Crime and Courts

Ex-NetOne boss trial in false start

Ex-NetOne boss trial in false start. Prosecutor Mr Ephraim Zinyandu alleges that in 2019 Muchenje and Manguwa held several meetings with Parag Agarwal, a director of Bankai (Pvt) Limited, while Gutu met representatives of a Mauritius Corporation.

The trial of former NetOne chief executive Lazarus Muchenje and three former subordinates on charges of entering into an agreement with a Mauritanian firm for the provision of virtual lines without board approval had to be postponed on Monday when they appeared at the Harare Magistrates Court because one of the lawyers failed to turn up.

Muchenje is jointly charged with Darlington Gutu, Spencer Manguwa and Sharmaine Kadende on criminal abuse of office charges. The trial was postponed to February 16 after Kadende’s lawyer failed to attend court for the trial before Harare regional magistrate Mr Taurai Manwere.

It is alleged that Parag Agarwal said he was representing 6D (Pvt) Limited, the Indian company that had supplied NetOne with a service delivery platform and USSD server gateway and was owed US$1 million

Parag Agarwal and the then NetOne employees agreed to provide nine million minutes of on-net voice termination service to Bankai (Pvt) Limited of Mauritius, which at US$0,13 a minute would cover the US$1 million

But the interconnection rate of US$0,13 per minute was against the interconnection rate stipulated in the Posts and Telecommunications Rates set out in SI 63 of 2008 which states that no licensee shall agree to receive less than the minimum international termination rate of US$0,20.

They also allegedly agreed that Bankai would pay for the on-net voice terminations minutes by paying NetOne’s debt to 6D.

But when Muchenje allegedly instructed Gutu, Manguwa and Nyaradzai Shoko to initiate paper work for the agreement, Shoko was told by 6D that Parag Agarwal was no longer an employee and that 6D was not a party to any deal negotiated by Parag Agarwal.

Rather than dump the deal the four allegedly connived to exclude the clause that indicated the offsetting of the 6D debt. On December 10 2019 NetOne entered into a unilateral buy agreement with Bankai.

After signing of the agreement, Bankai and NetOne engineers connected a Telco bridge at the Netone data centre, which was configured in a way that allowed Bankai engineers access and control over the telecommunication traffic on that platform.

It is said that the implementation of the agreement facilitated the termination of 58 837,02 minutes of international traffic during February 2020 causing an actual prejudice of US$9 413.92. The agreement had a potential prejudice of US$US$1 440 000, according to the State.

It is alleged that the quartet acted contrary to their duties as they failed to seek NetOne Cellular board approval and the Ministry of ICT clearance before entering into the said contract thereby showing favour to Bankai.

Source – Bulawayo24

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