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Zambian Government to Rearrest and Retry Former First Lady

The Zambian government says it intends to re-arrest and re-try Mrs. Regina Chiluba, wife of former President Frederick Chiluba on charges of receiving and obtaining stolen state property. The decision comes after a judge granted the government’s request to drop its prosecution of Mrs. Chiluba on all charges for the time being because the government could not find witnesses to testify against her.

Meanwhile, the judge has ordered the government to pay damages to Mrs. Chiluba and return all property seized from her.

Maxwell Nkole is chairman of Zambia’s Anti-Corruption Task Force responsible for investigating corruption during the 10 years of Chiluba’s presidency. He told VOA the government intends to re-arrest and retry Mrs. Chiluba because it believes it has a strong case.

“We have a very strong evidence against Mrs. Chiluba for possession of property suspected stolen or unlawfully obtained for which even during the investigation stage under question she failed she failed to explain how she got it. The statement she gave us was that her husband used to give her money from which she bought the properties in question. So obviously the husband is involved in this corruption trial and the judgment against him in London for money that he used to help himself from the government coffers. And we believe that Mrs. Chiluba’s case is a bi-product of the husband’s misconduct,” he said.

Nkole said the government would not honor the judge’s ordered to pay damages to Mrs. Chiluba.

“I don’t see how the government can be ordered to pay damages when in fact we haven’t concluded and prosecuted the case. As I said, these were our fears that the court was not being partial in this matter. When you enter nolle prosequi, it is expected that the case would be or may not be brought up again in court, and in this case the ceased items for Mrs. Chiluba are part and parcel of the exhibit list. And I think that it is premature for a court to rule that the exhibits be returned to her as assets. It shows that there is a prejudicial intent on the part of that decision,” Nkole said.

He reiterated the government’s intension to re-arrest and re-try Mrs.Chiluba.

“Yes, we are going to re-arrest her, take her before another court and then go through the whole process of trial,” he said.

Nkole denied the Zambian government has been engaged in political vendetta against the Chiluba family.

“No not at all. An independent court in London found her husband liable, and we have overwhelming evidence here at home of her husband’s criminal misconduct as well as misconduct on her part. So we are not prosecuting out of political vendetta. These are cases that have gone ahead with consultation with the director of public prosecutions, and all of us agreeed that there is a prima facie case against her for which she should answer,” Nkole said.

The government seized from Mrs. Chiluba four vehicles, three buildings, a television set and her bank accounts, which it used as exhibits during the trial.

But Nkole said the government does not intend to return the items despite the judge’s order they be returned to the former first lady.

“No we cannot do that. We can only return those things back to Mrs. Chiluba after a full trial. We intend to effect a re-arrest as soon as possible. It could be next week or the week after. I don’t know. It’s up to the handling officer to do so,” Nkole said.