CABS in US$45 000 court exhibit storm

Source: The Herald – Breaking news.

CABS in US$45 000 court exhibit storm 
In its response, CABS said it was unable to refund the money because of the monetary policy changes of 2019.

Fidelis Munyoro-Chief Court Reporter

CABS is being accused of contempt of court for allegedly defying a legal instruction to release US$45 000 held as exhibit on behalf of the court when an account was frozen at the start of a criminal trial.

The bank now says it can only exchange US dollar equivalent in local currency at the 2019 rate of 1 to 1.

CABS argues that all US dollar accounts were converted to local currency by law in 2019 and so it can only release Z$45 000.

A Harare magistrates court issued an order on November 3 last year, for the release of money held in the CABS account of Andrew Jubane to Universal Transport (Pvt) Ltd, according to documents in possession of The Herald.

But so far, the money has not been released raising fears of possible contravention of the law by CABS, when it allegedly unfroze an account belonging to Jubane who was under investigation for suspected fraud.

The man at the centre of the fraud was Marlven Chimutashu, who swindled Universal Transport Pvt Limited of US$234 000 in a fuel deal.

At the time of his arrest Chimutashu had spent part of the money settling his debts and buying gold at Fidelity Printers. After a fully contested trial, Chimutashu was convicted and sentenced to an effective three years in jail for fraud.

The court had initially sentenced him to six years in jail but suspended one year on condition of good behaviour.

Of the remaining five years, two years were suspended on condition he restitutes the company US$102 000 through the clerk of court at Harare magistrates court on or before December 9 last year.

The court also ordered that the US$45 000 held in Andrew Jubane’s account be released to Universal Transport with immediate effect.

Now the transport company found itself in a quagmire, as the building society remained non-committal when the company’s legal counsel reached out for responses.

Only now it seems to be jolted into action, when it said it is investigating the matter. The company’s lawyer Mr Blessing Diza of Diza Attorneys wrote to CABS on January 18 requesting it transfer the money as laid down in the court order.

In its response, CABS said it was unable to refund the money because of the monetary policy changes of 2019.

“We refer to your letter dated 18 January 2024. Kindly note that the account Number 1003662641 was converted to Zimbabwe dollars during the 2019 monetary policy changes. Further, the account is dormant, and it had a nill balance when it fell into dormancy. In light of the above we cannot remit the funds as requested. We trust you will find this in order,” read CABS letter dated January 31 2024.

In responding to CABS letter the company lawyer said money amounting to US$45 000 in the account of Mr. Andrew Jubane became an exhibit in criminal proceedings the moment the order to freeze the account was received by yourselves.

“As you are aware every transaction processed by a financial institution leaves an audit trail. To that end, we are kindly requesting you to furnish us with an audit trail on how the exhibit was used, when it was used and who the beneficiaries were.

“Further, kindly furnish us with the court order that authorised the reactivation of the account to allow processing of those transactions to enable us to subject these to an independent verification process by an auditor,” read Mr Diza’s letter dated February 22.

Mr Diza followed up with another letter on March 12, wherein he took the view that the response by CABS translated to contempt of court as there is clear defiance of a competent court order.

He explained that the bank was not supposed to use funds that were held as an exhibit on behalf of the court, reiterating that “our request to you to release the funds you are withholding as you are opening yourself to a possible suit for loss of business.”

To this end, Mr Diza advised the bank that his client was now gravitating towards filing a complaint with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Supervision Department over the matter.

“Kindly share with us proof of payment of the funds into our client’s account as soon as you receive this letter but in any event not later than 15th March 2024.”

After receiving this letter, CABS on March 15, wrote back to the company saying it was investigating the matter. “We are investigating what transpired on the account, and we thank you for your understanding during this process,” said Mr Hardlife Nharingo, CABS group legal and governance executive.

“We have ascertained, however, that the account in question converted to Zimbabwe dollars by operation of law in 2019. It is, and would have been, impossible for us to transfer US$45 000 to yourselves, from the account in question, post 2019.” CABS, further stated in its letter that pending finalisation of its investigation, it can offer payment of Z$45 000 on a no prejudice basis.

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