HARARE – Telecommunications group Econet Wireless-linked banking institution, Steward Bank, has suspended two senior managers in ongoing investigations over fraud, the Financial Gazette has learnt.
The developments comes barely two months after former Steward Bank chief executive officer (CEO), Kwanele Ngwenya, was forced out of the banking institution after the board of directors refused to renew his contract due to corporate governance malfeasance.
It also comes barely a month after the bank announced the resignation of Bright Mahere, its former chief finance officer under a cloud.
This time, the axe has fallen on the bank’s head of operations, Naison Sebstain, and Freeman Dhliwayo, who was in charge of the Information Technology department.
The two are said to have been well- placed within the bank to have detected and foiled the alleged fraud, which involved the creation of fictitious accounts meant to swindle the bank.
The accounts were reportedly used to buy air tickets and goods in foreign countries. A significant amount was also withdrawn for other personal use from the credit accounts.
Stewart Bank’s acting CEO, Lance Mambondiani, said the two had been suspended subject to ongoing internal procedures and could not comment on the issue further.
A former employee, Albert Chinamano (35), has since appeared before magistrate Milton Serima over the credit cards which he allegedly used bearing names of non-existing clients.
Chinamano, who resides in Borrowdale, Harare, was found in possession of 150 credit cards when he was arrested.
He is alleged to have committed the offence between March last year and January this year. The offence came to light when the bank was conducting routine checks on its clients.
Some executives said the bank was going through a “clean-up” exercise to get rid of officials who held offices that could have picked the allegedly crimes.
The board is said to have been unhappy with the bank’s bad book and the level of non-performing loans.
Steward Bank is a medium-sized retail bank that has been in existence for more than six years. The bank was established in 2009, as a commercial bank.
Prior to that, it had existed as a finance house since 1999. In 2006, the bank, executed a merger with Trustfin Financial Services Limited.
In December 2009, TNFH, the holding company of TN Bank, successfully completed a reverse merger with Tedco, another Zimbabwean enterprise, to form TN Holdings, the parent company of the TN Group of Companies.
TN Holdings Limited, besides owning TN Financial Limited, the parent company of TN Bank, also owns TN Medical, an owner-operator of medical facilities including a medical insurance subsidiary, TN Asset Management and TN Harlequin, an upscale home and office furnishings manufacturer and distributor, among other interests.
In July 2012 Econet Wireless, the largest mobile telephone provider in Zimbabwe, acquired 45 percent shareholding in the bank. In February 2013, Econet acquired the remaining 55 percent shareholding, thereby turning TN Bank into a 100 percent subsidiary of the mobile phone company.
At that time the shares of the bank were de-listed from the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. Following the divesture from TN Bank, TN Holdings Limited rebranded to Lifestyle Holdings Limited.
In July 2013, TN Bank rebranded to Steward Bank and began a series of reforms to separate itself from its former owners, including setting up a new board of directors, creating a new corporate logo, launching a new website and relocating its branches away from Lifestyle Holdings locations. Financial Gazette