BY MOSES MATENGA
A controversial businessman with alleged links to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s family was given government contracts worth US$42 million to buy materials to fight Covid-19 after supplying false information twice, it has been revealed.
Delish Nguwaya, who was arrested on Friday, appeared before Harare magistrate Vongai Muchuchuti yesterday, where he was remanded in custody to tomorrow for the continuation of his bail hearing.
He was charged with, among other things, causing “prejudice to the good administration of the government of Zimbabwe”.
Nguwaya, who is said to be a close friend of Mnangagwa’s sons, is alleged to have duped government officials including Health minister Obadiah Moyo into awarding his company contracts worth millions of dollars to import materials to fight Covid-19.
“Sometime in 2019, the accused person connived with one IIier Dedja, still at large, tendered an expression of interest in the supply of medicines through a US$20 million loan facility under a company called Papi Pharma and it was turned down after a vetting process by the relevant government department,” read part of the charges against Nguwaya.
Dedja is described as a 51-year-old man who was born in Sefaraj, a village in Albania’s Western Lowlands region.
He previously travelled to Zimbabwe to meet Mnangagwa, Nguwaya and other officials. Nguwaya allegedly submitted a fresh tender using a different company name.
“A short period after Papi Pharma’s expression of interest was turned down, the Ministry of Health and Child Care received from the accused person another expression of interest dated August 22, 2019 for a similar $20 million medical supply facility now under a company called Drax Consult SAGL,” the court was told.
“The letter was addressed to the minister of Health and Child Care Dr Obadiah Moyo. The accused person again featured in the Papi Pharma documents as indication that he was basically the same person.”
In the expression of interest document, the state claimed, the accused persons misrepresented that Drax Consult SAGL was a pharmaceutical company based in Switzerland when it was a mere consulting company with no experience in the manufacturing or supply of drugs and medical products.
Acting on this misrepresentation, Moyo initiated a process through his then permanent secretary Agnes Mahomva that involved communication with relevant stakeholders, which included the Health and Finance ministries, Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe and NatPharm.
The process, the court heard, culminated in a contract for the supply of medicines and medicinal products between NatPharm and Drax Consult SAGL.
“During the consultation process, and in the furtherance of their criminal enterprise and at the end of November 2019, the accused Delish Nguwaya presented himself before Flora Nancy Sifeku, the NatPharm managing director, where he introduced his accomplice only identified as the owner of Drax Consult SAGL,” the court was told.
“During the consultation process, several written communications between the accused and the government officials were made and delivered by the accused person and of particular importance, is a letter of acceptance of offer dated October 3, 2019.”
A contract, the state claimed, was signed and Nguwaya appended his signature as country representative for Drax Consult SAGL and Ilir Dedja as its owner.
Drax was given a contract of US$2 million to supply medicinal products to the Health and Child Care ministry.
Prosecutors claimed the misrepresentation caused government workers to act and caused “prejudice to the good administration to the government of Zimbabwe”.
Nguwaya is facing another count of fraud where he tendered another expression of interest using Drax International LLC to supply products worth US$40 million.
“Based on trust from the previous engagement, the government entered into a contract with the company for the supply of medicines worth US$40 million,” prosecutors added.
“The matter came to light after a notable variance on prices charged by Drax International LLC to those prevailing on the market.
“Further checks confirmed that Drax International and Drax Consult SAGL were merely consulting companies and not manufacturers of medicinal drugs.”
One of Mnangagwa’s sons, Collins, has denied allegations that Nguwaya is his business partner or that they are friends.
The government also says the first family has no links with the man, who has been linked to a number of criminal cases.
However, businessman Frank Buyanga, in his several letters before the courts in a case where he is fighting for custody of his child, stated that Nguwaya was working with Collins to deny him custody of his child.
Interpol is reportedly investigating Drax over money laundering allegations linked to a US$2 million payment by the Zimbabwean government.
Dedja is said to be the only shareholder in two Swiss companies — Drax Consult SAGL and 3-DD Swiss Trading — and believed to have registered Drax Consult SAGL in March 2017.
The Hungary branch for Drax Consult SAGL was opened on February 20, 2020, stating in official documents that the company carries out activities including business consulting, marketing, advertising and business management consulting for foreign companies trading in medical and cosmetic products.
On March 5, just two weeks later, the account was credited with US$2 million, made as deposits of US$1 million each, a 10% deposit on a consignment of drugs and medical supplies on a contract worth US$20 million as part of Zimbabwe’s fight against Covid-19.
The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) is also investigating allegations of corruption involving Covid-19 procurements with sources saying Moyo, Guvamatanga and Mahomva, among others, have been questioned.
Zacc spokesperson John Makamure could only confirm that “investigations are at an advanced stage” on alleged Covid-19 cases, but could not comment on the names of those under probe.