THE National Prosecution Authority (NPA) is scaling up efforts to seize assets acquired through the proceeds of corruption as part of efforts to fight graft.
It will from next week be bringing to court high profile cases involving former cabinet ministers Ignatius Chombo, Prisca Mupfumira and Walter Mzembi to obtain an order to seize their properties locally and abroad.
Prosecutor general Kumbirai Hodzi confirmed the development saying there was no turning back on its plans to seize corruptly acquired assets.
The NPA is working with the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) to seize the assets estimated at US$7 billion.
“We are pushing for cases to be set down. We argued two cases and judgements have been reserved but last week, we won one case,” Hodzi said.
“So starting next week, we are bringing in the high profile cases you have heard and written of,” he added.
The NPA is buoyed by its first successful effort, which saw the High Court on Wednesday granting an order for the forfeiture of a Ruwa house belonging to a former Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals worker, Russell Tatenda Mwenye worth US$86 000.
A senior NPA official said: “This is only the beginning. Many more cases are coming and we are confident of bagging more successful forfeitures.” Assets forfeiture is in accordance with provisions of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act and deals with tainted properties or terrorist properties.
Civil forfeiture is a developing area of law and a critical area in the fight against graft. Its intention is to suppress money laundering by making it easier for the Prosecutor General, acting for the State, to follow the proceeds of serious crime and recover the same. Court documents show that the Prosecutor General’s office successfully argued a case to seize Mwenye’s Ruwa house believed to have been acquired from US$86 381,88 being proceeds of a tender scam.
Rutendo Vera, spouse to Mwenye (the first respondent), and the registrar of deeds were the second and third respondents in the matter. Details of the case are that Mwenye was employed by Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals (PGH), a public entity, as a pharmacy stores controller between February 2015 and August 2017. His duties among others included management of pharmaceutical stocks movements, planning and monitoring, restocking of pharmaceutical stores in consultation with section heads as well as developing efficient stock control systems.
In March 2016, Parirenyatwa flighted tender requesting bids for the supply and delivery of medical sutures.
Its tender committee carried out due process and awarded the tender to Flancon Investments (Pvt) Ltd on the basis that it was the cheapest bidder to specifications, charging US$37 844,60
Order forms were raised and it is alleged the first respondent deliberately omitted to act on it in order to create a crisis.
“The latter waited until the medical stock was critically low, thus creating an unnecessary shortage and emergency. In so doing, first respondent acted in a manner inconsistent with his duty,” reads part of the court documents.
The Prosecutor General proved that Mwenye then assigned his subordinate, Yvonne Mudimu, who was the section head of medical surgical and sundries, to make a direct purchase of the medical sutures from Silksilver, a company wherein he was a hidden beneficiary.
Silksilver employed Mwenye’s wife as an administration officer since January 2016.
When Mwenye’s contract of employment with Parirenyatwa was terminated, he became Silksilver’s managing director for procuring supplies outside tender processes.
Thereafter the couple became signatories to Silksilver’s CABS bank account in question. The US$86 381,88 was transferred by Parirenyatwa into Silksilver’s CABS bank account. The cost of the supplies was more than double that of the winning bidder.
The first responded, however, denied instructing Mudimu, adding he had no such authority. He also denies having any interest in Silksilver and being a hidden beneficiary at the time of the transaction.
Further facts show that the house was purchased in February 2017 for a price shown as US$24 000. The first and second respondents denied allegations that instalments for the stand were their kickback Mwenye says the Silksilver was repaying him for forex which he had supplied from his relative in the diaspora. His wife said Silksilver was paying for US$15 000 provided as hard cash.
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission carried out its investigations and results were that criminal abuse of duty as public officer and money laundering were preferred against the first respondent.
The Prosecutor General contends that Mwenye was always a beneficiary of Silksilver.
The court was therefore asked to find that the applicant has proved, on a balance of probabilities that house number 31843 Mabvazuva Township, Ruwa, constituted personal property that was acquired through proceeds of corruption or was tainted property to which the response was in the positive. High Court judge Justice Benjamin Chikowero, in arriving at the ruling, said the NPA had successfully proved that the house was acquired through proceeds of corruption.
“I have traced the first respondent’s hidden hand beginning with the corrupt placement of the order to procure medical sutures from Silksilver. His link with Silksilver, its decision-making structures, control of its finances and the property in question became manifest once the PHG had terminated his contract of employment. Throughout this episode, his wife occupied the position of administration officer of Silksilver,” Justice Chikowero said.
“In the result, the following order shall be issued: Stand number 13843 Mabvazuva Township Ruwa, otherwise known as House number 31843 Mabvazuva Township, be and is hereby forfeited by the state,” the judge ruled. The NPA was represented by Chris Mutangadura.