Mnangagwa ultimatum gives hope to pyramid scam victims
A THREE-MONTH ultimatum issued by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to people who externalised money to return it within the grace period, has given hope to thousands of investors who lost millions of dollars when McDowell’s International money lending scheme bust five years ago after the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) revoked its licence for flouting banking regulations.
BY GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA
Member Chipamba and his wife Linda Dewa’s business licence was revoked by RBZ in 2012, after they siphoned over $12 million from thousands of unsuspecting investors.
The couple was convicted as McDowell’s International directors and in their individual capacity for violating the Banking Act and fined $750 and $1 500 respectively.
Efforts by investors to recover their money have been futile. Among those who lost their money were businesspeople, churches and individuals.
On March 11, 2015, High Court judge Justice Priscilla Chigumba ruled in favour of McDowell’s International creditors and depositors and granted an order placing McDowell’s on provisional liquidation after Advocate Lewis Uriri’s successful application. Evans Militala of Petwin Investments was appointed provisional judicial manager.
According to papers in possession of NewsDay, Chipamba and Dewa used a South African registered company, Honeyspruit (Pvt) Ltd, in which they were both directors, to conduct business in the neighbouring country.
Chipamba and Dewa, who allegedly bought properties in South Africa using the money from the pyramid scheme, deposited funds in the trust account of their transferring attorney Johann Ellis of Ellis Swarts Incorporated in Musina.
According to the deed of sale in NewsDay’s possession, on February 19, 2011, the couple bought a R4,2 million lodge in Musina, South Africa, and on March 17, 2011, they bought a R2,1 million house adjacent to the lodge from Amirsinh Vijay Kumar Devadhara, a prominent South African businessman and his wife Reshma Devadhara through Ellis’ account.
Contacted for comment, Ellis denied that Chipamba was his client, but confirmed handling his transactions.
“I am not Chipamba’s attorney. I was just helping him. I think he is in a better position to comment on that issue,” Ellis said.
Sampie van Vuuren, who runs Rawson Properties, that sold the properties to Chipamba, said he was not aware of his financial background.
“Yes, I sold the properties to Chipamba, but I won’t disclose to you the details over the phone. When are you coming to Musina, so that I can give more details?” he asked.
Efforts to get a comment frmo Chipamba were fruitless as his mobile was not reachable
Chipamba had in the past refuted allegations that he had properties in South Africa.
The couple also acquired a $350 000 property in Khumalo, Bulawayo, a house in Clipsham, Masvingo’s affluent suburb, a property in Mpandawana and another in Mucheke D.
The couple, who appeared before the then Masvingo regional magistrate Collet Ncube facing four counts of money-laundering and contravening Section 63 of the Serious Offences Act, were also being investigated by Financial Intelligence Centre Act of South Africa, which is a regulatory anti-money laundering authority.
Duped investors hoped to recover their money after Mnangagwa’s decree.
Andrew Kunodziya, a teacher at Shongamiti in Chivi, said: “I hope the President’s diktat will see all investors receiving their money. We have received the announcement with joy.”
Princess Zvoushe, a nurse at Mutambara Mission Hospital, said: “I don’t know what became of the Chipamba’s cases that were before the courts. It seems they all hit a snag because of inducement of court officials,” she said.
Poshai Jiri, who is based in the United Kingdom, who invested $100 000 in the scheme, said he is following the matter very closely because he felt robbed by McDowells’, while Grace Matanga, who claimed her father died of stress after losing all his pension benefits, said she hoped the President’s announcement was not one of those talk shows.