Freeman Razemba Crime Reporter
Suspended Air Zimbabwe (Private) Limited chief executive Innocent Mavhunga (53) and his predecessor Peter Chikumba have been arrested on fraud allegations. On Wednesday, company secretary Grace Nyaradzo Pfumbidzayi (48) was also arrested on similar charges.Chief police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba yesterday confirmed the arrests, saying they were in possession of six reports detailing alleged fraud at Airzim.
Sources told The Herald that the reports pertain to procurement, maintenance of aircraft and insurance, among others.
Potential total prejudice runs into millions of US dollars.
“The ZRP would like to confirm that Peter Chikumba and Innocent Mavhunga have been arrested in connection with the ongoing investigations into the Air Zimbabwe (Private) Limited fraud case.
“Chikumba, a former chief executive of Air Zimbabwe from September 2007 to December 2010, and Innocent Mavhunga, the suspended chief executive, are Grace Nyaradzo Pfumbidzayi’s accomplices in the fraud case,” Snr Asst Comm Charamba said.
Pfumbidzayi was arrested on Wednesday 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.
The three are assisting police with investigations and will appear in court once these are concluded.
In apparent reference to reports that police were dragging their feet on investigating corruption in public offices, Snr Asst Comm Charamba said: “The ZRP would like to put it on record that investigations are first conducted before picking up any suspects for prosecution.
“In the case of Air Zimbabwe, a report was made on January 3, 2014 with no forensic audit report available.
“When the report was later supplied, police had to expertly sift through and analyse six voluminous reports to establish a prima facie case against the accused.”
She said police were fully aware of their constitutional mandate and would not hesitate to arrest anyone who commits a crime.
“Inasmuch as we are all concerned with the Air Zimbabwe fraud case, police are appealing to the public and any interested parties to co-operate and allow the ongoing investigations to proceed smoothly,” Snr Asst Comm Charamba added.
Pfumbidzayi was accused of fraud in an audit report compiled by BCA Forensic Auditors last year.
The report recommended Pfumbidzayi’s arrest together with Mavhunga, human resources manager Oswald Madziwa, finance, administration manager Patience Tichagwa and strategy and economics boss Norbert Machingauta.
Acting general manager Nicholas Mujere, former finance and corporate services manager Oswell Matore, as well as Givemore Nderere (Navistar Insurance Brokers managing director), Vukile Hlupo (Navistar director) and Orton Mawire (Navistar finance director and company secretary) were also fingered.
Pfumbidzayi’s arrest came barely a week after the airline’s disciplinary tribunal, chaired by Harare lawyer Mr Wellington Pasipanodya of Manase and Manase, found her guilty of fraud and acting contrary to her contract of employment.
It was established that she 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 procedures prescribed by law and company policy.
In addition, she 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 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.
She 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.
Mr Mavhunga is accused of theft and fraud involving US$11 460 448.