HomeSportCricket saga: case of biased prosecution

Cricket saga: case of biased prosecution

Dumisani Muleya

SELECTIVE prosecution within the Zimbabwean cricket fraternity was exposed last week after two cricket players and an official were convicted for violating foreign exchange control regulation

s, while their bosses went scot-free.

Cricketers Vusumuzi Sibanda and Waddington Mwayenga and national team manager Mohamed Meman were last week convicted of breaching foreign exchange rules. The three paid fines for their offences.

Sibanda, Mwayenga and Meman were charged with receiving relatively small payments in their offshore accounts compared to the more serious charges levelled by the central bank against their cricket bosses.

Sibanda received US$4 041,35 which was deposited in former national team captain Tatenda Taibu’s UK account held with HSBC Bank.

The account number in which the money was deposited is 616210604976. But the owner of the account and those who deposited the money were not charged.

The same applies to Mwayenga who was paid merely US$182 in Meman’s Natwest Bank account in the UK and Meman who received US$6 750.

However, the biggest shock was when Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) chairman Peter Chingoka and managing director Ozias Bvute were set free for what appeared to be more serious offences which involve larger sums of forex and unconstitutional profit-making deals by the cricket board.

The ZC constitution clearly says the cricket board is a non-profit-making organisation, thus prohibiting it from commercial trading.

ZC is supposed to make its income from the sale of television rights, done through UK-based firm Octagon CSI, companies that advertise themselves during international cricket matches, for instance Gameplan Ltd, and funds from the International Cricket Council.

The ZC media and communication manager Lovemore Banda last week said in a press release his organisation was involved in motor vehicle trade.

ZC has been involved in car sales deals worth $23 billion with Croco Motors.

Although Chingoka and Bvute were identified in the central bank probe as having been at the forefront of the alleged breaches of the foreign exchange regulations, they escaped unscathed.

The Attorney-General’s office refused to prosecute despite the fact that it had the central bank’s investigation dossier to support prosecution.

Sources said the Attorney-General’s office balked at prosecution because of friction with the central bank. But Attorney-General Sobusa Gula-Ndebele denied this last week.

Sources said Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono first sought permission from President Robert Mugabe – the ZC patron – to investigate the cricket saga and secured it.

However, after the investigation, Gono found his mission hitting a brick wall as the state prosecution authorities showed marked reluctance to pursue the case. Gono is understood to have been alarmed by this.

A senior lawyer acting on behalf of Chingoka and Bvute last week told the central bank authorities that he had reported Reserve Bank officials to the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO)’s counter-intelligence division because they were cracking down on black cricket officials while leaving whites and Indians alone.

Central bank authorities have been complaining about the state of affairs, warning if certain individuals were allowed to get away with violations of the law it would set a bad precedent and emasculate the bank in dealing with foreign exchange issues.

A report done by the Reserve Bank’s Financial Intelligence Inspectorate Evaluation and Security unit reveals Chingoka and Bvute were involved in transactions that amounted to violations of the exchange control rules.

The report, titled Zimbabwe Cricket: Summary of Charges, lists 12 exchange control violations against the ZC officials.

It accuses them of failing to repatriate US$6,3 million proceeds from the sale of TV rights in violation of Section 5 (1) of the Exchange Control Act, chapter 22.05 as read with Section 5 (1), (2) of the exchange control regulations SI 109 of 1996.

It says Octagon CSI collected revenue on behalf of ZC and deposited the funds into the ZC’s Barclays Bank account number 58255922, Knightsbridge Business Centre, UK, unlawfully.

Although the account was opened in 1982 when Alwyn Pichanick and Dave Ellman-Brown were at the helm of cricket, the report says it has been used to stash funds in violation of foreign exchange rules.

Octagon, which holds TV rights to produce and sell all cricket matches hosted by Zimbabwe, has a contract with ZC structured 10 years ago.

The report also identifies the controversial purchase by ZC of an outside broadcasting van for £1 075 000 through Octagon, which paid £550 000, with Ten Sports of Dubai injecting £450 000 from the UK-based Video Europe, as part of the violations of exchange control regulations.

Octagon and Ten Sports, a television channel which specialises in cricket, assisted in brokering a deal between ZC and Video Europe for the buying of a 14-camera state-of-the-art van. Octagon was going to be repaid by ZC through future earnings of the signal they would sell on behalf of the local cricket board. Ten Sports would recover its money through a barter deal in which they were given the rights to the sale of boundary boards during the Zimbabwe-India test matches in August.

ZC then entered into a contract with Mighty Movies, a local production house which journalist-turned businessman, Supa Mandiwanzira, says he owns, to collect the van from Durban, South Africa, and manage it on behalf of the cricket board for a commission.

Mandiwanzira has been roped into the cricket saga as a result of that.

Last month Gono warned Mandiwanzira during a press conference that the central bank was investigating the cricket issue even though he claimed there was nothing untoward happening.

The report says there were breaches of the law when ZC bought vehicles using offshore funds for sale to Croco Motors, in which the state security department reportedly has an interest, for subsequent resale. This got the cricket story entangled in the intelligence service politics, especially after published claims that Bvute has CIO links.

The central bank report also deals with payment of players’ allowances of about US$544 018 into offshore accounts.

It says Chingoka was paid £50 000, while US$750 000 was diverted to South Africa. The ZC also received US$3 million and diverted the funds. All these payments, the report says, were in violation of exchange control regulations, it says.

* See the IndependentSport View column for a summary of the charges.

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