By Richard Muponde
A top National Prosecuting Agency (NPA) official has been implicated in a scandal involving a Bulawayo couple embroiled in an alleged US$75 million loan fraud.
Chris Mutangadura, the NPA’s chief public prosecutor, has been reported to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) after he allegedly meddled in the cases involving local businessman Lovemore Kutamahufa and his wife, Acsilia.
The couple, who are directors of Aman Obrie Investment Private Limited, are facing criminal prosecution at the Bulawayo magistrates courts.
They were charged after their business partner Lungisani Ncube, a Zanu PF politician, accused them of forging his signature to obtain a loan from FBC Bank.
Ncube accused the couple of using his title deeds in the loan application without his consent.
The trial, however, stalled after Kutamahufa challenged how a forensic handwriting expert only identified as L T Nhari was roped into the investigations without proper procedures being followed.
Kutamahufa claimed that Nhari was brought into the case by Mutangadura, whom he accused of siding with Ncube.
He lodged a complaint against Mutangadura with Zacc, which was recorded as case number HCR.21/05/2020.
Loice Matanda Moyo, the Zacc chairperson, said she needed time to confirm if the commission was investigating the matter.
Mutangadura allegedly ordered the prosecution of Kutamahufa, FBC bank manager Tizirai Mutandwa and lawyer Jonathan Taona Tsvangirai on the strengths of a report made by Nhari that Ncube’s signatures were forged.
Nhari made his report based on illegible photocopies of the original documents alleged to have been forged by Kutamahufa.
At the time the matter was still being handled by the police’s forensic department where Ncube had failed to produce original documents for a government forensic expert, one Gombakomba, to examine the alleged forged signatures.
On October 24, 2017, Mutangadura used Nhari’s report odering Kutamahufa’s prosecution after claiming that Gombakomba was not available.
“No excuse shall exonerate the three accused persons, who apparently misrepresented facts of them having been authorised to tender title deeds by the complainant and yet they were not,” Mutangadura said
“Please call for the docket and instruct the investigator to charge all the three accused, who in common purpose with each other defrauded the complainant by their conduct.
“The original forged documents are said to be with the government forensic department.”
But Mutangadura’s assertion was at variance with a report from the Zimbabwe Republic Police forensic department dated April 25, 2017 that indicated that the forged documents had not been examined by Gombakomba because they were not legible and the complainant, Ncube ,refused to avail the original documents.
“Please note that some of the standard signatures are not clear and cannot be examined,” read the police report.
Mutangadura is now accused of colluding with Ncube and Nhari to use illegible photocopied samples to produce the report, contrary to standard criminal procedures.
Nhari’s report says it could not be proved that it was Ncube’s signature on the documents.
“The FBC Bank guarantee form is of poor quality and writing not very legible.
“However, that notwithstanding, I have found the design and construction of the signatures on the three questioned documents not to be similar and therefore not consistent with the standard signatures of Lungisani Ncube,” reads the report.
“The glaring differences between the questioned and standard signatures cannot be attributable to natural variation.”
According to the documents seen by Sunday Southern Eye, the Kutamahufas obtained a US$75 million loan from FBC sometime in 2013, which was meant to finance their agricultural and mining activities in the country.
The mining business, however, faced some viability challenges and they failed to service the bank loan.
FBC Bank then insituted legal proceedings against them with the aim to attach the pledged property, which belongs to Ncube.
Several engagements with the bank for a payment plan failed until FBC sought a High Court order to attach and sell the property.
During the civil trial that ensued at the Harare High Court, Ncube turned against Kutamahufa alleging that he stole his title deeds and fraudulently got the loan with the help of Mutandwa and Tsvangirai.
But in a judgement under HH459-17 on July 19, 2018, Harare High Court judge Justice Moses Foroma dismissed Ncube’s allegations.
Following the High Court setback, Ncube turned to the criminal courts and reported Kutamahufa and his wife Acsilia to the police, accusing them of forging his signatures.
Subsequently, Ncube’s appeal at the Supreme Court against the FBC Bank order was dismissed with costs by Justice Antoinette Guvava on January 3, 2019.
Kutamahufa then wrote a letter to the NPA complaining about the alleged interference in the case by Mutangadura in the criminal case against him.
He was referred back to Mutangadura’s juniors in Bulawayo to investigate, but he was not told of the outcome of the enquiry.
Prosecutors in Bulawayo started altering charges against him.
The NPA had also indicated that it would investigate to establish who directed Ncube to Nhari, but prosecutors still proceeded with the case.