Former Zambian President Frederick Chiluba has blamed President Levy Mwanawasa’s government for engineering the recent guilty verdict in a London court against Chiluba for allegedly stealing about $41 million from the Zambian treasury. During a news conference yesterday (Thursday), Chiluba denied ever stealing any money. He said that part of the money he is accused of stealing was used for security operations by the Zambian intelligence. While the Zambian government says it feels vindicated by the court ruling, opponents accuse the government of vendetta against the former president.
Emmanuel Mwamba is the spokesman for Ex-President Chiluba. From the capital, Lusaka he told VOA that the former president denies the guilty verdict against him.
“Dr. Chiluba stated that he has rejected the judgment of justice Peter Smith of London High Court. He cited issues of jurisdiction. He said as a Zambian he would rather that a Zambian court tried him because the matters at stake are Zambian matters. Secondly, he said it is difficult for him to discuss the matters of the intelligence because that account was an intelligence account, and he cannot be discussing these matters in foreign court,” Mwamba noted.
He said former president Chiluba believes the Zambian and British governments colluded to embarrass him.
“With this judgment, the British government paid the lawyers, the judge, the prosecutors, and they paid for all the witnesses. So in Dr. Chiluba’s view is that the interest of the British government in this matter is so personal,” he said.
Mwamba said the former president has never been asked to explain his action relating to the monies he allegedly stole.
“It is Dr. Chiluba’s contention that he has never been given an opportunity to explain his side of the story. The matters were never discussed with him. President Mwanawasa took this matter to parliament, but Dr. Chiluba was not afforded the opportunity to defend himself in parliament. And these matters are still playing in the court of law. And we have not reached in our court process a stage where Dr. Chiluba can defend himself,” he said.
Mwamba reiterated the former president’s preparedness to explain his actions.
“He (former President Chiluba) insisted that he is ready to explain his side of the story in an appropriate forum, which is the Zambian court… he has answers to all these accusations. He is disputing the forum that the government took, that is the London High Court.” Mwamba said.
He said the former president feels he is being held accountable for the action of every Zambian civil servant.
“In pursuit of this case, the Zambian government commissioned three independent bodies from reputable organizations. And these accounting firms have established that out of the $41 million, $9 million was from private and state party sources. The bulk of the difference was used on some security operations. The specific claim against Dr. Chiluba is $2.9 million… the government is saying that Dr. Chiluba has an oversight duty and therefore is liable that the government lost that money,” he pointed out.
Mwamba said that during the news conference the former president cited an example where a similar case occurred in Britain. He questioned why British Prime Minister Tony Blair was not held accountable for it.
“Dr. Chiluba’s contention is that, look, we are an African government; we are still reforming. Flaws are many; I can’t be answerable to everything that a civil servant does. He then gave an example about British Prime Minister Tony Blair that for example there is an arm scandal of $25 million that Tony Blair stopped from investigating. So, should the British government sue Tony Blair personally for that loss because he had the oversight duty? The president covered those matters,” Mwamba said.