Steward Bank claims to be swindled
By Hazel Ndebele
STEWARD Bank has been prejudiced of more than US$200 000 through a scam suspected to involve the financial institution’s employees who electronically approved point-of-sale (POS) transactions from a closed and underfunded account.
The bank is investigating the matter to establish how one Jonathan Nhamburo from Mt Darwin in Mashonaland Central managed to swipe US$215 800 using his Steward Bank automated teller machine (ATM) card yet his bank account was closed six months prior to the numerous transactions.
It has been established that the account had not been deactivated from the system. A source in the banking sector said the approved transactions from a closed account could have been caused by a failed system. Employees could have also facilitated the transactions.
Steward Bank’s head of corporate affairs Nyasha Choga said the financial institution would not comment on the matter as it is now before the courts.
“It is best for us not to comment and let it play out in the courts for justice to prevail,” Choga said.
Criminal Investigations Department (CID) documents from Mvurwi outlining the case and seen by the Zimbabwe Independent show that Nhamburo had since October 8 2016 been using his bank card linked to his closed account to make several transactions through POS machines, amounting up to US$30 000 per transaction.
“On December 6 2016, Deni Ota, a Steward Bank electronic banking reconciliation officer picked some suspicious transactions in the system whereby card number 5021950000405167 linked to account number 1001955337 belonging to Nhamburo was being used to make some purchases through a POS machines of up to US$30 000 per transaction from the Blues Takeaway and Hardware, Centenary, belonging to Esther Hodza,” reads the document.
“Further investigations carried out indicated that the account was closed on April 23 2016 and was unfunded,” the document said. “Acting on a common cause, Nhamburo gave his automated teller machine (ATM) card to Hodza who would then use the card to make some purported purchases on her own POS machines.”
It is understood that after the purported purchases, Steward Bank would then refund Hodza by depositing cash into her registered business account.
“As a result of this misrepresentation, Steward Bank was prejudiced of cash amounting to US$215 800. Cash amounting to US$91 421 which was still in Hodza’s business and her personal accounts were frozen,” reads the document.
Steward Bank then reported the matter to the police who then arrested Hodza on December 15 last year. Nhamburo was also arrested. The two have since appeared before the courts on fraud allegations but are however out on US$200 bail although the matter is still pending.
Hodza’s lawyers Musendekwa-Mtisi Legal Practitioners on January 13 then filed an urgent chamber application to the High Court for an interdict, after their client alerted them that she has been receiving text messages of transactions being done despite the fact that Steward Bank had purportedly frozen her bank account.
Hodza through her lawyers also complained that her bank is denying her a bank statement which would have enabled her to cross-check the allegations against her. Her account is reflecting a negative balance of -US$127 000 after the bank allegedly seized her funds.
“This is an urgent chamber application for an interdict compelling the respondent to release my funds which they seized from my account, together with my POS machines which had been issued to me in accordance of an agent agreement between myself and the respondent (Steward Bank),” an affidavit by Hodza which accompanied the application reads.
“I aver that it is common cause that I dealt with the bank’s client, one Jonathan Nhamburo and I only did what is allowed in terms of the agreement. The allegation that Nhamburo was using an underfunded account is not for me to comment but for Steward Bank to comment since it electronically approved those transactions.”
Hodza went on to reveal that she suspected her bank account was used for “dirty dealings”.
“I aver that there may be dirty dealings on my bank account involving employees of Steward Bank because on January 2 2017, US$3 850 was deposited to my account and US$2 022 was then withdrawn,” Hodza said. “I am not the person who did these transactions as there is no way I can pay money into a debited account and still be able to withdraw part of the amount.”
Hodza said she was seeking an interdict from the court to “remedy the unlawful acts” of Steward Bank which debited her account and the interdict to prevent further injustice and hardship to her.
The High Court on February 6 this month granted Hodza the interdict.
“The application for an interdict in respect of the applicant’s account be and is hereby granted. The application for a spoliation order in regard to the money and the point-of-sale machine be and hereby dismissed,” reads the judgement. “Each party be and hereby ordered to pay its own costs.”
Hodza’s lawyer, Webster Jiti, said Steward Bank insists that Hodza raided the bank’s suspense account.
“I confirm that I represent Hodza, but I cannot comment on the criminal part because the matter is subjudice and before courts. However, the bank insists that our client raided the suspense account of the bank using her POS machine. We find those allegations to be bizarre and completely divorced from logic,” Jiti told the Independent.