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Judge blasts NPA for trying to ‘arm twist’ court in $500k fraud case

By Mashudu Netsianda

A High Court judge has blasted the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for trying to arm twist the court in a matter involving a former civil servant who allegedly defrauded ZB Bank of nearly $500 000 through fraudulent electronic transactions.

Justice Takuva inspects a quarter guard mounted by zrp

Chipo Pirukayi (38) of Pelandaba suburb in Bulawayo was employed by the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement as a cartographer and doubled up as a ZB agent.

The woman is alleged to have defrauded the bank by opening fake accounts in names of her relatives and conducting fraudulent transactions.

She was arrested after she allegedly defrauded the banking institution of $427 707 for a period spanning almost a year through fraudulent electronic transactions.

Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Maxwell Takuva lashed out at the NPA for being “unashamedly narrow-minded and myopic” in handling the case.

Justice Takuva made the remarks as he dismissed an urgent chamber application by the NPA which sought a rescission of a court order under case number HC2799/17 granted by his counterpart Justice Martin Makonese in November last year.

The order by Justice Makonese directed the NPA to facilitate the release from police custody of four vehicles belonging to Pirukayi. The cars were acquired from the proceeds of the alleged crime.

In papers before the court, the NPA cited Pirukayi and the Registrar of Deeds as respondents.

“The blatantly myopic strategy adopted by the applicant (NPA) in case number HC2799/17 has generated this urgent chamber application wherein it now seeks an interim relief staying the execution of an order compelling the applicant to facilitate the release of the four cars to the first respondent (Pirukayi),” said Justice Takuva.

The judge said he was shocked that despite the NPA having initially consented to the release of Pirukayi’s cars, it then decided to make a U-turn for undisclosed reasons.

Justice Takuva said an application for rescission of a consent order granted in the presence of all parties cannot be set aside by a single party by way of an urgent chamber application.

“In my view, the two points in limine taken by the first respondent have merit. Accordingly, the matter is not urgent and the application be and is hereby struck off the roll,” ruled the judge.

The NPA, through Mr Whisper Mabaudhi, approached the court on an urgent basis after police discovered new information that the cars were purchased with money which is the subject of Pirukayi’s fraud allegations.

Pirukayi, through her lawyer Advocate Lucas Nkomo who was instructed by Ncube and Partners, contended that the NPA has always been aware of the fact that the cars were acquired from the proceeds of the alleged crime.

Adv Nkomo said the NPA misrepresented facts in an attempt to justify the urgent approach.

“The applicant’s counsel has not been candid with the court as regards to when he became aware of the existence of a discernible link between the ill-gotten money and the cars in question,” he said.

Under case number HC2799/17, the NPA had approached the High Court seeking an order interdicting Pirukayi from disposing of her cars pending the finalisation of the fraud case before the magistrate’s court.

Police seized Pirukayi’s cars on October 12 last year. However, six days later, the magistrate cancelled the warrant of search and seizure after Pirukayi successfully contested the move. Police are however, still holding onto the cars in defiance of the court order.

Pirukayi (37) recently appeared before Bulawayo magistrate Mr Franklyn Mkhwananzi to answer to 79 cases of fraud and she was remanded out of custody to March 19 on $500 bail.

According to the State papers, Pirukayi is alleged to have defrauded the bank by opening fake accounts in names of her relatives and conducting fraudulent transactions.

Pirukayi was a registered ZB Bank Point of Sale (POS) agent whose duties were solely to offer services and products to clients such as opening of E — Wallet accounts, issuance of ATM cards, cash withdrawals, cash deposits and cash transfers.

She was issued with a POS machine to enable her to execute her duties. From January 24 to October 5 last year, Pirukayi allegedly used the POS machine to credit accounts created in the names of her relatives with fabricated figures.

She allegedly claimed the accounts had effected deposits into their E-Wallets when she actually had done nothing. Pirukayi would then swipe into her POS machine using cards of non-existent clients.

She would then allegedly transfer money deposited into the accounts by the bank through the ZIPIT platform, internal transfer and sometimes make purchases with ATM cards.

On October 5, a team of forensic auditors, including the bank, conducted an audit of the ZB Bank E– Wallet banking system and discovered a series of inconsistencies.

ZB Bank immediately froze the accounts and only managed to recover $59 000. The Chronicle