MDC disowns Sonny Chibuwe

Chibuwe (pictured standing with Jonathan Chawora- 3rd from left) was a youth leader in the MDC UK’s national committee.

After his conviction, this reporter contacted a number of MDC leaders who included then Information and Publicity Officer, Matthew Nyashanu who expressed shock and said that he ‘does not know’ Chibuwe.

In Nyashanu’s claim, this was so although the MDC’s UK website has had Chibuwe’s name printed in bold as youth leader to date. The current MDC chairman (whose committee has now been suspended following a money scandal allegation), Jonathan Chawora has to date neither responded to messages sent to him nor given comment on Chibuwe.

Chibuwe was the first MDC leader who was quick to write an opinion piece in support of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai after Tsvangirai had been jeered by Zimbabweans in a London church meeting. Just after this, he wrote a few emails to ZimEye requesting to publish his opinion piece.

Sentencing Chibuwe to at least 3 years in prison, a Bradford judge said that despite his links with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Chibuwe had now blighted his reputation.

Chawora’s committee is under suspension after a money scandal allegation case was raised against them. However, current witnesses do not not link the scandal to Chibuwe but rather to former MDC ambassador, Hebson Makuvise who the accusers say he is to answer for an alleged disappearance of £54000 from the MDC UK’s bank accounts.

Commenting on Chibuwe, Matthew Nyashanu expressed dismay saying a lot of people in the party ‘had joined’ with ulterior motives. At the time of writing, Chibuwe’s name was still on the MDC’s website.

Sonny based in Bradford was jailed for three years for his part in a major financial fraud which cost banks about £1 million.

Father-of-two Sonny Chibuwe, 29, of Heights Lane, Heaton, was the sixth person to be sentenced for the conspiracy. They have now been given prison terms totalling 21 years.

Leeds Crown Court was told that the conspirators used the postal system to steal cheque books.

Prosecutor Tim Capstick said the cheque books were forged or altered, paid into defendants’ accounts and money withdrawn.

Several banks were targeted, mainly the Halifax and mostly in the West Yorkshire area starting in Bradford.

The court heard that Chibuwe was a Zimbabwean national who had fled the regime in his home country in 2002 and was seeking asylum in the UK.

His lawyer, Jayne Dodson, said he had connections with the Opposition party in Zimbabwe and had been involved with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in this country. She said he was well respected in that party but had now blighted his reputation.

Chibuwe admitted to depositing cheques on eight or nine occasions, for which he was paid a wage.

Judge Kerry Macgill told Chibuwe, who pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy to defraud, he had chosen to become involved.

The judge said: “This conspiracy cost the banks in the region of £1 million. This wasn’t small fry, it was a large conspiracy to defraud the banks of a lot of money.”

He said he had every sympathy for the defendant’s domestic situation in Zimbabwe.

But Judge Macgill told him: “You helped and played a part in plundering the banking system.

“The message has got to go out that if you are here seeking asylum, however difficult your financial situation, you cannot resort to criminality on this scale and not receive a custodial sentence.”

He said the sentence meant Chibuwe, who has a wife and two children in this country, was liable to deportation, but added: “That’s the unfortunate consequence of your criminality.”

The case was part of West Yorkshire Police’s Operation Illmington, launched in 2007 and involving the execution of warrants at 30 addresses in West Yorkshire and beyond.

The investigation is ongoing and ten men and a woman have been interviewed and bailed pending further inquiries.

(ZimEye, Zimbabwe; plus The Telegraph Argus, UK)