Hong Kong, Nov.30– A Zambian former minister who stashed close to US$420 million in an electrified underground bunker has spent his first night in a police cell.
Austin Liatio was detained at Lusaka’s Woodlands Police Tuesday after investigators recorded a statement from him.
He presented himself before a team of investigators in a flashy flowery beach shirt and walking stick – a scene onlookers likened to a mafia dress code.
Making his first appearance in public since his buried treasure was dug-out last Thursday, Liato – a self-made ‘money grower’- looked reserved and showed no apprehension.
A crack taskforce investigating alleged mismanagement of public resources during ex-president Rupiah Banda’s three year rule, questioned Liato before holding him overnight at a police detention facility in the poshy residential area of Woodlands.
“Mr. Liato is yet to be charged,” Elizabeth Kanjela, a spokesperson for police said. “Investigations are still ongoing.”
Liato is being investigated for concealing a huge amount of money in two metal safes at his farming grounds, west of Lusaka.
He faces money laundering, profiteering and tax evasion charges and could face a long jail term if found guilty.
The new Zambian leader, Michael Sata, has warned that his administration will prosecute any offenders found to have mismanaged state resources – a move his critics have described as witch-hunting.