Time bank prejudiced of US$30m — Tande

VITAL information was stolen from Time Bank when it was under curatorship, prejudicing the financial institution of US$30 million, a senior bank official has said.

Besides the theft, the bank claimed that the financial institution’s central computer system at its Anchor House headquarters in Harare was tampered with.
The commercial bank was placed under curatorship by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for 18 months since October 2006. It was subsequently deregistered after the curatorship, a decision the bank management successfully challenged in the Administrative Court last year. Finance minister Tendai Biti recently upheld the decision of the court and the bank is expected to open its door to the public in October.  
In a voluminous letter of complaint to Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri dated May 28 in possession of the Zimbabwe Independent, Time Bank of Zimbabwe Ltd founder and MD Christopher Takura Tande accused the police of dragging their feet on the two cases involving the theft and break-ins at the bank.
The letter was copied to senior police officers, the Attorney-General’s Office, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.
Tande said key data, including sealed envelopes containing security codes and a register of the password holders, was stolen during the break-ins while the suspected perpetrators have not been brought to justice.
“The handover/takeover (between RBZ and Time Bank) report revealed that there were major break-ins into the locked premises of Time Bank,” wrote Tande. “Cases of theft of information and evidence of fraud, among other things were uncovered. It was further discovered that some important keys for Time Bank premises were missing, while some keys which were supposed to be in the custody of RBZ were found inside the premises of Time Bank. Various footmarks were discovered and noted.”
Tande added that passwords to the bank’s central computer system, sealed envelopes containing security codes, and the register of the password holders were also  missing.
Ironically, Tande alleged that while police had turned a blind eye to the break-ins and theft, counter charges by suspects in the cases were allegedly being treated with “great zeal”.
He wrote: “The pattern which is emerging is that whenever Time Bank makes a report to the police, it is not actioned, but when someone makes a report against Time Bank, its directors and shareholders, the police are quick to act, arrest or detain us. As a result we are left with no option except to lodge this complaint.
“We do not wish to stop the police from investigating us but we are requesting for fairness in such investigations. In the interest of justice, the cases against us should be investigated by different policemen other than Superintendent Marodza, Detective Assistant Inspector Nyoni and Detective Assistant Inspector Taruvinga of the Serious Fraud Section. Not only should justice be done, it must be seen to be done.”
He also alleged that keys that were supposed to be in the custody of the former curator Tinashe Rwodzi of Pricewaterhouse Coppers and the RBZ had mysteriously appeared in the bank after the alleged break-ins.
“The former curator said he had all the keys to Time Bank premises during the period of curatorship from 27 October 2004 to June 2006, and thereafter he handed over all such keys to certain officials of the RBZ for custody and safe keeping,” wrote Tande. “Time Bank officials have not accessed their offices, since 27 October 2004. The curator said he never entered after the curatorship on 30 June 2006. The RBZ officials also allege that they did not access Time Bank after the end of curatorship on 30 June 2006. The question is who left the keys inside the premises of Time Bank and where are the keys and our computer passwords. What was the motive of breaking into the Bank?”
Tande suspected that former ZBC boss Onias Gumbo and unnamed RBZ officials could be behind the theft of crucial data that could prejudice and retard the transfer of the bank’s assets. He said the bank was investigating Gumbo for allegedly planning to dispossess it, its shareholders and directors of their properties through “fictitious claims and malicious allegations”.
“He (Gumbo) is either working with some officials of RBZ or he is misrepresenting them by name-dropping in order to further his fraudulent claims,” Tande alleged.
Tande and his business associates are embroiled in a bitter  ownership wrangle over companies with Gumbo. Accusations and counter-accusations between Tande and his business associates on one hand and Gumbo on the other have been reported to the police.
Gumbo is currently appearing in court on a fraud charge involving ownership of Unitime –– a company owned 50% by a close business associate of Tande –– Antony Parehwa.
Tande told Chihuri that following litigation by Takta Investment (a company he owns) against Gumbo’s companies two years ago, the latter, through an opposing affidavit,  “revealed information which implicated him and other people” in the break-ins at the bank.
Takta then sued Assetfin –– a company linked to Gumbo –– in order to stop it from interfering with its housing development project.
However, Gumbo, according to the letter to Chihuri, “accessed confidential” RBZ-compiled reports from an “undisclosed source” and “fabricated them” to put a claim on the bank’s assets. Tande suspects that the transfer of the bank’s assets back to the bank almost hit a snag when the RBZ said the exercise should be “symbolic without full accountability” contrary to Time Bank’s recommendation for a normal check-listed handover-takeover.
The central bank, Rwodzi and the bank officials, according to the letter, eventually agreed on a normal handover, which was finalised on June 22.
“The handover/takeover report also revealed that there were no audited financial statements prepared during the period of curatorship as required by law, and which are also necessary to verify and expose any malicious allegations against the bank and its directors,” Tande said. “Fortunately, Time Bank was audited before curatorship and can verify financial transactions of the pre-curatorship period.”
On Monday, Tande told Harare magistrate Olivia Chiriga during the fraud trial of Gumbo that he was neither a brother in law nor his relative. He also said Gumbo was not a director of the bank.
Instead, Tande said, Gumbo was a net borrower from the bank who relied on loans from the financial institution to bankroll his projects.
The court went into stitches when defence lawyer Wilson Manase insisted that Gumbo was related to Tande who reacted by saying: “I have chosen to use English in this court, and what you are saying about the meaning of brother-in-law is different from that in the Oxford dictionary. According to that dictionary, Gumbo is not my brother in law.”
Tande said Section 35 of the Banking Act “protects bankers from abusive borrowers like Gumbo, from misleading the Reserve Bank into thinking that the loans to Gumbo’s companies are insider loans which should be deducted from the share capital of the bank.”
Tande told the court that his company bought all the shares in Unitime Investments (Pvt) Ltd from Pamela Matingo and Gumbo’s co-accused Kwaziso Bhosha and sold them to Parehwa. The banker denied ever being a joint shareholder with Gumbo in Unitime.
He also testified on the unlawful entry into Time Bank and theft of vital information.

 

Bernard Mpofu

Top