US$7bn forfeitures hit former ministers, corrupt bigwigs

ZRP Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri

THE Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), in collaboration with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), is processing a string of up to 40 applications at the High Court for forfeiture of corruptly acquired assets and other proceeds of corruption worth US$7 billion owned by a number of high-profile individuals, including former ministers.

MOSES NGWERE

The targets of the sweeping anti-corruption tide include former cabinet ministers — Ignatius Chombo Prisca Mupfumira and Walter Mzembi, some of whom were members of Zanu PF’s subdued G40 faction — as well as government officials and parastatal bosses.

The assets, some of which are located out of the country, are worth an estimated US$7 billion. Investigations by The
NewsHawks, including interviews with top officials in the newly-established Asset Forfeiture Unit, Zacc and
the NPA, showed dozens of individuals are being targeted, with the High Court already processing the initial
six applications while more warrants for seizures are being prepared.

The targeted assets include numerous company properties, houses, luxury vehicles as well as residential stands and vast swathes of commercial land, among other valuable things.

Both Prosecutor-General Kumbirai Hodzi and Zacc spokesperson John Makamure confirmed the swoop on the bigwigs, but declined to disclose identities of the targeted individuals.

“Court applications are being processed to forfeit. We are currently processing about 40 applications at the High Court, working closely with the National Prosecuting Authority. I therefore cannot divulge further details,” Makamure said.

Hodzi told The NewsHawks: “The Prosecutor-General has asked for the complete list of all forfeiture applications and files so as to have an accurate picture. This is being worked on, it will take sometime.

“I can only disclose the identities of those targeted individuals where it doesn’t compromise the integrity of judicial processes and investigations as well as the rights of apparently untainted third parties.”

However, information at hand shows Zacc and the NPA have filed applications at the High Court for warrants of forfeiture for assets belonging to exiled former police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri who is now living in Johannesburg South Africa.

The assets, as listed in court documents seen this week by The NewsHawks, include 18 immovable properties, mainly houses in upmarket Harare suburbs, as well as residential and commercial stands.

They also include a fleet of vehicles and high-value farm equipment. In the court application, Chihuri is also accused of using six private companies fronted by his wife Isabel and children to siphon police funds amounting to US$31.8 million in shady business deals.

A senior NPA official said they were collaborating with their South African counterparts to forfeit two properties owned by Chihuri south of the Limpopo.

Former Tourism and Hospitality minister Walter Mzembi, also in self-imposed exile in South Africa, is being accused of sequestering government vehicles for personal use, alongside senior officials and fund-raising consultants.

Mzembi, documents say, solicited donations ahead of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) co-hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia in August 2013 and misappropriated the funds. However, the funds were deposited into a bank account belonging to Conventions Africa, a consultancy firm formed for that specific purpose, which was however not registered with the Registrar of Companies.

The consultants, identified in the docket as Susanna Makombe Kuhudzayi and Aaron Dzingira Mushoriwa, allegedly opened a ZB Bank account number 4168720497080 in the name of Conventions Africa, using documents for Stess Investments (Private) Limited where Makombe Kuhudzayi was a director, and made themselves signatories to
the account.

“Walter Mzembi would originate letters on Government of Zimbabwe letterhead requesting donations from corporates which the consultants, Susanna Makombe Kuhudzayi and Aaron Dzingira Mushoriwa used to seek donations in cash or kind towards the hosting of UNWTO General Assembly. On the strength of the government letters, the corporate world responded positively and made donations to the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, towards the hosting of the UNWTO General Assembly by depositing money into the Conventions Africa
ZB Bank account number 4168720497080,” one court document says.

“Mbada Diamonds donated US$815 000 which was transferred directly into Conventions Africa ZB Bank account number 4168720497080 towards the hosting of UNWTO General Assembly. On 4 October 2012, Susanna Makombe Kuhudzayi and Aaron Dzingira Mushoriwa, using the donated funds from Conventions Africa ZB Bank account
number 4168720497080, bought three motor vehicles from Croco Motors, namely Ford Ranger T6D Double Cab registration number ACU 7946 valued at US$52 493.00; Ford Ranger T6 Double Cab registration number ACU 2603 valued at US$53 683.00; and Ford Ranger Double Cab registration number ACU 6801 valued at US$ 44 534.00 which were solely meant for use before and during the hosting of the UNWTO General Assembly. The vehicles were registered in the name of UNWTO Trust which was not registered with the Registrar of Deeds.”

Instead of surrendering the vehicles to the ministry, Zacc further alleges, Mzembi and his alleged accomplices illegally took possession of them for personal use. Zacc now wants them forfeited to the state.

“At the end of the UNWTO General Assembly, Chihuri is also accused of using six private companies fronted by his wife to siphon police funds amounting to US$31.8 million in shady deals. Mzembi and his colleagues unlawfully took permanent possession of the vehicles, contrary to government procedure to surrender the vehicles to the Ministry of
Tourism and Hospitality industry. The deliberate failure by Mzembi to surrender the vehicles to the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality and converting them into personal use after UNWTO General Assembly was theft of trust property as defined in Section 113 of the Criminal Law (Codification and reform Act) [Chapter 9:23,” the joint application by Zacc and the NPA reads.

The NPA and Zacc have also petitioned the High Court seeking an order to forfeit former Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) chief executive officer Frank Chitukutuku’s properties valued at more than US$20 million.
The assets in question include 10 top-of-the-range vehicles and five immovable properties which include a house in Harare’s affluent Borrowdale suburb, a hilltop mansion in Glen Lorne and a block of flats in the same city.

NPA sources said the authority was processing applications for the seizure of assets belonging to former long-serving Local Government Chombo, who ended up in 2017 as Finance minister, former Public Service minister Mupfumira —currently facing corruption charges at the Harare magistrates court — and Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga’s estranged wife, Marry.

“We are also working with Zacc on Chihuri’s two properties in South Africa, Prisca Mupfumira, Marry Chiwenga nee Mubaiwa and the Chombo case. These are not yet complete dockets, but we are working with them (Zacc) to put together necessary evidentiary material,” an official source said.

Asset forfeiture is designed to disincentivise corruption by punishing culprits and making it unprofitable for them.
Section 27A (4) of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act [Chapter 9:24] was amended late last year and provides that the Asset Forfeiture Unit in the NPA shall work in cooperation with Zacc, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s Financial Intelligence Unit and other investigative agencies for purposes of facilitating identification, tracing, freezing and confiscation of
property.

This provision gives the Asset Forfeiture Unit the mandate to facilitate identification, tracing, freezing and confiscation of property acquired through proceeds of crime.

Efforts to get a comment from Chombo were fruitless as he was neither answering calls on his mobile nor responding to SMS and whatsapp messages. Mzembi referred questions to his lawyer Job Sikhala who was not reachable. Mupfumira was also not reachable on her mobile phone.

Source: Zimbabwe News Hawks