Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
Former Air Zimbabwe company secretary Grace Pfumbidzayi, who was last week jailed seven years effective for swindling the airline of $10 million in an insurance scam, said the penalty imposed was excessive and that community service or a fine would be appropriate under the circumstances.
Pfumbidzayi, through her lawyer Mr Andrew Muvirimi of Muvirimi and Associates, yesterday appealed against both conviction and sentence at the High Court.
She argued that the court wrongly convicted her and if the High Court confirms the conviction, then community service or a fine would meet the justice of the case. Pfumbidzayi was jailed together with the airline’s ex-acting chief executive Peter Chikumba for criminal abuse of office by Harare magistrate Mrs Fadzai Mutombeni.
In the notice of appeal, Pfumbidzai’s lawyer submitted that the magistrate misdirected herself by failing to assess all the evidence adduced in the trial.
The magistrate, the lawyer argued, erred by concluding that the auditor Bhudhama Chikamhi was a credible witness when he stood to benefit financially by testifying against Pfumbidzayi in the trial.
The sentence, Pfumbidzayi argued, was too severe.
Pfumbidzayi said the court wrongly concluded that she benefited from the commission of the offence and that Air Zimbabwe suffered “a lot of prejudice” when there was no such evidence.
She wants the High Court to quash conviction and find her not guilty and acquitted.
Charges against Pfumbidzayi and Chikumba arose after an anomaly was discovered by former Air Zimbabwe board chairman Mr Ozias Bvute pertaining to amounts paid between April 2009 and April 2013 to a company called Navistar Insurance Brokers (Private) Limited in respect of aviation insurance premiums.
Pfumbidzayi and Chikumba also inflated aviation insurance premiums over payments made to Colemont Reinsurance Brokers (Private) Limited and Reinsurance Brokers (Private) Limited, both United Kingdom-based companies. The firm released €15 452,93 to Navistar, €10 607 859,22 to the two British companies, while they pocketed €5 895 695,49.