The hearing of the State’s application for former police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri to explain how he sold five properties that were part of the family’s large property portfolio, in what is seen as a rapid unloading of assets after the Second Republic started investigating his wealth, has been deferred to March 16.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) chief public prosecutor in charge of the asset forfeiture unit, Mr Chris Mutangadura, confirmed that the matter would be heard next week.
“The judge directed that it be postponed to the 16th because his schedule could not allow him to hear three consolidated matters today(yesterday) at once,” he said. “Remember it is a very bulky record of three matters and concerns very complex legal dispute.”
Chihuri is believed to be living in Malawi and unwilling to return home. He is accused of side-tracking up to US$32 million of public funds into family companies and buying properties during the 25 years he was at the helm of the police force.
He is alleged to have sold five properties in 2017 and 2018, following his unceremonious departure from the top police post.
Chihuri is contesting court orders allowing the State to forfeit his properties, a move which last month prompted Justice Kwenda to propose that all these matters be consolidated into a single case for the court hearing.
The State seeks to freeze Chihuri’s companies and the properties, which his family acquired during his 25 years at the helm of the police force, pending the final outcome of possible criminal investigations and civil suits that could lead to their forfeiture.
And in its fresh application that State wants Chihuri to explain how the five properties were sold.
In the application counteracting Chihuri’s bid to set aside two orders issued against him, the NPA argues that a check with the Deeds Office showed the rushed disposal of assets by the Chihuri family.
The order, which the NPA obtained at the High Court two years ago, put the properties of Chihuri and his family under the management of the Asset Management Unit, meaning that the properties cannot be sold without permission of the courts.
This followed an upgrade in anti-corruption law by amending the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act to allow courts to demand how people acquired wealth that is otherwise not explained.
The new Chapter III A in the Act now empowers the High Court to make orders to elicit explanations from persons who exhibit possession of great wealth without having apparent lawful means of obtaining such wealth, such as through their legal earnings or through their private business dealings.