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A FORMER worker at Austin Liato’s farm yesterday told the Magistrates’ Court how law enforcement officers dug out two trunks containing K2.1 billion from the floor of a newly built chalet.
Paul Kayando, 36, said police officers arrived at the farm around 13:00 hours and excavated the trunks with two safes inside, where the K2.1 billion was packed after 14:00 hours.
Mr Kayando was testifying in a case in which Liato, former Minister of Labour and Social Security in the MMD administration, is charged with one count of possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crime, contrary to the Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crimes Acts number 19 of 2010.
“We called our boss (Liato) to inform him that the police were at the farm but he told us that we should leave them to do what they wanted to do,” he said.
“One of the police officers then went to the vehicle where he picked a shovel and pick which they used to dig the money from the ground.”
Mr Kayando said the money was packed in two safes and the safes could be opened using a remote control but police officers used iron bars to open them.
He said the grill door to the chalet was also opened with iron bars, because none of the farm workers had keys to the house as Liato had taken the keys away from the employee in charge of them and given them to his younger brother.
Mr Kayando said, during examination -in -chief by Director of Public Prosecutions Mutembo Nchito, that the chalet was built after the September 20 tripartite elections.
The worker, who was present from the time officers started doing the excavation to counting the money at Zambia Police Service headquarters, said the officers took pictures of the chalet before entering the money at every stage.
Mr Kayando said police officers were assisted to dig by farm workers from a neighbouring farm.
He said the grill door and the locks to the chalet were automatic and had alarms which used to go off when someone touched them.
Mr Kayando said he was shocked and hurt that Liato could bury such an amount of money when he was allegedly paying his farm workers K200,000 per month.
He said his wife and two other women fainted when they saw the money, because Liato was not paying his workers well.
Mr Kayando said after the police officers left, Liato and his relatives went to the farm around midnight and woke the workers, whom he accused of being criminals, thieves and selling him out to the police.
He said Liato, in the company of his brothers Kawewe Liato, Peter Liato and a Mr Mulyata threatened to bewitch and kill the workers who had allegedly sold him out to the police.
“Liato and his brothers ordered us to get into the vehicle and we proceeded to Lusaka. On the way, he was saying we will either be killed or we will go mad,” Mr Kayando said.
He said he told Liato that:If you want to kill us, you should start with President Sata who sent the police officers to take your money and then later you can kill us.”
Mr Kayando said during cross -examination that it is not true that the trunks had K2.7 billion because he was present at all times when the money was being counted and K2.1 billion was found in the safes.
He said Liato was not supposed to bury the money but take it to the bank for safe keeping.
And armed police officers yesterday guarded the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court Complex as they provided security to the two trunks which contained the K2.1 billion.
The money was taken to court for identification at about 10:18 hours, under tight security.
The matter comes up today for continued trial.
Meanwhile, CHARLES MUSONDA reports that George Kunda, the embattled former Vice -President, was yesterday interrogated for over two hours by the joint Government investigative wing.
After the interview, Mr Kunda, whose attempt to evade journalists failed, said: “There is nothing. We were just discussing matters of mutual interest.”
This was the second time Mr Kunda, in the company of his lawyer Sunday Nkonde, appeared before the investigative officers. They initially interviewed him on Wednesday morning.
On the same day, the officers interviewed former Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Felix Mutati, investigative wing spokesperson Munganga Chanda confirmed but could not disclose details, saying it is premature to do so.
Ms Chanda also confirmed that yesterday morning, the officers interviewed Dr Richard Chembe, who served as economic advisor to former President Rupiah Banda.