Chombo remains behind bars

HARARE – Former Finance minister Ignatius Chombo yesterday remained behind bars after High Court judge Clement Phiri deferred the hearing to next Wednesday to enable the State to file its response.

Prosecutor Tapiwa Kasema applied to have the matter postponed, claiming that the record from the Harare Magistrates’ Courts was illegible and needed to be transcribed first to enable him to file his response.

Chombo, who is facing corruption charges, remained in remand prison on Monday after Harare provincial magistrate Elisha Singano denied him bail on the basis that he could use his networks to flee the country.

His lawyers Lovemore Madhuku and Sylvester Hashiti yesterday agreed to have the matter postponed.

“By consent, the application is postponed to December 6,” Phiri said.

According to the bail application, Madhuku is demanding the release of his client, after the Harare Magistrates’ Courts remanded the politician in custody earlier this week.

“The learned magistrate misdirected himself in law in failing to find that ‘compelling reasons’ demanded by Section 50(1)(d) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, 2013 had not been established by the State, particularly in that: There was neither evidence nor any other basis from which it could be said that appellant (Chombo) was likely to abscond. There was neither evidence nor any other basis from which it could be said that appellant would interfere with witnesses.

“Reference to a ‘public outcry’ is, in itself, never a compelling reason given that it is the people themselves that entrenched a presumption of innocence in the Constitution.

“The State did not address any of the bail conditions offered by the appellant, thereby failing to discharge the onus thrust upon it by law,” Madhuku said.

The former minister is facing charges of criminal abuse of office, contravening the Prevention of Corruption Act and fraud with the State saying his activities prejudiced government of $3,6 million.

If convicted of the charges, Chombo faces up to 55 years behind bars for the three offences. The ex-Local government minister 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 down his offer.

Chombo together with ex-Zanu PF youth chairperson Kudzanai Chipanga, who is being charged with publishing falsehoods prejudicial to the State, were both denied bail on Monday. Chipanga’s bail appeal will also be heard next Wednesday.

Madhuku is representing both politicians.

Allegations against Chipanga arose after he compiled a speech that was read out at a press conference criticising Zimbabwe Defence Forces chief Constantino Chiwenga.

Prosecutor Edmore Nyazamba — presenting allegations against Chombo — alleged that on October 1, 2005 he hatched a plan to defraud the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (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 ZW$14 billion 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 at ZW$2 billion, 30-tonne truck valued at ZW$1,5 billion, 200 hp tractor four-wheel drive 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, 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 number 20973050018, which became the opening balance for the fraudulently opened.

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.

The court also heard that Chombo abused funds and it was investigated and established that he had imported various motor vehicles, including a Toyota Hilux Vigo for socialite Pokello which was delivered at 222 Samora Machel Avenue, Harare.

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