Zambia's supreme court on Thursday rejected an application by former president Frederick Chiluba against the enforcement in Zambia of a London ruling that found he defrauded his country while in power.
In 2007, British judge Peter Smith ordered Chiluba to pay $58 million to the Zambian Treasury to compensate it for money he was suspected of stealing during his decade in office.
That ruling, hailed as a turning point in Africa's battle against official corruption, was made in Britain where Zambian officials filed a civil case to try to recover properties and other assets owned by Chiluba and his associates in Britain and other European countries.
Thursday's supreme court ruling means that state lawyers can now proceed with the process of registering the London judgment in the Lusaka high court so that it can be enforced in Zambia.
"We find the application to have no merit and we dismiss it accordingly," supreme court judge Ireen Mambilima said in a ruling made following the application by Chiluba's lawyers.
Frank Bwalya, the spokesman for local civil society groups campaigning for the enforcement of the London judgment, said it was in the interest of all Zambians that the stolen money was recovered.
"Today's judgment does represent a positive step towards that because that money belongs to the Zambian people, it has to be recovered, so we are very delighted," Bwalya said.
Chiluba's spokesman, Emmanuel Mwamba, however, insisted that there was no basis to register the judgment in Zambia.
"The law provides that when a judgment is fraudulent, if that court that determined on that matter has no jurisdiction, if the judgment was not obtained meeting the requirement of natural justice, it cannot be registered in Zambia," Mwamba said.
In a separate case last year, a Zambian court acquitted Chiluba of graft charges but jailed two business executives accused with him for three years.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 11 Şubat 2010, 18:24