HARARE – Businessman Wicknell Chivayo has pleaded not guilty to defrauding the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) of over $5,6 million in a tender deal.

At the start of his trial on Wednesday, Chivayo pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud, money laundering and breaching the Exchange Control Act.

The charges stem from a $5,6 million ZPC payment to Intratrek Zimbabwe, in which Chivayo is a director, for pre-commencement works in the construction of a $200 million solar power plant in Gwanda.

Venerandah Munyoro, prosecuting, said ZPC had paid money to Intratrek without any advance payment bank guarantee.

Once the money was paid to Intratrek, several withdrawals were made and money moved to various accounts in personal transactions that had nothing to do with the solar project.

Shanghai Electric Power Design Institute Co. Ltd, a company that Intratrek claimed to have engaged for the feasibility study, said it had never been paid to carry out such work.

Other companies that Intratrek listed as having been subcontracted either did not exist, could not be found or had signed no contract with Intratrek, the prosecutor said.

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JTL Equipment, Makumimana Private Limited, Pietznack Plant and Earthmoving Services, Geoearth Minerals and Interpine Modular Structures Private Limited were some of the companies whose invoices Intratrek forwarded to ZPC claiming they had paid out $1,9 million for services.

Makumimana, prosecutors say, turned out to be a fictitious company, while Pietznack cannot be located.

Prosecutors will allege only $48,000 of a total amount of $5,6 million released to Intratrek had actually been spent clearing the site of the solar plant.

Chivayo has filed a notice of exception to the charges. His lawyer Advocate Lewis Uriri told magistrate Lazini Nzube that what was before him was a case of non-performance of a contract, and not a criminal matter.

In fact, the matter was a civil dispute, the lawyer said.

Chivayo’s application to have the charges dismissed will be decided on November 15.