NetOne CEO scandal: Charge sheet revealed

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Suspended NetOne chief executive Lazarus Muchenje

THE Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission (Zacc) and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Serious Frauds Unit are preferring seven criminal charges against suspended NetOne boss Lazarus Muchenje and seven others, amid reports the case may take a new twist as the State intends to push for terrorism and espionage charges, the Zim Morning Post has learnt.

The eight accused person are currently in court where they intend to apply for bail.

According to the charge sheet seen by this publication accused number one, Lazarus Muchenje faces seven counts: “Criminal abuse of duty as a public officer defined in section 174(1)(a) of the criminal law, alternatively contravention of section 4 of the postal and telecommincations(International telecommunications rates.”

“Count four, five, six and seven: Fraud as defined in section 136 of the criminal law.”

Sources also say despite this being a financial scam which benefited the NetOne bosses, the state is likely to also place a charge linked to a degree of terrorism amid reports the interconnection deal allowed foreigners to access private information of the locals without being detected.

According to the charge sheet “The contract signed between the accused representing NetOne as its chief executive office and Bankai International (Pvt) Limited had no board approval.

“Sometime in the year 2019 accused one, accused two and accused three held several meetings with Parag Agarwal a director of Bankai(PVT) Limited, a Mauritious corporation. Parag Agarwal purpoted to be representing 6D (Pvt) Limited, an Indian Company.  6D (Pvt) Limited had supplied Netone with a service delivery platform and USSD server gateway and was owed US$1 000 000-00 by Netone. Parag Agarwal proposed to the accused persons that Netone should Provide (09) million minutes  of on netvoice termimination service to Bankai (Pvt) LIMITED.

“The (09) million minutes were of a total cost of US1 000 000-00 having been valued at an interconnection rate of  us$0.13 per minute. The interconnection rate of US$0.13 per minute is against the interconnection rate stipulated in section 4 of the postal and Telecommunications (International Telecommunications Rates) Amendment  S.I  163 of 2008 which states that no license shall agree to receive less than the minimum internanational termination rate of US$0.20. Bankai would pay for the on-net voice terminations by offsetting the debt owed to 6 D Pvt Limited by Netone,” reads the charge sheet.

“The first accused instructed the second and third accused to cause Nyaradzai Shoko to initiate paper work for the agreement. Nyaradzai Shoko contacted 6D (Pvt) Limited and the company replied through an email that Parag Agarwal was nolonger porking for 6D (Pvt) Limited. The company further indicated that their company was not part to any deal being negotiated by Parag Agarwal. Accused one was advised of this development.

“The accused persons however went ahead with the deal. Accused one instructed accused two, Three and accused eight to exclude the clause that indicated the offsetting of 6 D (Pvt) Limited debt. On 10 December 2019 the accused persons caused Netone to enter into a contract with Bankai International Private Limited of Mauritius when they signed the Unilateral Buy Agreement.”

“After signing the agreement Bankai engineers connected their equipment which included a Telco bridge at Netone data centre. The telco bridge was configured in a way that allowed Bankai engineers access and control over the telecommunications traffic on that platform. “Accused one was informed by Netone engineers prior to the connection of the Telco Bridge of its national security risks but he insisted that the connection goes ahead. The connection thus granted Bankai (Pvt) limited a foreign company access to National security equipment. The security risk posed by the installation of unvetted equipment remains unquantified. The number of international calls that went through should have accrued to Netone can only be quantified by Bankai (Pvt) Limited,” reads the charge sheet.

Documents in this publication’s possession reveal that in November 2019, Muchenje his acting Finance officer Tinashe Severa prejudiced NetOne of US$2,240 million “after unlawfully signing an interconnect agreement with Bankai International Private Limited, dated December 10 2019.”

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