21 February 2014

Zimbabwe: Air Zimbabwe Fraud - Insurers Refused Bail

A HARARE magistrate has denied bail three Navistar Insurance Brokers directors facing charges of defrauding Air Zimbabwe of more than five million Euro and US$2 million.

Magistrate Tendai Mahwe ruled that Givemore Nderere, 45, Vukile Hlupo, 45, and finance director Orten Mawire, 60, be remanded in custody to March 4, saying hey were a flight risk. The three executives face four counts of fraud and one of theft.

In his ruling, Mahwe said the charges were serious and chances were high they could abscond.

"The accused's charges are serious as there is too much money involved and hence chances are very likely that they can disappear.

"The money involved is quite substantial and it will not be in the interest of justice to grant them bail," said the magistrate.

The trio is involved in a fraud case which has also landed three Air Zimbabwe bosses in the dock.

George Mhlanga, their lawyer, said his clients were challenging findings of the audit report which implicated them of connived with the Air Zimbabwe bosses, Grace Pfumbidzayi, Innocent Mavhunga and ex-CEO, Peter Chikumba.

Mhlanga said the report was doctored by external forces.

According to prosecutors, on 20 March 2009, the Navistar executives connived with Pfumbidzai and Chikumba to short-change the airline by inflating aviation insurance premiums.

It is further alleged that the five exhibited a number of inflated debit notes to Air Zimbabwe which were paid to London based firms, Colemont Reinsurance and Marsh Reinsurance.

This resulted in Air Zimbabwe's department of finance erroneously releasing Euro 15,8 million to Navistar Insurance who only remitted Euro 10,6 million and converted the balance to their own use.

On 8 May 2009, the Navistar officials again allegedly connived with Pfumbidzai and Chikumba to claim that there was need to pay $142,300 to the European Commission (EC) to prevent the parastatal from being slapped with sanctions.

The money was paid to Navistar to forward to EC but Insurers converted the cash to personal use.

The State also alleges that sometime in 2012, Air Zimbabwe leased two A320 airbuses from Chinasonango Company based in Hong Kong.

The two airbuses were then insured until March 2013.

However, only one debit note valued at $360,448 was paid while the other three were intercepted before the release of funds.

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