Deputy Minister arrested for theft

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HARARE – Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Douglas Karoro was arrested last night on allegations of grabbing 700 bags of fertiliser, US$18 000 worth of maize seed and 5 000 vegetable seed kits from Presidential inputs schemes between March and last month, and selling them.

The inputs came from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) Mushumbi Pools Depot in Mbire, Mashonaland Central Province, and were intended for farmers.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi last night said three people suspected  to be his runners were also arrested.

Further information on the arrest and charges was not available last night, but police said they would give more details today.

However, the first person arrested for involvement in the alleged fraud was the depot manager of Mushumbi, Lovejoy Ngowe, and yesterday he was in court for his initial remand on three counts of fraud.

Harare magistrate Mrs Yeukai Dzuda is keeping him in custody for the weekend and will hear his bail application through lawyer Mr Batanai Pesanai on Monday.

The alleged corrupt deals involving Karoro, Ngowe and several people hired by Karoro were outlined at Ngowe’s remand hearing by the State led by Mr Anesu Chirenje.

It is alleged that last month, Deputy Minister Karoro approached Jeremy Phiri, who was also on the wanted list yesterday as a main middleman, and told him that he was looking for buyers for 700 bags of Compound D fertiliser at US$16 per 50kg bag.

Phiri is said to have contacted Widdorn Chiodza, who was interested in buying the fertiliser.

On April 21, Phiri, according to the State, met Chiodza who handed over US$10 700, almost the full price.

Phiri then allegedly took this money to Deputy Minister Karoro, who told him that the fertiliser was at GMB Mushumbi Depot.

That same day at around 3pm, Deputy Minister Karoro called depot manager Ngowe and told him that he was sending trucks to collect his Compound D.

Ngowe allegedly asked for details of the trucks and was given contact details for Dean Zimunya and the following day Zimunya took Chiodza and three trucks to Mushumbi Pools Depot and loaded the 700 x 50kg bags of fertiliser, with Ngowe issuing goods dispatched vouchers in the name of Deputy Minister Karoro.

Chiodza is said to have returned to Harare and offloaded the fertiliser at his place in Kuwadzana.

But the following day, just two days after handing over the cash, Chiodza allegedly received a call from Zimunya telling him to return the fertiliser saying the deal had gone sour.

Chiodza refused, whereupon Zimunya and Karoro allegedly then engaged Mugove Chidamba to help them recover the fertiliser from Chiodza.

After negotiations on April 24 Chidamba managed to recover 400 bags and refunded Chiodza US$6 400.

In a complex arrangement allegedly to cover up the issuance and movement of fertiliser, Deputy Minister Karoro and Chidamba allegedly hired transporter Richard Tsiga to ferry the recovered 400 bags to GMB Aspindale purporting that they wanted to swap it with Ammonium Nitrate. To get the full 700 bags Chidamba went out and bought another 300 bags of Compound D from Farm & City.

On the following day, Deputy Minister Karoro allegedly personally escorted Tsiga with a truck loaded with 400 bags of Compound D fertiliser to GMB Aspindale for the first part of the swap deal. However, GMB Aspindale refused to accept the fertiliser on the grounds that the documentation was not properly done.

The court heard that it was then that Deputy Minister Karoro intervened and negotiated for the swap with the Aspindale GMB chain supply manager Obert Zhoya.

Zhoya then instructed Ngowe at Mushumbi to raise a depot-to-depot transfer so that they could accept the fertiliser at GMB Aspindale, which Ngowe did and sent the paperwork to Aspindale, which then accepted the 400 bags.

Tsiga’s truck was then loaded with 400 AN bags and he was sent to GMB Mushumbi depot, but they never arrived and this was when the whole deal started unravelling.

The missing consignment came to light later when Deputy Minister Karoro allegedly sent another truck with the extra 300 bags of Compound D bought commercially in Harare to GMB Aspindale for the second half of the swap.

This time Aspindale opted to use their own truck to ferry the swapped 300 bags of AN to GMB Mushumbi with a depot-to-depot transfer voucher.

On April 29, Ngowe allegedly confirmed receipt of the 300 bags of AN from GMB Aspindale. But that was when GMB Aspindale’s chain supply manager Zhoya quizzed Ngowe on the whereabouts of the first truck which was loaded with 400 bags of AN destined for Mushumbi depot. He was told it never arrived.

GMB Aspindale asked Deputy Minister Karoro to return those 400 bags of AN to GMB Aspindale, as the swop had not taken place. He allegedly contacted Tsiga, who told him that the fertiliser was offloaded at Chidamba’s place. There it had been sold.

Deputy Minister Karoro then allegedly went to Mbare to a place known as Kuma Banana and recovered 200 bags of AN, before he engaged Tsiga to take them back to GMB Aspindale while the deputy minister asked Chidamba to look for the remaining 200 bags of AN.

According to the State, on April 30, Chidamba went to Dzivaresekwa where he bought 69 bags of cotton calcium AN and 132 bags of calcium AN, which were then transported back to GMB Aspindale in the presence of Deputy Minister Karoro.

The State alleges that the stolen fertilisers were worth US$27 300 and 501 bags of fertiliser, suspected to be fake, were recovered.

On the maize seed dealings, on March 7, Ngowe received seed maize worth US$18 030 which was meant for Presidential Input Programme to benefit the Mbire Constituency.

He allegedly connived with Deputy Minister Karoro and they converted the seed to their own use.

On March 23, Deputy Minister Karoro allegedly received 5 000 vegetable combo kits from Valley Seeds (Private) Limited, which was supposed to be handed over to GMB Mushumbi under the Presidential Inputs Programme.

However, he allegedly connived with Ngowe and they converted the seed to their own use.

In a bid to sanitise their alleged misdeeds, Deputy Minister Karoro and Ngowe ordered GMB Mushumbi depot inputs clerk, Honesty Nyathi and security guard, Manyara Manuwere, to create paperwork by fraudulently booking the consignment in the Goods Received Voucher, Goods Dispatch Voucher, Gate Book and Stack Register to appear as if the consignment had been received and despatched to the deputy minister.

GMB allegedly lost US$25 000 in that transaction. – Herald