A Zimbabwean court on Friday charged Tourism Minister Prisca Mupfumira with corruption charges involving $95 million from the state pension fund after questioning by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), reported Reuters.
Mupfumira is the first high profile politician and sitting Cabinet Minister to have been arrested since President Emmerson Mnangagwa appointed the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate widespread corruption in the government.
Mupfumira is facing seven charges of criminal abuse of office during her tenure as Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister between 2014 and 2017. She has been charged with misusing state pension fund money to finance her political campaigning and directing investments of up to $62 million into a bank against the advice of the pension fund’s risk committee. The minister is also accused of leaning on the pension fund to enter into property deals with the same bank worth $15.7 million.
“While some amounts have been identified, where they went to, there are other amounts which the police and officers at the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission have failed to find,” prosecutor Michael Reza said in court. “She has managed to hide that money very well.”
Mupfumira has denied all charges against her. The minister’s defense lawyer Charles Chinyama, on Friday, argued that the State has a weak case and relying on unsubstantiated claims that she gave verbal orders to the board on several occasions.
Reza presented a certificate from the Prosecutor General’s Office to detain Mupfumira for three weeks on the basis that she could use her position, as minister, to interfere with investigations. Mupfumira will now have to spend at least three weeks in jail and prepare for trial.
According to Transparency International, Zimbabwe loses $1 billion to corruption every year. Politicians and public officials have often looted Zimbabwe’s state pension fund, which has assets exceeding $1 billion, but none of them have been prosecuted until now.