done that, it’s up to the party that makes the application to go to the local jurisdiction, now to have that judgment registered in their jurisdiction. So the question of whether it augurs well or not is not the issue, because the transnational crimes, and with the sophistication that is in the world, without that kind of legislation, you would not be able to keep track of the criminals,” he said.