The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) are presently constituting and resourcing units expected to lead efforts of recovering money and properties acquired through corruption.
Asset forfeiture is designed to disincentivise corruption by making it unprofitable.
In an interview, Prosecutor-General Mr Kumbirai Hodzi said the NPA had made headway in implementing a comprehensive strategy for asset recovery.
“There is plenty of effort being made now by Zimbabwe on assets forfeiture. NPA has just finished organising the Assets Forfeiture Unit. It is a joint effort with other departments. The same training has been passed onto SACU (Special Anti-Corruption Unit) and other departments like ZACC. Already assets running into millions of dollars are in the process of being recovered,” he said.
“In addition, there is a new Act which is coming into place very soon that will also allow even civil proceedings for confiscation of assets.”
Separately, ZACC Commissioner John Makamure said law enforcement agencies are currently tracking 14 cases to recover millions of dollars from proceeds of crime.
He said two other asset forfeiture applications had been referred to the NPA and filed at the High Court.
“Section 27A (4) of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act [9:24] as amended provides that the Asset Forfeiture Unit in the NPA shall work in cooperation with the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, Financial Intelligence Unit and other investigative agencies for the purposes of facilitating identification, tracing, freezing and confiscation of property.
“This provision gives mandate to facilitate identification, tracing, freezing and confiscation of property believed to have been acquired through proceeds of crime.
“The unit is currently seized with 14 cases under asset tracing investigations. These run into millions of US dollars.”
Commissioner Makamure said ZACC had provided its officers with international training to sharpen their skills in asset recovery.
“Upon assuming office, the current commission resolved to restructure the Asset Recovery Unit after three benchmarking visits were made to the Nigeria Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Botswana Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes and Tanzania Anti-corruption Agency.
“The unit now comprises four lawyers and several investigators. It will be further strengthened this year through the recruitment of more staff and implementation of training programmes.
“The Asset Recovery Unit conducts asset tracing investigations, apply for warrants of seizures and freezing orders and then draft asset forfeiture applications for referral to the National Prosecuting Authority.”
He said the corruption-fighting body believes that once the ill-gotten wealth has been recovered it had to be directed to “productive expenditure” such as infrastructure development and social services delivery. In addition, ZACC has partnered local and international agencies involved in asset tracking and recovery, Commissioner Makamure said.
SACU head Mr Tabani Mpofu said: “The assets forfeiture unit is something that we are currently working on and is dependent upon inter-departmental cooperation between the NPA, ZACC, the Attorney-Generals’ Office and SACU.
“We are sharpening the teeth and widening the net to ensure that we recover ill-gotten gains from those convicted of crime.”
Last month, the PG’s Office approached the High Court seeking an order to seize a residential stand and vehicles belonging to a Zimbabwe Revenue Authority official, Desberia Mutara, who was employed as a revenue officer at Beitbridge Border Post.
In other countries, assets forfeiture has become a major deterrent to high-profile crimes.
Last year, South Africa’s NPA said it had recovered R11,8 billion from the proceeds of corruption.