By Tendai Rupapa
Harare businessman Wicknell Chivayo yesterday appeared in court on allegations of defrauding the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) of over $5 million.
He appeared before Harare provincial magistrate Mr Elisha Singano charged with fraud, money laundering and contravening sections of the Exchange Control Act.
He was remanded in custody to today for continuation of bail application.
The State indicates the charges arose after Chivayo’s company, Intratrek Zimbabwe, was corruptly awarded the Gwanda solar power plant tender by ZPC at the instigation of the then Minister of Energy and Power Development, Samuel Undenge.
It is alleged Chivayo failed to deliver on the project despite getting $5 607 814,24 from Government.
The State also indicated that Undenge, who was recently convicted of a separate charge, would also be arrested and prosecuted in connection with Chivayo’s case.
Prosecuting, Mr Michael Reza together with Mr Zivanai Macharaga and Ms Venranda Munyoro, both from the Special Presidential Anti-Corruption Unit, represented the State.
Lead prosecutor Mr Reza opposed bail on the basis of interference, abscondment and seriousness of the offence, among other reasons.
“Fraud is a crime of deception and the total prejudice is $5 607 814,24 and of that amount, not even a single cent was recovered,” he said.
“The accused and his accomplices have managed to hide that money. The State papers indicate that Undenge is yet to be apprehended and Your Worship, he would be apprehended soon and jointly charged with the accused person.
He said if released on bail Chivayo was likely to abscond.
“The likely sentence of fraud is a maximum prison term of 35 years. If that will not induce a man to run away, then I do not know what would,” he said.
“The docket is almost complete and it is most likely that on his next remand, the State will furnish him with a trial date. The State has a strong watertight case.”
Mr Reza said granting Chivayo bail would not be in the interest of justice.
“There is this public perception that people who have money can buy their freedom hence this court should lay that perception to rest and show that the law is fair regardless of one’s position in the society,” he said.
The prosecution called the investigating officer, Detective Sergeant Benjamin Nyahema, to the witness stand.
He narrated how Chivayo was arrested at Robert Mugabe International Airport on his way to South Africa.
He said Chivayo was a flight risk and should not be freed.
Chivayo’s lawyers, Advocates Lewis Uriri and Onias Takaindisa, argued that their client was a proper candidate for bail.
Adv Uriri dismissed the State’s claims that Chivayo was a flight risk.
They argued that it was published in local press that Chivayo was wanted by the police and even though he was in America at the time, he returned to Zimbabwe.
“Even when he came back, no one contacted him and, through his lawyers he wrote to the Prosecutor-General telling them he was not on the run and that they knew where to find him than to look for him through the press,” he said.
Adv Uriri said when he was arrested at the aiport, his client had bought a return ticket meaning he was not running away.
The court heard on October 23, 2015 that the ZPC acted on the misrepresentation and signed a contract with Chivayo’s company for implementation of the Gwanda solar project.
It is alleged that the ZPC released $5 607 814,24 into an Intratrek bank account for the project to take off.
Chivayo is said to have converted the money to his personal use.
The court heard he was also authorised by the RBZ to load $849 479 into his Visa cards for importation of earthmoving equipment from America but nothing came into the country. The Herald