Chombo, Chipanga denied bail

HARARE - Former Finance minister Ignatius Chombo was denied bail yesterday with Harare provincial magistrate, Elisha Singano, ruling that the embattled politician was a flight risk.

Chombo is facing charges of criminal abuse of office, contravening the Prevention of Corruption Act and fraud.

In denying him bail, Singano said there was a possibility that the former Zanu PF secretary for administration could manipulate his connections in other countries, and flee from his corruption charges without being detected.

Ignatious Chombo

Ignatious Chombo

He was remanded in custody to December 8.

If convicted of the three offences, Chombo faces up to 55 years behind bars.

Singano argued yesterday that there was documentary evidence to the effect that Chombo used money borrowed from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) for purposes of advancing the country’s development, for personal gain.

The State is arguing that his alleged activities prejudiced it of $3, 6 million.

Chombo had tried by all means to secure his release yesterday but failed.

He had offered $2 000, his passport, title deeds to his house, report at Marlborough Police Station thrice every day and give police free passage to visit his residence anytime in an attempt to buy his freedom but the court turned a blind eye to his offer.

“The law on bail is now governed by the Constitution and any arrested person must be released unconditionally unless there are compelling reasons that the court feels strongly convinced that an accused person should be denied bail,” ruled Singano.

“As a former minister, the accused person holds influence over subordinates and may continue to do so now that he is aware of the charges against him. His influence does not stop because he is no longer a minister.”

In denying Chombo bail, Singano also said the former Finance minister’s personal safety would be jeopardized if released on bail considering that a mob jeered at him as he got into the prisons truck on Saturday.

“His release is likely to disturb peace and cause public outcry as evidence by the outcry made by a mob that demanded his justice outside the court building on Saturday. The accused person’s release may cause the people to lose confidence in the justice delivery system because the alleged residential stands and money he got from RBZ was the publics’,” added Singano.

“…therefore because he has established contacts in Zimbabwe and outside the country, he has means to flee from jurisdiction and because it is common cause that our borders are very porous one can easily cross into another country undetected.”

Chombo’s lawyer, Lovemore Madhuku, had argued that bail was a constitutionally enshrined right, which should not be denied on “flimsy grounds like those submitted by the State”.

“If the Constitution is to have any meaning, a person presumed innocent must be granted bail. The court must strike a balance between the interests of an accused person and those of the State,” said Madhuku.

“The accused person is denying the offences and will produce documentary evidence relating to work that he did in good faith as a government minister.”

Madhuku said he would begin instituting proceedings for a bail application at the High Court today saying Singano had misdirected himself in passing his ruling.

“I think the High Court operates differently from the lower courts. We now have (enough evidence to) show that they misdirected themselves. In this instance, there was no effort to comment on the conditions we had proposed,” Madhuku added.

Prosecutor Edmore Nyazamba — presenting allegations against Chombo — alleged that on October 1, 2005 he hatched a plan to defraud the RBZ under “Other Crops and Livestock Support Facility” provided by the central bank.

It was alleged that Chombo would apply for capital expenditure loans, purportedly for agriculture equipment but splashed the money on his personal endeavours and bought various cars, one of which was delivered to his stepdaughter, socialite Pokello Nare.

Chombo applied for Capital Expenditure Loan amounting to $14 billion (old value) which was to be paid within 18 months and indicated his address as Allen Grange Farm, Rafingora, it was alleged.

Under section 4 of the RBZ “Other crops and livestock support facility application form” Chombo was alleged to have misrepresented that he was going to use the proposed funds for the purchase of various agricultural equipment.

The equipment included 30-tonne lorry valued ZW$2 billion, 30-tonne truck valued at ZW$1,5 billion, 200 hp tractor 4WD valued at ZW$2,5 billion, combine harvester valued at ZW$5 billion, 52 dish roam disc valued at ZW$1 billion, nine row monosem planter valued at ZW$1,2 billion , 2x500kg chicken feed mixer valued at ZW$ 8 million.

Under section 7 of the application form, Chombo declared as borrower that the funds shall not be used to finance non eligible expenditure and a performance contract was signed between Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe (CBZ) Limited, represented by now RBZ governor, John Mangudya and Chombo as borrower in which he acknowledged that any deviation will be considered a serious offence.

The court heard on December 2005, a total of ZW$14 billion loan was credited into Chombo’s CBZ account 20973050018, which became the opening balance for the alleged fraudulently opened (an account he had opened on December 8) CBZ account.

It was further alleged that on December 15, 2005, Chombo with the intent to defraud RBZ gave written instruction to Collin Muchirahondo of CBZ Borrowdale Branch to transfer ZW$14 billion from his CBZ individual current account into Red Beard Investments trading as Equivest Asset Management.

It was further alleged that Chombo further abused funds and it was investigated and established that he had imported various motor vehicles, including a Toyota Hilux Vigo for socialite Pokelo, which was delivered to 222 Samora Machel Avenue, Harare.

The ex-Local Government minister arrived at the Magistrates’ Court in a prisons truck, escorted by two heavily-guarded cars that were signalling sirens.

Ex-Zanu PF youth chairperson, Kudzayi Chipanga, who was also denied bail yesterday was among other inmates that were in the prison truck, along with Chombo.

Chipanga is being charged with publishing falsehoods prejudicial to the State after compiling a speech read out at a press conference recently allegedly demonising Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander, Constantino Chiwenga.