Air Zim saga: Pfumbidzayi nails Chikumba
By Tarisai Machakaire
HARARE – Former Air Zimbabwe chief executive officer Peter Chikumba chaired a meeting that resolved to engage Navistar Insurance brokers, a Harare magistrate heard on Monday.
Chikumba is jointly charged with former Air Zimbabwe legal secretary Grace Pfumbidzayi on allegations of siphoning several millions of dollars from the struggling national airline by defrauding the airline through the insurance firm.
Chikumba last week distanced himself from the appointment of Navistar, saying Pfumbidzayi acted unilaterally in appointing the insurance firm contrary to the company policy pertaining to signing of business contracts.
But Pfumbidzayi’s evidence yesterday showed that Chikumba was privy to all the stages leading to Navistar’s appointment.
“I was getting information that our fleet was not covered and it had been communicated to me that the insurance had been terminated because of sanctions,” Pfumbidzayi said.
“This meant that the whole operation was illegal.
“…because the implications were largely political and needed to be communicated upwards, I informed Chikumba who in turn asked for my advice and the way forward.”
Pfumbidzayi said she was then instructed by Chikumba to “either ground the fleet or find alternative cover.”
“I phoned local companies and informed them that we were shortlisting for a local insurance broker. If interested, companies would prepare presentations and forward profiles.
“I already had profiles of companies such as ZIB and Navistar in our files,” she said.
She said Navistar came with its presentation before Chikumba and management on March 18, 2009.
“On March 18, we stopped a management meeting that we had to accommodate Navistar’s presentation. Chikumba chaired the meeting and Navistar introduced FBC and Colemont,” Pfumbidzayi said.
“After appointment, FBC would be the reinsurer and Colemont the international broker.”
Chikumba had earlier testified that he neither knew nor got involved in the appointment of Navistar.
“Navistar was appointed in the letter dated March 18, 2009 and the second accused person did not address or copy to anyone else. I did not even sign it because I neither knew nor got involved in that appointment,” he said.
Prosecutor Daniel Muchimbiri questioned why the appointment of Navistar remained a “matter under the carpet”.
Muchimbiri queried why Chikumba did not take action after a letter of gratitude was addressed to him from Navistar to show that he was not involved.
He questioned how the letter could be addressed to him if he was not involved.
Charges against Pfumbidzayi and Chikumba arose after an anomaly was discovered by former Air Zim board chairman Ozias Bvute pertaining to amounts paid between April 2009 and April 2013 to a company called Navistar Insurance Brokers (Private) Limited in respect of aviation insurance premiums.
It is alleged that the duo enlisted the services of Navistar to provide aviation and insurance cover without going to tender. They allegedly terminated services of other existing companies.
Pfumbidzayi and Chikumba are further accused of inflating aviation insurance premiums over payments 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 pocketed €5 895 695, 49.
In May 2009, it is alleged the duo and their three Navistar Insurance accomplices also misrepresented to Air Zim that there was an urgent need for the airline to pay $142 300 to the European Commission to dodge sanctions.
They allegedly converted the money to their own use. Daily News