The Drug Enforcement Commission is concerned with the publication of raw intelligence data by the Financial Intelligence Center as it compromises investigations by law enforcement agencies.
Commissioner of the Drug Enforcement Commission Alita Mbahwe said this is because the same intelligence report disseminated to law enforcement agencies is also disseminated to the public and, therefore, jeopardizes investigations as the perpetrators are alerted and begin to destroy vital evidence.
Mrs. Mbahwe said in some cases due to the manner in which information is verified, foreign nationals have fled the country upon realising that they are under investigation following inquiries made by the FIC.
She said further, the intelligence reports disseminated to law enforcement agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Commission sometimes turn out to be false on inquiry leading to closure of cases, a situation which is always misconstrued as inaction by investigative wings.
Mrs. Mbahwe said in certain instances, the method of intelligence gathering used, such as seizure of documents from various institutions affects the quality of investigations as other supporting documents that may not have been collected are destroyed before investigative wings move in.
She said this in some situations leads to closure of cases due to insufficient evidence or closure due to un-detection.
Mrs. Mbahwe said despite the workload and complex nature of Money Laundering investigations, the Commission has been working round the clock to ensure that each report is treated on a case-by-case basis by looking at the merits of each individual case for eventual arrest and prosecution.
She explained that Money Laundering cases take a long time to be concluded and has assured members of the public that the Commission is actively working to fulfil its mandate and contribute to the socioeconomic development of the nation.
Mrs. Mbahwe said DEC has on several occasions engaged the Financial Intelligence Centre on the need to review their modus operandi to avoid compromising investigations as well as creating a false impression.
She expressed hope that steps will be taken in this regard because part of the assessment criteria for money laundering compliance with international standards is the effective collaboration between law enforcement agencies and the Financial Intelligence Centre.
Mrs. Mbahwe said there is need for effective collaboration and coordination if Zambia is to fight all offences such as corruption, tax evasion, fraud, drug trafficking and money laundering in Zambia.
And Mrs. Mbahwe said the Commission received 16 cases out of the total number of reports indicated as being disseminated to law enforcement agencies, accounting for 20% and approximately K22 million of the total amount indicated in the FIC Trends Report.
Mrs. Mbahwe told a Media briefing that the 16 cases are currently under investigation at various stages and DEC will update members of the public on the action taken at an opportune time in order to avoid jeopardising the legal prospects of the cases.
She said while it does not please the Commission to discuss issues of security and intelligence nature in the press, they have been left with no option but to set the record straight in view of the impression created in which law enforcement agencies such as the DEC are seen to be inert or inept in the investigation of intelligence reports disseminated.
Mrs. Mbahwe said while DEC appreciates that the role of the Financial Intelligence Centre is to educate the public and reporting entities of their obligations as well as inform them of measures to detect, prevent and deter money laundering and financing of terrorism or proliferation, they are of the view that this report should not be published in the manner it has been in the past few years.
She said Information can either be constructive or destructive depending on how it is managed or disseminated.
Mrs. Mbahwe said it is therefore, important that information is disseminated to the rightful audience in line with a well thought out communication strategy to avoid speculation and undue pressure on Investigative Wings.
She said this therefore, means that the FIC should have different information prepared for their different audiences and not the current trend.