Harare businessman Farai Jere and two Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) employees, Leonard Chisina and Freeman Chikonzo, were yesterday denied bail in a case in which they are facing US$3 million fraud charges.
In his ruling, Mr Lazini Ncube said the accused persons were capable of absconding because of the seriousness of the offence and the amount involved. He said there was overwhelming evidence against them and remanded the trio in custody to September 10.
“Surrendering travelling documents does not mean one will not abscond. The accused persons are not suitable candidates for bail and therefore, their application is denied,” ruled Mr Ncube.
The State alleges that Jere misrepresented to zesa’s subsidiary the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company (ZETDC) that his company — Secure Meters Private Limited — had a manufacturing plant for smart meters in the United Kingdom, yet there was none.
On November 24, 2018, Chisina and two fellow engineers Mapipi and Tshuma all from ZETDC, and a representative from the power utility’s IT department one Chikonzo, accompanied Jere to the UK to carry out the factory acceptance test.
While in the UK, Jere took the engineers to a warehouse where there were some smart meters instead of a factory which he claimed to have and in terms of the contractual agreement. The factory acceptance test was supposed to be done in situ when the manufacturing process was taking place and as a result, Jere’s company did not meet the required standards in terms of the test.
It is reported that the meters that the engineers tested had a base current of 10 amps and maximum current of 100 amps.
The meters that were tested were connected to a laptop using a cable and the head end system failed. Jere allegedly produced a fake factory acceptance test visit report to the effect that the smart meters and head end system met the standards required by ZETDC.
He asked the four ZETDC employees and Chisina and Chikonzo obliged while Mapipi and Tshuma expressed reservations on the signing of the document as no factory acceptance test had been done.
The court heard that Jere asked Chisina, the team leader, to speak to engineers Mapipi and Tshuma to sign the report and fumed that there was no way he could sponsor the engineers’ trip from Zimbabwe to UK for them to refuse to sign the report.
As a result, they signed the document under duress.
Jere then made a shipment of the smart meters which were delivered to ZETDC and a payment of US$3 566 878 was made.
It is further alleged that upon their arrival in Zimbabwe, Tshuma and Mapipi were removed from the project by Chisina.
ZETDC management then requested the delegation that accompanied Jere to the UK to complete questionnaires on what they observed during the factory acceptance test and Chisina and Chikonzo indicated on the questionnaires that the required standards were met.
The other two employees, however, submitted that there was no factory test done as required.
In January this year, the power utility’s loss control manager Rodrick Chikwira was assigned to carry out investigations together with an external consultant and they both established that no factory test was done.
As a result, ZETDC resolved to remove from its system, all meters supplied by Jere as they failed to meet the minimum requirements it set.