NetOne Chief Executive Officer Lazarus Muchenje, six senior executives and former board member Paradzai Chakona were arrested yesterday by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) on charges of criminal abuse of office.
ZACC spokesperson Commissioner John Makamure confirmed the arrests, but could not give details on the swoop, one of the biggest on a State-owned enterprise since the inception of the anti-graft body in 2004 and was unable to disclose the identities of the other six accused executives who are likely to appear in court today along with Muchenje and Chakona.
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“I can confirm that Mr Muchenje and his alleged accomplices have been arrested. The charges relate to alleged criminal abuse of duty as public officers and the suspected violation of the Public Finance Management Act,” said Comm Makamure.
Muchenje’s lawyer, Mr Innocent Chingarande of Titan Law Chambers, said his client was facing seven counts of criminal abuse of office, with the alternative charges being fraud, and that the evidence was similar to that presented in recent disciplinary investigations.
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Mr Chingarande said his client was being held at Avondale Police Station and was expected to appear in court today.
He said Chakona was facing one count of criminal abuse of office from what was presented when a warned and cautioned statement was taken.
Mr Chingarande could however, not reveal details of the allegations last night although these will be presented when the eight appear in court .
“He (Muchenje) will appear in court tomorrow as has been advised. I cannot comment on the six other executives as they are not my clients. The charges arise from the same facts as the disciplinary hearing charges that NetOne had preferred against Mr Muchenje but with a few amendments and additions,” said Mr Chingarande. National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said he could not comment on the arrests and detention, referring all questions to ZACC.
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Sources close to the matter said some of the arrested executives included chief technology officer Darlington Gutu, acting chief finance officer Tinashe Severa, acting head legal affairs Tanyaradzwa Chingombe and manager interconnection and roaming Tawanda Sibanda.
Muchenje recently won a court case in which he was challenging his suspension in February for alleged incompetence in the execution of his duties as the chief executive officer of Zimbabwe’s second largest mobile phone company.
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The board also suspended Severa on similar accusations.
Some of the allegations the board cited included failure by Muchenje to provide documentation to the company’s auditors, unprocedural procurement of fuel and violation of exchange control rules by NetOne’s bureau de change units.