ZIMBABWE – Air Zimbabwe Private Limited company secretary Grace Nyaradzo Pfumbidzayi has been arrested on six counts of fraud and one of criminal abuse of duty as a public officer for allegedly swindling the airline of more than €5 895 695 and US$1 298 827.
Chief police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba yesterday confirmed the arrest of Pfumbidzayi (48).
“Pfumbidzayi is facing six counts of contravening Section 136 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Fraud) where Air Zimbabwe allegedly suffered an actual prejudice of US$1 298 827,88 and €5 895 695,90,” she said.
“She is also facing allegations of contravening section 174 (1) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 23, ‘Criminal abuse of duty as a public officer’.” Pfumbidzayi was still assisting police with investigations last night.
Snr Asst Comm Charamba said Pfumbidzayi was expected to appear in court as soon as investigations were completed.
Airzim officials have not been happy with the police’s inaction after receiving a criminal report on the alleged multi-million US-dollar fraud last year.
The report was made on December 28 last year along with a copy of a forensic audit report on Airzim’s doggy aviation insurance dealings that cost the airline over US$10 million over a four-year period between 2009 and 2013. Pfumbidzayi was implicated in an audit report compiled by BCA Forensic Auditors on the national airline last year.
The report, that was handed over to the then Airzim board chairman Mr Ozias Bvute, recommended Pfumbidzayi’s arrest together with acting chief executive Innocent Mavhunga, human resources manager Oswald Madziwa, finance, administration manager Ms Patience Tichagwa and strategy and economics boss Mr Norbert Machingauta.
Acting general manager Mr Nicholas Mujere, former finance and corporate services manager Mr Oswell Matore, as well as Mr Givemore Nderere (Navistar Insurance Brokers managing director), Mr Vukile Hlupo (Navistar director) and Mr Orton Mawire (Navistar finance director and company secretary) were also cited for criminal investigation.
Pfumbidzayi’s arrest came barely a week after her conviction by the airline’s disciplinary tribunal chaired by Harare lawyer Mr Wellington Pasipanodya of Manase and Manase of fraud and acting contrary to her contract of employment; and just hours after The Herald reported that Airzim had reported the matter to the police last year.
She now awaits her penalty on the labour case. Pfumbidzayi committed the offences while she was company secretary responsible for the insurance portfolio. She was responsible for administration of the portfolio, involving drafting, and reviewing of contracts and other related documents.
It was also within the scope of her duties to undertake research and give appropriate legal opinion before contracts were signed or rejected.
The tribunal, basing on the audit report, found her guilty of authorising payments made to Navistar Insurance Brokers without ensuring that the amounts charged were as specified in the insurance contracts from the international insurance broker.
It was established that Pfumbidzayi played a pivotal role in facilitating that the airline pay inflated amounts to Navistar between 2009 and 2013, resulting in the airline losing €4 461 672. According to the report, Pfumbidzayi also appointed Navistar as Airzim’s aviation insurance brokers on March 18, 2009 without following the procedures prescribed by law and company policy.
In addition, Pfumbidzayi authorised payment of a fraudulent invoice valued at US$142 300 from Navistar, thereby prejudicing the already struggling airline.
Pfumbidzayi, according to the papers, was part of a fraudulent transaction that saw her authorising debit notes from Navistar amounting to US$1 062 370,52 for aviation insurance cover for two A320 Airbuses covering the period from November 2011 to April 3, 2012.
But auditors found that the airbuses in question had not yet been bought and that they were only received in January and July 2012, respectively.
The forensic audit report also found that Pfumbidzayi failed to ensure the remittance of the annual
hangar property damages premiums amounting to US$205 269,80 to Altfin Insurance. In addition, she failed to insure the hangar property for the period stretching from April 1, 2010 to March 31 of the same year.
Pfumbidzayi was also found to be part of a fraudulent transaction in which €713 921,04 was released by the airline to pay insurance cover for three MA60 aircraft to Navistar when the planes were already covered by Colemont Insurance Brokers’ debit notes.
The tribunal yesterday heard the case of finance and administration manager Mrs Patience Tichagwa, who is facing 16 fraud counts involving US$3 814 854,44 and acting inconsistent with the fulfilment of her contract of employment.
The tribunal is expected to deliver judgement in respect of Mrs Tichagwa soon. On Tuesday, the same tribunal postponed to Thursday next week hearing the case in which Mr Madziwa is charged with theft and fraud charges involving US$2 671 607,20. He is also charged with gross incompetence or inefficiency, and acting contrary to his employment contract.
Air Zimbabwe acting chief executive Mr Innocent Mavhunga on Monday stormed out of the disciplinary proceedings in protest, leaving the panel to conduct the hearing in his absence. Mr Mavhunga is accused of theft and fraud involving US$11 460 448.
He is also charged with acting inconsistently with the fulfilment of his contractual obligations, as well as gross incompetence or inefficiency in performing his duties. The tribunal is also expected to deliver the judgement on Mr Mavhunga.