CIO Operative Fired By Mangudya Was Previously Dismissed By Gono For Similar Offences
AT LEAST one of the four Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) bosses that Governor John Mangudya suspended on Monday has been once suspended by former RBZ chief Gideon Gono for related offence. However, the cases never went far as Gono was advised that this would implicate some very powerful people in the top hierarchy of government.
Mirirai Chiremba, the head of the Financial Intelligence Inspectorate, Evaluation and Security (FIIES) division was suspended by Gideon Gono in August 2008 over a financial scandal that exposed the RBZ as the star player on the foreign currency black market.
Gono suspended Chiremba in 2008 for two weeks without pay, after the eruption of a damaging scandal believed to have prejudiced the central bank of billions through under invoicing.
As divisional chief for Financial Intelligence, Chiremba – an ex-Central Intelligence Organisation operative – was responsible for raising forex on the black market for the central bank to bankroll key imports. But he allegedly abused his position by inflating the rate at which he purchased the forex, pocketing huge sums for himself with each transaction.
Highly-placed sources alleged that Chiremba would authorize the withdrawal of large sums of Zimdollars from the Retail Banking Division on Level 1 of the glass and mortar tower along Samora Machel Avenue and then allocate his various agents outside the bank to source forex from the black market.
After mopping all the foreign currency from the black market, Chiremba would then misrepresent the rates at which he bought the forex, alleged the source. “It was easy to fleece the central bank governor this way because no receipts were given from the black market,” he said.
“But the governor became suspicious when at one point Chiremba claimed the rates were at Z$250,000 to the US dollar when in actual fact the greenback was fetching Z$180,000 on the day in question.”
Gono then engaged his own investigators, resulting in the scam being exposed.
It was understood that in 2008, forex purchased from the black market would be repatriated to South Africa through Stanbic Bank to a “NOSTRO Account”, which is an RBZ forex account domiciled in Johannesburg.
This is the account that the RBZ would use to wire cash for various payments for supplies such as fuel, food and electricity imported from South Africa and other foreign countries.
The RBZ allegedly started using Stanbic Bank for repatriating cash to South Africa after Dr Munyaradzi Kereke joined the central bank as Gono’s policy advisor. Kereke was a director at Stanbic before joining the RBZ.
According to the source, Gono also took great exception when it emerged that Chiremba was allegedly lying about the amount he paid panners for gold deliveries. Up until the review of the gold support price from Z$350,000 to Z$3 million last in July 2008, Chiremba allegedly claimed he had bought gold from panners at Z$3 million when he bought it for Z$500,000, thus prejudicing the central bank of up to Z$2,5 million with each transaction. Again, no receipts were produced.
Chiremba was reportedly using one Scot to go out and purchase gold from the panners. Scot would then engage his own “foot soldiers” to go out to the panning sites to purchase gold. One of the persons involved in this racket, Elvis Tsunda, was convicted in 2008 at the Rotten Row Magistrates Court after being found in possession of 500 grams of gold intended for onward transmission to Chiremba.
It is also believed that although Gono was under pressure to fire Chiremba, he was strongly advised against doing that amid reports the move could open a Pandora’s box of corruption in the central bank by the his own trusted lieutenants. This is how Chiremba survived the chop.
But that was not Chiremba’s only involvement in controversy at the central bank.
In March 2016, Mirirai Chiremba’s name popped in the trial of former RBZ official Munyaradzi Kereke for rape. Chiremba was a star witness against Kereke. The court heard that Kereke threatened Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe head of financial intelligence inspectorate, evaluation and security Mr Mirirai Chiremba with unspecified action for refusing to backdate the surrender of a gun he is suspected of using earlier in committing an offence.
Mr Chiremba claimed Kereke forced him to sign a provision of receipt dated June 14.
“He threatened me saying that if I did not sign, he was going to fix me and as an advisor to the Governor then, he was a powerful man hence I signed under duress,” he said to the court.
Private prosecutor handling the matter Mr Charles Warara asked Mr Chiremba to narrate to the court how and where he was given the pistol. This is what Chiremba said:
“On August 22 around 5 am, I checked my phone and noticed there was a missed call from the accused (Kereke) and I returned the call. He then ordered me to meet him at Bon Marché in Chisipite and we met at around 6:45am. He produced the pistol and told me he wanted it taken back to the RBZ security department.”
