Ex-AirZim boss lodges bail application

HARARE - Former Air Zimbabwe (Private) Limited boss Peter Chikumba, currently in custody over fraud charges, has appealed against a Harare magistrate’s ruling denying him bail.

Chikumba, 59, is jointly charged with Grace Nyaradzai Pfumbidzai, 49, who was the struggling firm’s legal manager and company secretary.

Together they are accused of fraud and corrupt abuse of their duties as public officers.

They both remain in custody after magistrate Don Ndirowei ruled they were not suitable candidates for bail.

Chikumba’s lawyer Benjamin Machengete filed an appeal at the High Court.

However, the matter could not be heard yesterday after prosecutor Innocent Muchini told the court that he needed more time to respond to the application, forcing the matter to be postponed to Friday.

Ndirowei denied the two bail on the basis that they are facing offences of a serious nature that called for a lengthy custodial sentence if convicted. He said this might induce them to abscond if freed on bail.

Charges against Pfumbidzai and Chikumba arose last year, after an anomaly was discovered on amounts paid between April 2009 and April 2013, to a company called Navistar Insurance Brokers (Private) Limited in respect of aviation insurance premiums.

The State alleges Navistar was appointed without following due process.

It is alleged the duo inflated aviation insurance premiums, working in cahoots with Givemore Nderere, Vukile Hlupo and Orten Mawire, who have since appeared before the courts on fraud and theft of trust property charges.

Inflated payments were allegedly made to Colemont Reinsurance Brokers (Private) Limited and Reinsurance Brokers (Private) Limited, both United Kingdom-based companies.

The firm allegedly released €15 452, 93 to Navistar, €10 607 859, 22 to the two British companies, while they allegedly pocketed €5 895 695, 49.

In May 2009, it is alleged the duo also misrepresented to Air Zimbabwe that there was an urgent need for the airline to pay $142 300 to the European Commission to avoid it from being placed under sanctions.

They allegedly converted the money to their own use.

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