Opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has laughed off criticisms after he was named in the Paradise Papers as one of the 120 politicians across the worlds that have used tax havens for tax dodging purposes.
The Paradise Papers, numbering 13.4-million leaked documents from Appleby’s offices in Mauritius, have revealed how the rich evaded millions of dollars in tax and kept questionable business decisions under wraps.
But Hichilema said the issue of the Panama Papers is a pure nosiness issue and that it has nothing to do with tax dodging.
He said the Panama Papers have shown how Zambians can be entrepreneurial by going on the international market to raise funds which can be invested back home and create wealth and job opportunities for Zambians.
Mr Hichilema was speaking on Tuesday morning when he featured on a live Let the People Talk programme on Radio Phoenix.
He said, “This is a pure pure business issue. This is not a serious matter, we have more serious matters here. I was reading through that document myself and I invite you to read through that document yourself. It is very clear in saying there is nothing illegal about that. It is on the website, read it and read it in full and it lists many people, the Queen of England, the Prime Minister of Canada, two, three former Canadian Prime Ministers, Tillerson himself, the current US Secretary of State. People decide to invest here and there legally, not illegally. There is no tax dodging Read the document again.”
Mr Hichilema said he is happy that the Panama Papers have clearly outlined that there is nothing illegal about offshore investments.
“I am actually very pleased with that document because it outlines that there is no illegality, they are just revealing information which may be held and that information is not a secret Axmin is a Canadian company which bought the company from the stock Exchange in London. London stock Exchange has various windows if I may use that terminology,” Mr Hichilema said.
He added, “One of the windows is what you may call the main window, the other window is what small businesses go to list their called Alternative Investments Market, it’s called AiMs, its part of the London Stock Exchange. How can information on the London Stock Exchange be a secret?”
Mr Hichilema stated, “Open any website, you will find it. The fact that it is printed now and its called Paradise Papers by a group of independent Journalists doesn’t mean its new information. It on the London Stock Exchange AiMs.”
Mr Hichilema described the expose in the Panama Papers as a small issue.
“It’s a small issue, it’s a non-issue, there is no tax evasion. And if you check, I was a Director for only four months from March to August 2006. So there is no illegality there,” he said.
Mr Hichilema added, “And this is what we do, we try to raise money outside the country and this is what I want us to do when we form government, raise money on the stock exchange where the cost of that money is lower, the cost of money is cheaper on that market and bring that money here and invest it on a ranch, so that we can produce beef and help improve the nutritional value of citizens. So that we can invest some of that money through our credibility internationally be able to help citizens get a job from an investment made here but money sourced outside which is cheaper.”
He said, “That is what we will do when we start running the country, raise cheaper money and bring it and invest in Zambia and create jobs so that your brothers and cousins can be employed. This is what we do out there instead of raising money from fire tenders and invest it in a Casino, you are encouraging people to gamble and drink more beer, instead of producing, you are encouraging people to consume. That is the different between Hakainde and those in government today.”
“I am pleased with those papers because they are showing how Zambia we can be entrepreneurial by going on the market using our credibility and bringing the money home so that we can help somebody who is able to do something rather than sitting at home, fantastic, that is part of our vision for Zambia,” Mr Hichilema said.