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Businessman accused of swindling Swedish partner

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A VICTORIA FALLS businessman who was entrusted with the co-directorship of a company owned by a Swedish national, allegedly embezzled more than $56 000 before clandestinely forming another company in which he fraudulently allocated himself a 51% stake and the Swede 49%.

SILAS NKALA
STAFF REPORTER

This was heard by Bulawayo senior magistrate Sibongile Msipa when Sikhumbuzo Phiri (37) of Trenance appeared before her facing theft and forgery charges last week.

Phiri denied the charges and Msipa remanded him in custody to July 10.

The court heard that the complainant Jansson Hans Paul (64) of Uma University in Sweden, is a director of Jewlen Investment and had been friends with Phiri for 10 years.

Sometime in 2009, Paul bought Yewlen Investment (Pvt) Ltd in Victoria Falls from Lovemore Pfupajena Chihota for $30 000.

Phiri was made to sign an agreement of sale as director of the company since he was a close friend of Paul.

Paul wanted to build a lodge on the stand and make Phiri a co-director of Yewlen Investment after completion.

A memorandum of understanding was signed between the two parties on June 23 2011. It was the State’s case that sometime in August 2010, Paul started construction of the lodge at the stand and appointed Phiri as the caretaker of the project since he was based in Sweden.

He then gave Phiri his Barclays Bank credit card so that he could access funds for the construction of the lodge and he was to file all receipts for accountability.

The construction of the lodge was completed in 2011 and it was named Mandebele Lodge. It was alleged that in 2010, Phiri asked for $700 from Paul for sorting out personal problems and he was authorised to withdraw the cash using the credit card.

But Phiri allegedly withdrew $1 900 and another $19 252 from the same account without Paul’s consent and converted it to his own use.

After the completion of the lodge, Phiri is alleged to have opened an account with the Stanbic Bank for the lodge under Jewlen Investment trading as Mandebele Lodge.

Both Paul and Phiri were made signatories to the account and the lodge started operating on January 1 2012 and money generated was banked into the Stanbic account.

Phiri allegedly withdrew $6 000 which he converted to his own use. He withdrew a further $3 687 without Paul’s consent. In August 2012, Paul instructed Phiri to withdraw money from his account to buy a Toyota Hiace, Nissan Elgrand and Toyota Nadia for use by Yewlen Investment.

Phiri then registered the vehicles in his own name and started using them for his personal business. The Toyota Hiace was impounded by the Vehicle Inspection Department (VID) in Bulawayo after he was found carrying passengers without an operator’s licence, route permit, certificate of fitness and passengers’ insurance.

He sold the Nissan Elgrand while the Toyota Nadia was attached by the Messenger of Court in Victoria Falls after he failed to settle a loan.

Sometime in October 2012, Phiri allegedly forged Paul’s signature and formed another company called Draftrate Investment (Pvt) Ltd.

He then made Paul a director of Draftrate Investment in which he allocated 49% shares to him and retained the majority 51% stake.

The total prejudice suffered by Paul amounted to $56 239 and nothing was recovered. A report was made to the police after Paul unearthed the alleged theft, leading to Phiri’s arrest.

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