The Supreme Court has upheld the two-year jail sentence with hard labour imposed on former minister of Labour and Social Security Austin Liato by the Lusaka Magistrate’s Court for possession of K2.1 million reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.
Supreme Court judge Mumba Malila yesterday sentenced Mr Liato to 24 months imprisonment with hard labour. The sentence will run with effect from yesterday.
Mr Justice Malila, sitting in Ndola yesterday, further ordered that Liato’s farm number number L/Mpamba/44 in Mwembeshi, and the K2.1 million which was in his possession be forfeited to the State.
Liato was on July 23, 2013 convicted and sentenced to 24 months imprisonment with hard labour by the Lusaka Magistrate’s Court, which also ordered that his farm and the money, which he had buried on the property, be forfeited to the State but the sentence was later quashed by the Lusaka High Court.
The State appealed to the Supreme Court on grounds that the High Court erred in law when it held that to prove reasonable suspicion under section 71, the prosecution had to show a link between the source of the money or the accused to possible criminal conduct among other grounds of appeal.
Mr Justice Malila, in his judgment, states that: “The money was buried underground in a chalet at the convict’s farm and the top was sealed with concrete. This raises a lot of questions on whether the money was gotten legitimately.
“This court holds the view, therefore, that the money was ill-gotten as no one would conceal money the way the convict did even if one had lost faith in the banking system in the country.”
Mr Justice Malila added: “I therefore set aside the judgment of the High Court and uphold the conviction on accused by the lower court. I direct that the convict serves the 24 months imprisonment with hard labour with effect from today. I further order that the property be forfeited to the State,” Mr Justice Malila said.
Liato’s wife wept uncontrollably after the judgment was passed in a fully packed courtroom.
Liato was charged with possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crime contrary to section 71(1) Act number 19 of 2011 of the laws of Zambia.
On November 24, 2011 in Lusaka, Liato had in his possession K2.1 million, which was reasonably suspected to be proceeds of crime.