United Kingdom-based Zimbabwean journalist Clemence Marijeni’s prison sentence has been increased by seven years after he was found guilty of being ‘at the heart’ of £720 000 maternity allowance fraud.
He was already serving a 10-year jail term after he was convicted of the fraud in a sham marriage scam following a trial in October 2016.
Marijeni worked as a sports reporter and later sports editor for Chronicle in Bulawayo for many years and for the now defunct Weekend Tribune, before he relocated to the UK.
According to the Express and Star, Marijeni produced fake documents for the money-spinning rackets, which ran simultaneously for almost four years, the Wolverhampton Crown Court heard.
The Zimbabwe-born 44-year-old father of two completed a law degree at Wolverhampton University after coming to the UK in 2006 and claimed to earn £30 000-a-year from his role in a shipping business.
But the graphics expert pocketed more cash by selling forged paperwork to others involved in the two frauds while using eight bank accounts under false names to collect at least £55 000 from bogus maternity allowance claims for himself.
He and his Zimbabwean wife, Poula Chikuhwa, aged 37 — also part of the swindle — had a mansion built in their home country. The gang made at least 165 fake maternity applications between May 2011 and August 2015, pocketing £450 000, but would have collected £720 000 if a considerable number had not been spotted as phony by Department of Work and Pensions officials and were rejected.
Henry Bazra, the alleged brains behind the operation, was interviewed by investigators, but fled the UK before he could be arrested and is now thought to be in Malawi.
Chikuhwa was jailed for three years after using the name of a cousin to set up two bank accounts into which money from the scam was paid, but made the mistake of settling her own rent with some of the cash.
The judge told her: “You built a house in Zimbabwe and I am quite satisfied that was part of the motivation for your involvement. You assisted your husband when you knew he was at the heart of the web.”
Another of those jailed was former Blackpool and Zimbabwean national team footballer Liberty Masunda from Mapleton Road, Hall Green — now a clinical engineer in Somerset — who received a three-year jail sentence for his involvement in the conspiracy.