18 October 2006

Zimbabwe: Police Probe Zupco Payment of Nherera's Bills

Harare — POLICE have launched investigations into why Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) paid legal bills for its jailed, board chairman, Charles Nherera.

Sources close to the developments revealed this week that the police have questioned acting Zupco chief executive Godfrey Mawarura, senior managers and other board members on why the state-owned company paid legal bills for Nherera, who was on trial for graft.

It emerged that detectives from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) visited the parastatal's premises last week and questioned Mawarura and senior management over an $8 million payment made to Nherera's lawyers and collected proof of payment and the correspondence from the lawyers demanding payment for their services.

The detectives also questioned acting chairperson of the board, Chipo Dyanda, over her role in the matter.

Sources say Dyanda authorised the payment of the lawyers' fees without consulting the board, in contravention of standing procedures.

All board members have been interviewed and police sources say the investigation is focused on Dyanda.

Dyanda declined to comment when contacted yesterday, while Mawarura had not responded to questions sent to him by late last night.

Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena confirmed the development and said the police were investigating why Zupco paid Nherera's legal bills.

Zupco is demanding a refund of the $8 million it paid to the lawyers from Nherera.

This development comes a month after Chinhoyi University of Technology, where Nherera was vice chancellor, demanded that he surrender the institution's property after his conviction.

The university is demanding a Mercedes Benz, two cellphone handsets, two mobile phone lines, a four plate stove, a refrigerator and two bedroom sets, among other things.

In June this year The Financial Gazette revealed that Mandizha & Company, a law firm representing Nherera, received over $8 million in June on separate occasions.

Nherera is serving a two-year jail term after a Harare regional magistrate convicted him of soliciting a US$85 000 bribe from businessman Jayesh Shah, who wanted to supply buses to Zupco.

He has appealed against his conviction and sentence but his lawyers are still fighting for his freedom after the High Court threw out his appeal.

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