Z$100m bail for Mushore

By Chief Reporter
HARARE - NMB Bank director James Mushore, who is facing charges of contravening exchange control regulations and immigration laws, was granted Z$100 million bail Tuesday but remained in custody after the Attorney General lodged an appeal against the judgment.

The appeal is set to be heard on November 5.

Mushore, who has been in self-imposed exile in London since 2004 when he skipped the country, was arrested in Harare last week Wednesday at his leafy Chisipite home just after touching down from the United Kingdom.

High Court judge Justice Felistus Chatukuta ordered Mushore’s release from custody last Sunday and ordered him to appear for a routine remand hearing on Monday.

He initially appeared before Magistrate Olivia Muchena, who remanded him in custody after conceding State arguments that he was likely to abscond. He was ordered to appear in court on Tuesday for his remand hearing where bail conditions were set including payment of Z$100 million, but remained in custody at the time of going to press following the appeal by the AG.

Mushore, who is represented by Harare lawyer Innocent Chagonda, is facing six counts of externalizing foreign currency and another one of contravening the Immigration Act.

He is facing charges of instructing his subordinates to export US$2 460 470, £285,000, R3 million, 30,000 euros, and 800,000 Pula to a London bank without the Reserve Bank’s approval. The State further alleges that Mushore illegally dealt in foreign currency amounting to £2 861 864,28 and US$216 524,20.

He is also facing a separate charge of violating the Immigration Act by leaving Zimbabwe for Zambia through an undesignated point in Kariba

He is one of four top NMB executives who went into exile three years ago after police indicated they wanted to arrest them over allegations that the bank had diverted cash from state coffers through an unregistered money transfer office in Britain.

Zimbabweans living in the diaspora were encouraged to deposit their remittances for their families with the bank’s LTB Money Transfers office in London. Back in Zimbabwe, the families were paid out in Zimbabwean currency at lucrative parallel exchange rates.

Authorities said LTB did not have a license from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), an allegation Mushore denies.

After what appeared to have been a dramatic dash for freedom, Mushore’s Mercedes Benz was discovered abandoned in the tourist resort of Kariba. The executive had reportedly slipped across the lake into Zambia and then travelled to London.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa last year invoked the Prevention of Corruption Act, “specifying” all the four NMB executives that they be arrested if they set foot in the country. The charges were that they had committed economic crimes and were wanted by police to stand trial.

But in recent months, Mushore must have believed his freedom was not under threat. He is reported to have made several trips to Harare. There was speculation he was to replace NMB CEO David Hatendi, who recently stepped down.

But the NMB board this week vehemently refuted these reports.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said police had been hunting for Mushore and the other NMB bosses such as managing director Dr Julius Makoni and his two other directors Otto Chekeche and Francis Zimuto.

Mushore is said to have been given security guarantees by RBZ governor Gideon Gono before flying into Harare.  He reportedly walked straight into a trap, according to police sources. Gono has in the past asked Mugabe to invoke his Presidential Powers of Clemency against the fugitive bankers.

As many as 10 prominent business tycoons have fled the country. Most are said to have sought refuge in London . However, President Mugabe has vowed the moguls will be found and brought to justice.

“Kutamba njuga nemari dzevanhu! (Gambling with depositors’ monies),” is Mugabe’s oft-repeated statement when referring to the fugitive bankers, who he says must be brought to book.

Almost all the fugitive bankers fled after allegations of corruption involving “foreign currency externalization” and siphoning off of investors’ funds by directors in the form of “loans”.

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