By Daniel Nemukuyu
A former Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) employee who is alleged to have fraudulently siphoned about US$1,2 million from the taxman’s bank account and went on a property buying spree, is set to lose to the State, two mansions in Glen Lorne in Harare, a flat in Harare’s city centre and a top-of-the-range vehicle.
Tapuwa Evans Chidemo, who worked as an accounting officer in Zimra’s Value Added Tax (VAT) department, unbelievably amassed wealth worth millions of dollars within a short space of time despite having received a total of $76 279 during his period of employment stretching from 2010 to 2016.
Chidemo, was once charged with nine counts of fraud involving about US$1, 3 million but the court found him guilty of two counts involving US$460 538.
He was jailed six years for the two counts but the prosecution has since appealed Chidemo’s acquittal on the other seven counts of fraud involving US$778 547.
The appeal is still pending at the High Court.
On the fraud cases, Chidemo, who was responsible for payment of refunds to people or companies overtaxed, would instead transfer the refunds into accounts of his wife, relatives and other proxies.
This defrauded Zimra as the intended recipients had no option but to recover their dues from the taxman.
Head of Asset Forfeiture Unit at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), chief law officer Mr Chris Mutangadura, has since initiated the process of forfeiting the properties arguing that they were proceeds of crime.
Chidemo claims to have sold the bulk of the assets but the State argues that the sales were not genuine and were just a way of avoiding imminent forfeiture.
The State wants to forfeit the following properties:
*Number 215 Folyjon Crescent, Glen Lorne
*Number 3036 Shawasha Hills, Glen Lorne
*Flat 19 Derwent Lodge, number 9 Josiah Chinamano Avenue, Harare
*Stand Number 2800, 12th Parklane Court (Pvt) Ltd
*Mercedes Benz E-class (ADN 5756)
In the application, Mr Mutangadura argues that the properties were bought with proceeds of a crime and that they must be forfeited to the State.
“A forensic reconstruction of the circumstances of acquisition of the above mentioned properties by the first respondent, clearly points to Money laundering.
“The first respondent earned a cumulative amount of US$76 279 during the period beginning October 2010 to January 2016.
“At the time of purchasing 215 Folyjon Crescent Glen Lorne (stand) on April 2 2012 for US$85 000, the first respondent had earned a total amount of US$19 171 during the period beginning October 2010 to March 2012.
“Vis-a vis 215 Folyjon, which the first respondent purports to have sold to the second and third respondents, one wonders why there are two different agreements of sale to two different buyers as indicated above.
“It simply shows that there is no bona fide sale or purchase,” reads Mr Mutangadura’s statement.
The State also questioned the genuineness of the sale of number 3036 Shawasha Hills saying it was just a way of concealing the offence of money laundering.
“It appears unusual that a lease signed on 27 May 2015 would indicate its date of commencement as 23 December 2015, some six months after the date of execution.
“Again the genuineness of the said lease is put into question,” reads the affidavit.
Mr Mutangadura submitted that the property was tainted and it must be forfeited.
“I aver that orders for civil forfeiture can be sought in respect of property that is suspected to be tainted or terrorist property whenever such property is identified by or comes into the possession of a law enforcement authority which in this case, refers to the applicant.
“The applicant submits that he has managed to prove on a balance of probabilities that the specified property is tainted and constitutes proceeds of crime hence liable to forfeiture to the State,” he said.
The High Court is yet to rule on the application for civil forfeiture. The Chronicle