AIR ZIMBABWE bosses, Grace Pfumbidzai and Peter Chikumba, who bled the national airline of $10 million in insurance swindle, have been jailed for 10 years, three of which were suspended on good behaviour.
The duo were convicted for criminal abuse of public office on Thursday but were acquitted on the other charge of contravening the Procurement Act.
Magistrate Fadzai Mthombeni said the duo committed a serious crime which was of concern to the society and as such a deterrent penalty was appropriate.
The magistrate also noted that crimes of that nature were leading to the downfall of many companies with individuals benefitting and, as such, punishing offenders would restore confidence in doing business.
“The court has decided the sort of punishment which is appropriate; balancing matters involved was a mammoth task as we have to look at circumstances surrounding the convicted and also take into consideration their mitigation,” Mthombeni said.
The magistrate added that in handing down her ruling she had considered Chikumba’s age (60) and the fact that he, as was his co-accused, was a breadwinner.
“However there was a lot of prejudice and they benefited as individuals and 15 years was appropriate before taking their mitigation into consideration,” she said.
Mthombeni said Pfumbidzai and Chikumba had broken all the companies’ procedures by appointing Navistar Insurance Brokers in 2009.
The airline, which previously paid Marsh Insurance brokers 125 000 euros per annum as brokerage fees, woke up paying Navistar 300 000 euros per quarter, which translated to 1, 2 million euros annually.
Concerns against Pfumbidzayi and Chikumba arose after an anomaly was discovered by former Air Zim board chairman Ozias Bvute pertaining to amounts paid between April 2009 and April 2013 to Navistar in respect of aviation insurance premiums.
It is alleged that the duo enlisted the services of Navistar to provide aviation and insurance cover without going to tender. They allegedly terminated the services of other existing companies.
Pfumbidzayi and Chikumba were further accused of inflating aviation insurance premiums in payments made to Colemont Reinsurance Brokers (Private) Limited and Reinsurance Brokers (Private) Limited, both United Kingdom-based companies.
The two allegedly released 15 452, 93 to Navistar, 10, 6 million euros to the two British companies and allegedly pocketed 5, 8 million euros.
In May 2009, it is alleged the duo and their three Navistar accomplices also misrepresented to Air Zimbabwe that there was an urgent need for the airline to pay $142,300 to the European Commission to dodge sanctions. They allegedly converted the money to their own use.