Former tourism minister Priscah Mupfumira was denied bail on Wednesday after a magistrate ruled that she was a flight risk.
Elijah Makomo said Mupfumira, charged with corruption involving US$95 million, had enough motivation to skip the court’s jurisdiction.
“The State mentioned the existence of two passports in the name of the accused; an ordinary passport and a diplomatic one. In that ordinary passport is a multiple entry visa to the United Kingdom visa expiring in 2028,” Makomo said.
“Clearly, this visa gives her residence in the United Kingdom for the next nine years. This means she has strong connections with that country. This must be taken in light of the deposition of the investigating officer that she owns houses in that country. This is a strong factor militating against the accused’s bid for freedom.”
Mupfumira was arrested on July 24 and faces charges ranging from alleged abuse of state pension fund money to finance her political campaigning to directing investments of up to US$62 million into a bank against the advice of the pension fund’s risk committee.
Mupfumira is also accused of leaning on the pension fund to enter into property deals with the same bank worth US$15.7 million.
The charges arose from Mupfumira’s tenure as labour and social welfare minister between 2013 and 2017, when she oversaw the state pension fund – the National Social Security Authority (NSSA).
The magistrate said the serious charges Mupfumira faces could motivate her to flee the court’s jurisdiction.
“The accused faces seven counts of criminal abuse of office as a public officer involving US$95,556,000. There could be no argument on the seriousness of these offenses. It only stands to reason that the more serious the offence and the stronger the state case is, the more it induces the accused to flee,” Makomo went on.
Mupfumira was originally barred from applying for bail after Prosecutor General Kumbirai Hodzi issued a certificate directing her detention without bail for at least 21 days. The Supreme Court has ruled that the certificate is valid after Mupfumira had rushed to the higher court seeking bail there.