NetOne boss, accomplices spend weekend behind bars

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By Mary Taruvinga

NETONE CEO, Lazarus Muchenje and his subordinates will spend their weekend behind bars after bail ruling was postponed to Monday.

Muchenje and suspected accomplices appeared before Harare magistrate Lazini Ncube Saturday facing eight counts of criminal abuse of office as well as fraud.

Bail hearing started towards sunset although the suspects had arrived in the morning.

Muchenje is jointly charged with board member Paradzai Chakona; Tawanda Sibanda 49; NetOne Interconnection and Roaming manager,Tinashe Severa; Acting Chief Finance officer, Darlington Guru,53; Chief Technical officer, Spencer Manguwa, 43; Tanyaradzwa Chingombe, Acting Head Legal and Sharmaine Kadenhe Legal Trainee.

They spent the entire day roaming in the court corridors awaiting bail ruling as the state was reportedly sorting out its papers.

Court adjourned after 10 pm.

According to prosecutor Michael Reza, Muchenje had turned NetOne into a family tuckshop to the extent of hiring personal security guards and top of the range vehicles to use without seeking board approval.

Reza said this was not covered by his employment contract adding that NetOne had to foot the bills.

Reza opposed bail arguing that the weight of the offences Muchenje and subordinates were facing will likely force them to abscond.

The offences were committed between January last year and January 2020.

On another charge, it is alleged Muchenje, Gutu and Chingombe illegally contracted an international company without board approval.

“Accused one, four and six corruptly caused NetOne to enter into a contract with Bankai International Pvt LTD of Mauritius and Brudgevoice INC, a company incorporated under laws of the United States of America to sell NetOne airtime overseas by connecting Bankai to NetOne prepaid platform,” said the state.

Reza alleged Bankai was given 20 percent airtime discount which was above 11 percent discount the company was giving to its dealers.

It is also alleged Muchenje was getting an illegal housing benefit which saw NetOne losing $363 875.

“Accused 2 represented NetOne as the lessor and Muchenje as the lessee. An arbitrary rental of $1 000 was agreed by the parties although they had been advised by Pam Holding Properties and Kennan Properties that the rentals for the house in question was between US$2 500 and US$3 500.

“As a result of this, Muchenje is enjoying an unjustified housing benefit for the period extending from January 2019 to January 2020 at the expense of NetOne Cellular,” said Reza.

He said Muchenje did not seek board approval again.

Muchenje also allegedly acquired personal security and misrepresented on documentation that the security was 24 he roving at NetOne building when in actual fact the guard provided security only to him.

“The first accused told Lifart Toro, NetOne head revenue Assurance that he was being followed by strangers and required personal security,” said the state adding he was not entitled to the arrangement.

Muchenje also allegedly hired top of range vehicles several times from Breakfront Car Hire prejudicing NetOne of $225 925.