Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Douglas Karoro was arrested last night on allegations of grabbing 700 bags of fertiliser, US$18 000 worth of maize seed and 5 000 vegetable seed kits from Presidential inputs schemes between March and last month, and selling them.
The inputs came from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) Mushumbi Pools Depot in Mbire, Mashonaland Central Province, and were intended for farmers.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi last night said three people suspected to be his runners were also arrested.
Further information on the arrest and charges was not available last night, but police said they would give more details today.
However, the first person arrested for involvement in the alleged fraud was the depot manager of Mushumbi, Lovejoy Ngowe, and yesterday he was in court for his initial remand on three counts of fraud.
Harare magistrate Mrs Yeukai Dzuda is keeping him in custody for the weekend and will hear his bail application through lawyer Mr Batanai Pesanai on Monday.
The alleged corrupt deals involving Karoro, Ngowe and several people hired by Karoro were outlined at Ngowe’s remand hearing by the State led by Mr Anesu Chirenje.
It is alleged that last month, Deputy Minister Karoro approached Jeremy Phiri, who was also on the wanted list yesterday as a main middleman, and told him that he was looking for buyers for 700 bags of Compound D fertiliser at US$16 per 50kg bag.
Phiri is said to have contacted Widdorn Chiodza, who was interested in buying the fertiliser.
On April 21, Phiri, according to the State, met Chiodza who handed over US$10 700, almost the full price.
Phiri then allegedly took this money to Deputy Minister Karoro, who told him that the fertiliser was at GMB Mushumbi Depot.
That same day at around 3pm, Deputy Minister Karoro called depot manager Ngowe and told him that he was sending trucks to collect his Compound D.
Ngowe allegedly asked for details of the trucks and was given contact details for Dean Zimunya and the following day Zimunya took Chiodza and three trucks to Mushumbi Pools Depot and loaded the 700 x 50kg bags of fertiliser, with Ngowe issuing goods dispatched vouchers in the name of Deputy Minister Karoro.
Chiodza is said to have returned to Harare and offloaded the fertiliser at his place in Kuwadzana.
But the following day, just two days after handing over the cash, Chiodza allegedly received a call from Zimunya telling him to return the fertiliser saying the deal had gone sour.
Chiodza refused, whereupon Zimunya and Karoro allegedly then engaged Mugove Chidamba to help them recover the fertiliser from Chiodza.
After negotiations on April 24 Chidamba managed to recover 400 bags and refunded Chiodza US$6 400.
In a complex arrangement allegedly to cover up the issuance and movement of fertiliser, Deputy Minister Karoro and Chidamba allegedly hired transporter Richard Tsiga to ferry the recovered 400 bags to GMB Aspindale purporting that they wanted to swap it with Ammonium Nitrate. To get the full 700 bags Chidamba went out and bought another 300 bags of Compound D from Farm & City. Herald