A judgment from Zambia’s court of appeal has left me thinking about the real meaning of independence. The case concerns the appointment of the director-general of that country’s Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), the national agency mandated to handle information related to suspected money laundering, terrorist financing and other serious offences. Though it is committed to integrity, honesty, impartiality and other worthy values, the FIC in 2013 appeared to have some problems with staffing and, in particular, the appointment of its director. From 2010 the centre was headed by Miyanda Fearness Siamoongwa, who had a yearly renewable contract. Then the board decided he should be appointed director with a three-year contract, subject to the approval of the relevant minister, with effect from December 2012. He was sent a letter informing him of the appointment and the board contacted the judiciary about a date for the chief justice to swear him in. On February 21 2013, another request...

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