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Politics rescue cricket bosses

THE Attorney-General’s office this week baulked at prosecuting Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) chair Peter Chingoka and managing director Ozias Bvute over exchange control violations for what appeared to be political reasons, it emerged yesterday.

High-level official sources said the Attorney-General’s office shied away from taking further measures against Chingoka and Bvute, arrested on Monday, because of disagreements within government’s own bureaucracy.

It was said the Attorney-General’s office was fighting a war of attrition with the Reserve Bank which investigated Chingoka and Bvute for the alleged exchange control breaches.

“The Reserve Bank did a comprehensive investigation on the cricket issue and the report was given to the police and the Attorney-General’s office for prosecution,” a source said. “However, much to the surprise of central bank authorities, the prosecuting department said there were no grounds for a case.”

A senior central bank official said they were shocked by the sudden release of Chingoka and Bvute because “in our view they have a clear case to answer”.

A report done by the Reserve Bank’s Financial Intelligence Inspectorate Evaluation and Security unit reveals that Chingoka and Bvute were involved in transactions that amounted to violations of the exchange control rules.

The report, titled “Zimbabwe Cricket: Summary of Charges”, lists 12 exchange control violations against the ZC officials.

It accuses them of failing to repatriate US$6,3 million proceeds from the sale of TV rights in violation of Section 5 (1) of the Exchange Control Act, chapter 22.05 as read with Section 5 (1), (2) of the exchange control regulations SI 109 of 1996.

It says British firm Octagon CSI collected revenue on behalf of ZC and deposited the funds into the ZC’s Barclays Bank account number 58255922, Knightsbridge Business Centre, unlawfully.

Octagon, which holds TV signals rights to produce and sell all cricket matches hosted by Zimbabwe, has a contract with ZC structured 10 years ago.

The report also lists the controversial purchase of the ZC’s outside broadcasting equipment for £1 million through Octagon, which paid £550 000, with Ten Sports of Dubai injecting £450 000, as part of the violations of exchange control rules.

The report says there were breaches of the law by ZC in the buying of vehicles using offshore funds, which vehicles were sold to Croco Motors for US$772,1 million. ZC also paid £5 000 for the purchase of a Mazda 626.

There was also the issue of paying players’ allowances of about US$544 018 into offshore accounts.

Chingoka was paid £50 000, while US$750 000 was diverted to South Africa. The ZC also received US$3 million and diverted the funds. All these payments, the report says, were in violation of exchange control regulations.

Sources said Attorney-General Sobusa Gula-Ndebele was unhappy that Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono did not help his department in its bid to secure conviction against former Finance minister Chris Kuruneri who is facing corruption charges.

Gono testified mid this year in Kuruneri’s case and gave evidence which strengthened the former minister’s case for acquittal. He said Kuruneri had saved the country from a major “national catastrophe” by providing a US$500 000 bail-out for an unspecified purpose. Although he did not say what the funds were for, the Zimbabwe Independent later established the money was used to buy indelible ink for the 2002 presidential election.

Sources said the Attorney-General’s office was riled by Gono’s evidence and was still sulking about it.

The sources said police and the Attorney-General’s office were “not interested” in the matter because it has become a political issue trapped in the Zanu PF camp fights.

Gula-Ndebele said last night the claims against his office were untrue. “It’s absolute nonsense, total hogwash. When cases come before us we deal with them on merit and professionally,” Gula-Ndebele said.

“We are not fighting with the Reserve Bank. We have got a good working relationship with the central bank. Those claims are untrue.” – Staff Writer.

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