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NMB bosses ready to face trial

Shakeman Mugari

TWO former NMB Bank directors have resolved to return to Zimbabwe to face trial over allegations of externalising foreign currency.

n=justify>James Mushore and Francis Zimuto, who fled the country to the United Kingdom in 2004 at the height of the banking crisis, have agreed to return home once a trial date is set.

Their lawyer, Martin Makonese of Makonese & Partners, said the two would return once the Attorney-General’s Office sets a trial date.

They are wanted in Zimbabwe on allegations of externalising foreign currency and money-laundering that almost sank the NMB Bank in 2003.

“My clients have said they will come back once the trial starts,” Makonese said.

“Once we agree on the trial date, Mushore and Zimuto will come back.”

Their pledge to return follows government’s decision to lift its specification of former NMB managing director Julius Makoni who also fled the country after the police launched a manhunt for him.

Government appears to have failed to sustain its allegations against Makoni who is currently in the United Kingdom.

Makonese, who also represents Makoni, told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday that his client would soon come back to Zimbabwe.

“I spoke to Makoni and he said he was anxious to come back,” Makonese said. “I can confirm that it (Makoni’s return) will be sooner rather than later.”

Sources said Otto Chekeche, who was among the four former NMB Bank directors, would also return as the state has not preferred charges against him.

Three years after the banking crisis, government is yet to prefer charges against some of the bankers who fled the country after they were accused of engineering the collapse of their banks.

This has triggered fears that government’s allegations against the runaway bankers, now in self-exile in the United Kingdom and South Africa, were trumped up to justify the crackdown on individuals.

Observers say the state’s failure to come up with charges shows that the 2003-4 crackdown on the banking sector could have been another of government’s attempts to shift the blame for the country’s economic crisis.

Another source said the state had also failed to garner sufficient incriminating evidence to charge former Trust Bank directors — Nyevero Hlupo, Christopher Goromonzi and William Nyemba — who were specified two years ago. The three, now based in South Africa, have since written to the Minister of Justice Patrick Chinamasa to lift their specifications.

They have also written to the Attorney-General’s office to clear them of any wrongdoing. They want government to confirm that they are not on the police’s “wanted list”.

The source said letters had been flying back and forth between the bankers’ lawyers and the Attorney-General’s office over the specifications. The Attorney-General’s office is understood to have informed Nyemba, Hlupo and Goromonzi that it was still analysing their cases before it could clear them and lift their specifications.

One of the bankers confirmed that they had applied to government to lift their specifications but said the case was “moving slowly”. The government has also failed to get evidence to charge former Barbican Bank owner Mthuli Ncube who the Reserve Bank blames for the collapse of the bank.

There have also been no charges against former chairman of Intermarket Holdings, Nicholas Vingirayi, accused of leaving a $90 billion hole in the institution in 2004.

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