PROPERTIES valued at US$1,1 million including plush mansions in Glen Lorne and Shawasha Hills in Harare, a flat and Mercedes Benz acquired through corrupt means by a Zimra official convicted of fraud in 2018 have now been forfeited to the State by the High Court.
This means Tapiwa Evans Chidemo is not only serving a jail term, but has lost the fortune he acquired when he diverted to his own use VAT refunds meant to be paid to Zimra clients through the Paynet system.
He will come out of jail with nothing.
The National Prosecuting Authority said it has disgorged Chidemo of ill-gotten wealth and with the latest court order, had taken the property belonging to Chidemo who was prosecuted and convicted for misappropriating a total of US$1 119 833,96 from Zimra.
Chidemo was charged with nine counts of fraud and one count of money laundering and found guilty of two counts of fraud and sentenced to six years imprisonment in 2018.
Out of that total, one year was suspended on condition of future good behaviour and another two years were suspended on condition he paid back everything that was stolen.
A precedent will be set when it is decided whether the forced seizure of the property on the application of the National Prosecuting Authority counts as the desired refund or whether Chidemo missed his chance to liquidate his assets and buy two years of freedom and so remains behind bars without the suspension but also without the money.
The suspension of part of a fraud or theft sentence on condition of repayment within a time limit was justified by the High Court judge who introduced it, with full backing from the Supreme Court on appeal, on the basis that if the money had been repaid before the trial this would be taken into account as mitigation when sentence was given.
By offering mitigation in advance, the judge was hoping that criminals would repay. The ruling has become a firm precedent, but this is the first time someone has lost property to a forfeiture order.
Chidemo was a shareholder of Armeline Investments, the vehicle used to buy his property portfolio.
In its statement, the authority said: “The High Court in a judgment delivered on June 29, 2022 upheld the NPA’s application to seize the property.”
The properties in the order are: Stand 215 Glen Lorne Township 8 measuring 4 517 square metres; stand 3036 Shawasha Hills, Glen Lorne; Mercedes Benz C Class 1997; and 2 500 ordinary shares of $2 in Derwent Lodge (Pvt) Ltd giving rights of occupation of flat number 19 Derwent situated at Number 9 Josiah Chinamano Avenue, said the NPA. Herald