Harare(New Ziana) – Fired Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Minister Prisca Mupfumira was on Wednesday denied bail yet again by the Harare Magistrates Courts, saying she was a flight risk, among other reasons.
This is the second time that Mupfumira, who is facing corruption charges involving US$95 million, had applied for bail at the Harare Magistrates Court in vain.
She had earlier also tried her luck at the High Court and Supreme Court.
Harare magistrate Elijah Makomo, in denying Mupfumira bail, said she was facing serious criminal allegations, and could be tempted to flee to avoid trial.
This was also in view of the fact the ex-minister had two passports, and held a ten-year United Kingdom visa.
“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 offense and the stronger the state case is, the more it induces the accused to flee,” Makomo said.
“With regards to likely punishment in the event of a conviction, the accused was a Cabinet Minister at the time of commission of the alleged offences. She was a public figure and servant. The principles relating to sentencing of officials in such category were set out a long time ago.”
He added: “Looking at the seriousness of the offence, the likely punishment, one cannot second guess that this is a factor again, militating against arguments by the accused.”
Makomo said Mupfumira’s ownership of two passports – one ordinary and another diplomatic – increased her flight risk.
“In that ordinary passport is a multiple entry 10 -year visa to the United Kingdom, and it expires in 2028. At each visit, she is entitled to remaining in the UK for 180 days. Clearly this visa practically gives her residence in the UK for the next nine years,” he said.
“For what reason she was granted such a lengthy visa has not been explained. What this means is she has strong connections with that country. That shows that the accused is no ordinary citizen and certainly not a woman of straw like the defense wished to portray.”
“This must be taken in light of the deposition of the investigating officer that she owns houses in the UK. The court will therefore not ignore that deposition by the investigation officers. In my view, this is a very strong factor, militating against the accused’s bid to have freedom,” he said.
Makomo said the state had a strong case, and therefore chances of Mupfumira’s conviction were high.
“From the foregoing, the accused’s application for bail did not succeed. Bail is hereby denied,” he ruled.
Mupfumira was then further remanded in custody to September 28th.