FBC Bank(LTD) is in the eye of a bribery storm, following revelations that the bank attempted to give an inducement to a High Court judge to influence the ruling of a matter in which they were facing a lawsuit from a client, Zim Morning Post can exclusively reveal.
This publication understands that the bank appeared in court on March 30 2021, and an emissary (name withheld) tried to bribe Justice Esther Muremba with a gift bag whose contents we could not immediately ascertain.
“Apparently FBC sent the judge a gift pack on March 29, a day before she was set to hand down judgement on the matter in which FBC was dragged in.
“She said she was prepared to hand down judgment in Motion Court before she then received the gift bag.
“She walked in court and asked Mr Muchada who represented FBC to explain this ‘gesture’.
“Muchada sought instructions from his client (FBC) and was told that it was an annual gift they give to all judges as Christmas gifts, Muremba fumed and asked them to take their gift back immediately and she also questioned the logic of receiving a Christmas gift in March,” revealed our source who was present at the scene.
Enquiries at the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) established that despite of FBC ‘s claims, Muremba was the only judge out of 30 High Court judges that received the Christmas ‘gift’ in March.
Muremba herself is believed to have actually referred the matter to the JSC and been irked by the unethical offer.
Trusted sources said Muremba publicly refused to accept the gift bag and questioned the bank’s legal counsel why their client tried to compromise her.
Circumstances are that a Harare lawyer Nigel Sithole filed an urgent chamber application to have his three digital platforms (Mobile Moola, USSD *220# and Noku )with FBC suspended.
This was after a stranger manipulated one of the platforms using his name and went on to dupe people in a rent to buy car scheme.
According to court papers seen by Zim Morning Post, Sithole argued that the loopholes in the digital platforms rendered them unlawful and a contravention of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act (Chapter 9.24).
He further argued that the platforms were operating with little regards to the Know Your Client (KYC) verification process provided for in the opening of bank accounts.
“The opening of the account was done fraudulently without the knowledge and consent of the applicant (Sithole).
“The imposter started duping unsuspecting members of the public through some rent to buy scheme as he masqueraded as the applicant,” read part of the court papers.
The bank’s Loss Control personnel allegedly revealed that clients can open a bank account by just simply submitting their surnames and national identity card number without furnishing the physical document for verification.
This system left clients susceptible to criminals.
Zim Morning Post contacted Sithole who confirmed the incident and praised Justice Muremba for upholding ethics and transparency.
“ While I have the deepest respect for the Judge (Muremba) and how she conducted herself with the utmost fairness and transparency. I was quite perturbed by the conduct of the bank and wonder what it is exactly was meant to be achieved by handing over this gift. Institutionally, this raises a lot of questions about the types of decisions made at management level of FBC,” he said and refused to comment further.
FBC Holdings group chief executive John Mushayavanhu said he was not competent to comment on matters dealt with at court, but he however was quick to say the matter was concluded.
“I refer to your enquiry and advise that I am not competent to comment on court matters.
“This is an issue that was explained, dealt with and dispensed with at the court,“ he said in an emailed response.
Meanwhile, this not the first time FBC Holdings (FBCH) has been sucked in allegations of scandalous conduct.
In 2017, the listed entity was embroiled in a fraud storm involving a disputed US$3,4 million in management fees and allegations of overstating financial statements by over US$10 million.
This triggered a bitter row between the financial services group and one of its foreign investors Noel Hayes.
He accused the entity of “misrepresentations, fraud and material non-disclosures” which resulted in him suffering serious financial prejudice.