Crime & Courts

JUST IN: Former NetOne boss Muchenje’s trial in false start

Mr Lazarus Muchenje

Nyore Madzianike Senior Court Reporter

THE trial of former NetOne chief executive officer, Lazarus Muchenje, yesterday failed to kick-off after lawyers representing him and three others told the court that they were not furnished with all papers to prepare their defence.

Muchenje is jointly appearing with Darlington Gutu, Spencer Manguwa and Sharmaine Kadende, on criminal abuse of office.

They are alleged to have entered into a number-range provision agreement with a Mauritanian firm, Bankai International (Pvt) Limited, which saw NetOne Cellular supplying 2 000 virtual lines, which were configured on NetOne Nokia Mobile Switching Centre without Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) and subscriber details without board approval.

They were also alleged to have by-passed the Home Location Centre, violating the Postal and Telecommunication regulations.

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Deputy chief magistrate Mrs Bianca Makwande set the matter for January 18 to 21 for trial on a continuous roll.

Muchenje has other counts where he is jointly charged with other employees – Darlington Gutu, Spencer Manguwa, Sharmaine Kadende, Tawanda Sibanda, Tinashe Severa, Paradza Mutandwa Chakona and Tanyaradzwa Chingombe.

Sibanda was NetOne interconnection and roaming manager, Severa was the acting chief finance officer, Gutu was chief technology officer, Manguwa was the chief operating officer, Chingombe was acting head of legal and Chakona, a former board member.

On the first set of charges, Muchenje is appearing on his own answering to three counts of criminal abuse of office with an alternative fraud charge.

Muchenje is alleged to have instructed NetOne head administration Mr Innocent Mukandatsama to buy him household furniture worth over US$620 000 without board approval.

He is also alleged to have ordered the company to hire three Toyota Fortuner vehicles for his personal use between January 2019 and February 2020.

The cars were hired on separate occasions for US$32 869, US$133 080 and US$59 976 respectively.

Muchenje is also alleged to have ordered NetOne to pay more than US$50 000 for his personal security services offered by a local security company.

Muchenje is also being jointly charged with Tawanda Chakona in a case where they allegedly resolved to extend housing allowance to him and rented him a house in one of Harare’s affluent suburbs for US$364 000 without NetOne board resolution during the time of his tenure in office.

He is also jointly charged with Sibanda, Severa and Kadende after they allegedly connived to allow NetOne to enter into a Unilateral Buy Agreement with Bankai International for supply of nine million minutes for voice calls for US$1 million.

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As part of the agreement, the quartet is said to have authorised the connection of a Telco Bridge at NetOne Data Centre and that it be configured to allow Bankai International.

Muchenje will also be appearing in court along with Gutu and Chingombe on allegations of having signed an International Top-Up Agreement with Bankai International and Bridgevo International where they were to supply airtime for resale outside the country at a 20 percent discount.

They are expected in court on December 8 for trial.

HERALD