In just a few short years, State House spokesman George Chellah has gone from serving as a humble mid-level reporter at the Post Newspaper to become a multi-millionaire bureaucrat, raising widespread suspicion of the corrupt origins of his wealth.
When Chellah was first appointed by President Michael Sata to serve as his Special Assistant for Press and Public Relations, he was one of a slew of new employees that were poached from the Post, helping to form a near-seamless unification between the Patriotic Front (PF) government and the country’s main newspaper. Now sources estimate that Chellah’s net worth has exceeded more than $10 million held in foreign bank accounts.
Many of Chellah’s colleagues are wondering how this public servant on a base salary of about K20,000 a month has been able to afford his life of luxury, including the purchases of prime properties in Lusaka, Johannesburg, and London, while flashing significant cash around town and almost daily meals at expensive restaurants such as Portico on the Showgrounds.
According to a well placed source in the Office of the President (OP) Special Division (intelligence wings), Chellah has amassed his fortune by abusing his powers of office, making side deals to facilitate meetings for Chinese road contractors, setting up corrupt fertiliser supply deals with the Food Reserve Agency (FRA), while also selling state secrets to his former employer Post Editor Fred M’membe and his patron Rajan Mahtani.
The source points to Chellah’s all-cash purchase of his Ibex Hill mansion 10 months after assuming his position for a price of 900,000 kwacha (900 million unrebased), representing more than 50 times his monthly salary. The Intelligence Wings have also found that Chellah purchased a premium flat in London, a property in Sandton City, Johannesburg, and an additional four homes around the Lusaka area, the source says. Chellah has also purchased with cash a new BMW X5, a Land Cruiser, and a Mercedes Benz, as well as a fleet of 10 trucks leased to road contractors, which he owns in addition to the government vehicles provided for his use.
“Chellah has been overheard boasting to his friends that he is at the level of HH and GBM, but he has played it very smart,” the OP source said. “All the homes and cars are purchased under the names of his wife, his son George Jr., and a few of his mistresses – this is why he was so reluctant to divorce. You will never find more than 60,000 kwacha in his Zambian bank accounts, but he has pocketed billions of kwacha from Chinese Road contractors which is funneled into two foreign accounts in South Africa and the DRC – each containing approximately US$5 million.”
The source says that according to an investigation by the intelligence wings, Chellah has received regular large transfers of millions of kwacha to these foreign bank accounts from the consultancy Zulu Burrow, which has been awarded numerous single-source contracts by the Roads Development Agency (RDA) under control of State House. The contracts are then alleged to be sold by Zulu Burrow to the Chinese contractors. Zulu Burrow has also been named among the leaked bank accounts belonging to the president’s son, Mwango Sata.
Chellah has also been a paid informant of Finance Bank Chairman Rajan Mahtani, the source says, helping him to run “Zambian Intelligence News” – a website known for its aggressive defence of the cartel and attacks on many prominent Bembas in the ruling party, including Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda and former Minister of Defence Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba (GBM).
The OP Special Division is also in possession of a dossier of private emails between Chellah, Mahtani, and Kabimba, among others, which purport to discuss the dealings of an allegedly corrupt contract given to a company owned by M’membe to provide fertiliser to the FRA.
In recent weeks, Chellah has come under pressure while his alliance with the cartel has frayed. His home was raided by OP recently in search of evidence of leaked confidential government documents to the media. The documents related to the matter of the refunds of value-added tax by Finance Minister Chikwanda, which were leaked to the Post Newspaper in an attempt to promote Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba’s position as a successor. Instead, the alleged leak by Chellah resulted in Kabimba’s firing.
But although there were rumours of a suspension, for the time being President Sata has decided to keep Chellah in his current position.
Chellah most recently accompanied President Sata on his campaign tour of Mkushi yesterday.