ZACC sweats over seized assets

December 4, 2020

Parked vehicles losing value

…Sets up Asset Management Unit

TINASHE MAKICHI/ ANESU MASAMVU

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption (Zacc) is sweating over continued loss of value on seized movable assets as the delays in finalisation of criminal court proceedings have stalled their disposal, Business Times can report.

It is understood that at least 22 luxury vehicles worth about US$2m were recently seized from high-profile figures who failed to account for their source of wealth.

Applications for civil forfeiture (separately from the criminal trial process) regarding the vehicles are pending at court.

Well-placed sources at ZACC told this newspaper that seizure of movable assets is becoming meaningless as some of the seized vehicles are losing value daily due to lack of maintenance.

Some are stocked at the old ZACC head office in Mt Pleasant while others are stored at the Strathaven Investigations Office.

They said rains are pounding some vehicles and some have either deflated tyres while others are suffering body tear and wear due to rust. 

This means the seized cars are likely to fetch insignificant amounts and the anti-graft body is also likely to lose out given that it has proposed to retain 15% of the value of recovered assets to fund the body’s operations.

To deal with the significant loss of value of assets, a new asset management entity called Asset Management Unit (AMU) under the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe was recently established.

ZACC chairperson, Loice Matanda-Moyo, told Business Times the loss of value was giving the Commission a serious headache.

“This [loss of value] was becoming an issue but a new asset management unit has since been set up and this unit is going to ensure the upkeep of the vehicles in question,” Matanda-Moyo told Business Times.

She also disclosed that ZACC has temporarily stopped vehicle seizure until the issue of vehicle custodian was sorted. She, however, said the fight on corruption was in full throttle.

According to Zacc spokesperson Commissioner John Makamure the anti-graft body has a mandate to seize vehicles under the Anti-Corruption Commission Act [Chapter 9:22], the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act [Chapter 9:07] and the Money laundering and Proceeds of Crime Amendment Act [Chapter 9:24].

He said the challenge on the disposal of seized vehicles has been around the criminal proceedings that are taking long to conclude.

“The challenges have been that criminal proceedings may take long to be completed. Prior to the recent appointment of the Acting Director General of the Asset Management Unit (AMU), the Commission was facing challenges in preserving the value of assets recovered.

“The Commission had to wait for the matter to be finalised in court and an order for forfeiture to be awarded before the disposal of the asset through the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

For non-conviction-based forfeiture applications are made to the High Court through the NPA,” Makamure said. 

Makamure noted that with the appointment of the AMU acting director general the modalities are underway to refer the assets to the unit which has been empowered to manage the assets in terms of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act.

Forfeiture of assets is a process done through orders of the court.

There are criminal based forfeitures and civil based confiscations.

The procedures are laid out in the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act [Chapter 9:07] and the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act [Chapter 9:24] respectively.

Prior to the establishment of the AMU by section100 of the Money laundering and Proceeds of Crime Amendment Act [Chapter 9:24], the property or asset would be forfeited to the State.

Administrative procedures on change of ownership would be facilitated by the NPA and relevant government departments. 

New Money Laundering Act now gives AMU, which is based at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, the function to act as a receiver or trustee for all property for which a receiver or trustee may be appointed in terms of the Act.

The AMU has a duty to do anything that is reasonably necessary to preserve the property as guided by section 100B and this may include insuring the property, among others. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has recently appointed the Acting Director General of the AMU.

ZACC is targeting to recover assets worth $300million by year-end.

A national anti-corruption strategy was recently launched to fight corruption at all levels as the government takes a zero-tolerance approach to graft.

The commission has entered collaborative efforts with the NPA and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority to enforce unexplained wealth orders.

There are agreements with reputable international partners who specialise in asset tracking and recovery.

The anti-graft body said this week it had surpassed its targets despite the Covid-19 pandemic with around 90 dockets having been forwarded to the National Prosecution Authority for prosecution. ZACC had a target of 80 dockets.

Matanda-Moyo, however, admitted that asset recovery remained a sophisticated process and ZACC had recovered assets close to US$5m.

“In terms of asset recovery, we have already forwarded 10 applications which have been filed before the High court with a total amount of about US$4.8m and these applications are now pending before the courts,” Matanda-Moyo said.

Transparency International Zimbabwe executive director, Muchaneta Mundopa, commended ZACC for the transparency and update on corruption prevention efforts.

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