It was null, void and an abuse of authority for the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to seize bank accounts belonging to former director of the defunct Access Finance Services Faustin Kabwe when there was no basis to suspect that the money in the account was illegally obtained activities that violated the Drug and Narcotic Act.
The ACC has been ordered to pay Kabwe K1.3 million inclusive interest for wrongly seizing and freezing his accounts when the money in the account was not illegal property or the subject of an offence under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Act.
And Kabwe has subsequently obtained a writ of Fieri Facias to compel the ACC to pay the money.
High Court Judge Chalwe Muchenga in his Judgment delivered on 8th November 2013 ruled that the decision by the Anti-Corruption Commission to seize his account and its subsequent forfeiture was in contumelious disregard of his rights and entitles him to exemplary damages.
Judge Muchenga ruled that he was of the considered view that the punitive award against the ACC would sufficiently punish the commission and deter them from similar conduct in the future.
In this matter, the ACC had illegally seized Kabwe’s account at Barclays Bank without informing him thereby denying him the opportunity to make representation by not being notified about the seizure of his own account.
Judge Muchenga ruled that the forfeiture of Kabwe’s account at the Barclays Bank made on 14th July 2013 after he (Kabwe) was denied the opportunity to make representations was unlawful.
The High Court Judge in his judgment said following the failure by the ACC to inform Kabwe about the seizure of his personal account, he had declared the seizure null and void by reason that there was no evidence that the money was liable for forfeiture.
“I find that for a person to make representation on a seizure, he must be aware of the seizure. A person can only be aware of the seizure if he has been informed or notified. I therefore agree with the submissions on behalf of the plaintiff that the defendant was under obligation to inform the plaintiff of the seizure. They did not, this being the case, it cannot be said the plaintiff failed to make representation, he was in fact denied the opportunity to make representation by not being notified of the seizure. It follows that the forfeiture of the account after the plaintiff was denied the opportunity to make representation was unlawful. I also find the seizure null and void by reason of there being no evidence that Kabwe had committed an offence,” Judge Muchenga said.
Judge Muchenga ruled that prior to the seizure of Kabwe’s account; there had been no proceedings either civil or criminal that were instituted against the former director of the defunct Access Finance Services in relation to the money held in the said account.
Kabwe had argued that after the government had fused the Task Force on Corruption into the Anti-Corruption Commission in 2009, the former director of the defunct Access Finance Services had written to ACC to find out the status of his account but that there had been no response from the commission.
The Lusaka High Court has ordered ACC to pay Kabwe K1.3 million inclusive interests as at 31st December 2013 and at the time the account was being seized, there was k69.2 million.