‘Fugitive’ banker Vingirai granted bail

A ‘fugitive’ Zimbabwean banker, who was extradited from Taiwan back to Zimbabwe this week, has been granted bail under strict conditions.

Nicolas Vingirai fled the country at the height of the controversial crackdown on the financial sector in 2004, which saw prominent Zim businessmen persecuted on various allegations. This included James Makamba, Mutumwa Mawere, Gilbert Muponda and James Mushore, among others.

Vingirai, who was the CEO of Intermarket Holdings before 2004, was specified under Zimbabwe’s anti-corruption laws in 2005, along with more than a dozen other business executives and bankers. The specification was lifted in 2009 after the government announced an amnesty. But despite the despecification, Vingirai’s arrest warrant for alleged money laundering was not cancelled.

Vingirai, who has spent years on the Interpol Red Notice list of wanted criminals, was arrested in Taiwan in August following a reported tip-off that he was in the country. He arrived in Zimbabwe on Monday at the Harare International Airport, on a South African Airways flight, and was immediately arrested by Zimbabwean police.

He is accused of stealing and laundering money from Zimbabwe to bank accounts in Zambia, South Africa and the United Kingdom between 2003 and 2004. He appeared before Harare magistrate Donald Ndirowei, on Wednesday facing 11 counts of theft and externalisation of foreign currency.

Vingirai was ordered to pay US$2,000 bail and, as part of his bail conditions, was also ordered to surrender title deeds to two properties valued at US$60,000. He was also ordered to surrender his passport, report to police’s fraud unit once a week, and not to visit or interfere with day-to-day business, employees, directors or other Intermarket personnel.

Political analyst Clifford Mashiri told SW Radio Africa on Thursday that he doubts the state has a legitimate case against Vingirai, who commentators have said was one of many ZANU PF engineered scapegoats the party used as blame for Zimbabwe’s economic collapse.

Mashiri agreed that there is credibility in this argument. “The bankers will still have to prove their innocence, but I have my doubts about this case,” Mashiri said.

In August this year fugitive ENG Asset Management boss, Gilbert Muponda, who was facing charges of abusing Z$61 billion in depositors’ funds in 2003, went back to Zimbabwe after spending seven years exiled in Canada. He was arrested on his return and spent a night in custody before all charges against him were dropped. He’s now a free man.

Mashiri said it is likely that Vingirai will have the same fate, depending on what kind of deal can be struck with the Attorney General’s office.

“ZANU PF could be using this tactic to gain favour, by making a deal that secures Vingirai’s freedom, on condition of support,” Mashiri said. – SW Radio Africa

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