In 1998, when Zambia’s drug enforcement commission froze the funds of wealthy businessman Jayesh Shah, the balance in his Al-Shams account at the First Merchant Bank of Zambia (FMB) stood at just over $1m. That seizure was declared unlawful, illegal and refundable, with interest, by the courts the following year, but the full amount due to Shah has still not been repaid 20 years after the money was frozen: he is now due more than $30m and he wants it back. Less than a month after the Al-Shams account was seized, FMB went into receivership. A few months before the court ruled the seizure unlawful, the Bank of Zambia (BoZ) ordered FMB’s liquidation. The fight ever since has been about exactly how much should be repaid, and by whom. The trial court said that all the original funds plus interest had to be returned. The funds were not part of the bank’s liquidation process and should be paid before other creditors. If the bank could not trace the money, then the attorney-general (AG) was...

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