Six officials from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development who are accused of swindling the ministry of close to $800 000 through underhand dealings allegedly hired eight well-known and habitual fraudsters to commit the offence.
This was revealed following the arrest of 10 more suspects — two officials from the ministry and the eight fraudsters at the weekend.
This brings to 14 the number of suspects arrested in connection with the case.
The other four suspects — all officials from the ministry — appeared in court last week and are already on remand facing similar charges.
The 10 who appeared in court yesterday are the ministry’s principal accountant Brian Nyazamba (34) and accountant Thomas Mawoyo (35), Christopher Kumisai (35), Tonderai Musekiwa (42), Felix Rimaunga (age not given), Tinashe Jakopo (46), Anthony Romeo Tafirenyika (36), Rangarirai Katsande (44), Madzudzu Mudzimba (37) and Misheck Zharu (64), who are all unemployed.
According to the State, Kumisai is an ex–convict who was convicted of fraud involving $20 000 at Beitbridge magistrates’ court and was sentenced to two years in prison.
Part of his sentence was suspended on condition he restituted $11 421 to BancABC Bank.
Musekiwa has two pending cases of fraud before the same court involving more than $78 000 and R1 597 797.
Rimaunga was once sentenced to three years in prison for fraud involving $30 000, while Katsande and Mudzimba also have pending fraud cases before the same court.
The gang initially appeared in court on Saturday and prosecutor Miss Sharon Mashavira strongly opposed bail and they were remanded in custody.
On Monday, magistrate Mr Tendai Mahwe granted Nyazamba and Mawoyo $1 000 bail each coupled with some conditions and denied the other eight bail.
Nyazamba and Mawoyo will remain in custody for the next seven days after the State invoked section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act which allows further detention.
It is the State’s case that on December 23 and 24 last year, all the 10 accused persons acting in connivance with their four accomplices at the ministry who are already on remand, fraudulently opened four bank accounts with BancABC Bank and Steward Bank in the names of non-existent companies.
It is alleged that they used companies like Nico Orgo (Pvt) Limited, Pioneer Hibred (Pvt) Limited and Green Field Investments Pvt Ltd.
The accounts were opened by Jakopo, Tafirenyika, Katsande and Mudzimba using fake names.
On December 29 and acting in connivance, the Ministry of Finance officials, processed fake invoices which they later submitted to the Accountant General’s Office for payment.
They submitted names of the non-existent firms and attached a fake covering letter purportedly originated by Kudakwashe Zata, the finance director in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, to the effect that the said companies had supplied inputs worth $412 095 and were due for payment.
On that same day, it is alleged, the ministry acted upon the fake documents and instructed FBC Bank to effect a transfer of $220 050 into the accused’s BancABC account and $192 045 into another Steward Bank account.
Between December 31 last year and January this year, it is alleged, the gang withdrew a total of $407 785 and further transferred $92 750 into FBC Bank account and $79 915 into a Steward Bank account.
While using the same method, the State alleges that on January 5, the gang submitted another fake invoice worth $317 250 in the name of Pioneer Hibred to the Accountant General’s Office for payment.
As a result, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development acted upon the fake documents to process the transactions.
The offence came to light on January 15 this year when the Ministry of Agriculture officials requested the Ministry of Finance to release funds to Reapers (Pvt) Limited, Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company and Windmill (pvt) Limited, but were surprised to learn that the bank balance was insufficient to meet the payments.
According to the State, the gang shared the proceeds.
The case has attracted the attention of President Mugabe, who condemned the behaviour while speaking during the 21st February Movement celebrations in Victoria Falls over the weekend.
“Cde Chinamasa (Minister of Finance) is struggling to mobilise finances for agriculture or resuscitating our factories,” he said. “The money is put in banks for distribution, but those under him create fraudulent companies behind Cde Chinamasa’s back.
“They then direct the government to transfer the money to those companies.”
“Ava vekubank varikungoti tirikuita zvirikudiwa neministry. Uyu ndirector arikutiti transfer our money havarambe voisa mari ikoko. Yaenda mari ikoko vakunogovana. Ndovamwe vatakabata musiuno. Ndovamwe chete, ko vamwe vatisati tabata, baba iwe-e?”
He added: “So what kind of people should we appoint? A director in the Ministry of Finance who must exercise utmost honesty? If you are an accountant you are not taught those skills in order for you to go out and steal and if you are not honest, if you are a liar, then you are anti-revolutionary.”