Former Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Nicholas Goche, authorised Air Zimbabwe Holdings (Pvt) Ltd to pay insurance money directly to an international insurer after the airline’s local broker, zimre Reinsurance Company, was placed under illegal sanctions, the court heard yesterday.
Following the directive, Air Zimbabwe paid the money to Colemont Insurance Brokers, registered with Lloyd’s Insurance Company in London in 2009.
However, Goche denied giving Air Zimbabwe the green light to engage Navistar Insurance Company as a local broker.
He said for the airline to appoint Navistar, it should have gone through the State procurement process without the involvement of the Ministry.
Air Zimbabwe proceeded to engage Navistar without going to tender, resulting in Air Zimbabwe being prejudiced of €5 175 593 and US$502 748 in an alleged insurance scam.
Airzim former secretary Grace Pfumbidzayi and former group CEO Peter Chikumba, jointly charged with criminal abuse of duty as public officers and fraud, deny the charges.
“I was briefed by the then Permanent Secretary Mr Partson Mbiriri about the Insurance issues at Air Zimbabwe. He said the local broker was no longer able to send money to London since it had been placed on sanctions. He then told me that the airline wanted a waiver to enable them to pay directly to London,” he said.
He added; “They wanted the Ministry’s intervention because Section 70 of the Insurance Act states that it is not possible for a local company to deal straight with the international market without involving a local broker.
“We discussed that it was a serious issue and I advised (Mr) Mbiriri to give them the waiver. But he later told me that the issue of insurance was not only administrative, but involved a change of policy, hence it required my written authority. I authored the letter giving them the greenlight to go ahead and pay directly.”
Cde Goche said they did not discuss the issue of tendering and he was not aware how Navistar Insurance Company was awarded the tender because it was a matter of the Airzim Board.
During cross-examination by Chikumba’s lawyer Mr Admire Rubaya, Cde Goche pointed out that the office of the group CEO never wrote a letter to the Ministry about Navistar.
“There was no communication from Airzim on the issue of appointing a local broker. The waiver was to allow them to pay directly to London, not to appoint a local broker,” he said.
He, however, said he had no evidence linking Chikumba to the appointment of Navistar since it was a matter within Airzim Board.
Mr Rubaya produced a letter of appointment of Navistar as a local broker and argued that it was not authored by his client.
Goche was also cross-examined by Pfumbidzai’s lawyer, Advocate Webster Chinamhora, instructed by Mr Andrew Muvirimi.
Earlier on Goche had left the court in stitches when he raised Zanu-PF’s clenched fist symbol in the witness stand while taking the oath before testifying. He had to be reminded by magistrate Ms Fadzai Mthombeni, that he should use an open palm to swear under oath.
After Cde Goche, who was the tenth and last State witness in the matter, finished testifying, prosecutor Mr Daniel Muchimbiri told the court that the State was closing its case.
Mr Rubaya and Advocate Chinamhora then notified the court of their intentions to make applications for discharge at the close of the State’s case on behalf of their clients.
They told the court that they would file their papers on Tuesday next week and the State would file its response on February 20 before Ms Mthombeni delivers a ruling on February 24.