“He said there were people alleging that he had committed an offence using the pistol. I asked him to shed more light on the allegations and he said it was a minor misunderstanding with a relative. He said,if possible, I should enter an earlier date of return. He looked stressed and worried.”
Mr Chiremba said he took the pistol and locked it up in his office safe intending to hand it over to RBZ head of security Mr Grasham Muradzikwa.
Muradzikwa is still the RBZ Head of Security and is among the four bosses suspended this Monday by Mangudya.
He said Kereke stormed into his office the following day at around 8am.
Chiremba continued: “When he insisted that I sign the provision of receipt which was dated June 14, I told him that the master register would show the actual date of return and I would be in trouble. He said he was not going to leave my office until I signed the document and I later gave in,” he said.
Mr Chiremba further told the court that he later called Mr Muradzikwa and narrated to him what had happened.
He said Mr Muradzikwa refused to take the pistol or backdate the return entry.
Mr Chiremba said he took the matter to then RBZ Governor Dr Gideon Gono who advised him not to touch the gun since they were not sure of the allegations Kereke said he was being accused of.
“Dr Gono told me to leave the pistol in the safe in case someone comes asking about it. He said I should tell the truth if anything relating to the pistol came up,” Mr Chiremba said.
During cross-examination, Kereke’s lawyer, Mr Erum Mutandiro, accused Mr Chiremba of lying.
He further accused him of conniving with Dr Gono to frame charges against Kereke in a bid to cover up for the offences Kereke reported against them to the police.
“Witness, why are you framing the accused person? Are you aware that he reported Gono to the police for fraud and treason? You and Gono want to frame him so as to cover up for the crimes he reported against the two of you. You connived to fabricate charges against my client,” he said.
Mr Mutandiro said if Kereke was guilty, Mr Chiremba was also guilty of concealing evidence by keeping the pistol in his safe for five years.
“The firearm is still with you. Do you know that concealing evidence is a crime? You said you told Gono of what had happened, so are you telling this court that Gono helped you to conceal evidence?” he asked.
Mr Chiremba refused to answer some of Mr Mutandiro’s questions on the basis that they were irrelevant to the case.
This Tuesday, the RBZ chief Dr John Mangudya said that following allegations of impropriety levelled against Messrs Mirirai Chiremba, Norman Mataruka, Gresham Muradzikwa, and Azvinandava Saburi, by Mr Lumumba, the central bank has found it necessary, for the sake of transparency and good corporate governance, that the allegations be followed through and investigated in line with the bank’s Employment Code of Conduct.
The bank said it has suspended the four senior employees effected 22 October for an indefinite period of time so as to pave way for investigations.
The Governor said once investigations have been concluded, the public shall be advised of the outcome and appropriate action shall be taken depending on the outcome of the investigations.
In a Facebook Live video Sunday evening, Lumumba named RBZ Director Bank Supervision Norman Mataruka, Director Financial Markets Azvinandava Saburi, Director Financial Intelligence Mirirai Chiremba and Head of Security Gresham Muradzikwa, accusing them of crimes ranging from off-the-books bond notes to corrupt allocation of foreign currency.
“Muradzikwa has more money in his bank account than all his bosses … I do not believe Mangudya is involved,” Lumumba said.
Lumumba went on to accuse Muradzikwa of using his access to the flight manifest that guides the movement of bond notes from their printing press in Eastern Europe up to delivery in Harare.
According to Lumumba, the delivery plane always stops by Mozambique or South Africa where a chunk of the newly minted bond notes are offloaded and then smuggled into Zimbabwe in bales.
“Five RBZ directors have made Mthuli’s life impossible. I will not allow that. This country is being run by a cartel and Minister Ncube is going to break that cartel … This cartel is being run by Queen B … I used to go to Kasukuwere’s house and Queen B was always there … Queen B gave us the money for the Amai Mugabe rallies.”
Sakunda’s Kudakwashe Tagwirei who dominates the fuel industry and Command Agriculture was also named as a part of the supposed Queen B cartel.
Lumumba claimed to have access to financial intelligence provided to him during briefings with Minister of Finance Mthuli Ncube.
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