Two employees of Zimbabwe’s biggest mobile network operator (MNO), Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, Mukai Mapunzure (Sales Consultant) and Gavin Guwu got nine years in prison for defrauding the company of $20 million (ZWL$). The former was facing 108 counts of fraud and got seven years. While the latter had 98 counts and got two years.
The story starts back in 2019 when Mapunzure allegedly used his access to Econet’s mobile broadband merchant number (0784953460), Mapunzure then created a sim card for the aforementioned number and processed a private identification number to access the account. He then went on to create two agent numbers and register them under false names of Nyachidze Primary School and Ariston Holdings Limited according to a report from The Manica Post in 2020.
“He inserted the counterfeit sim card for merchant number 0784953460 in his Mobicel cellphone account to effect the withdrawals. He transferred large sums of EcoCash RTGS on different times to merchant numbers 0785042806 and 0771378844, thereby causing prejudice to Econet, the sum being $5 186 000. The Mobicel cellphone and the sim card which was used by the accused to facilitate the transaction were recovered from the accused.”Timothy Katsande for the Prosecution (via Manica Post)
As for Gavin Guwu, he reportedly was a recipient of one of the transfers which amounted to ZWL$6 million. In the sentencing proceedings, the court considered, in its decision, that some of the $20 million stolen from Econet had been recovered.
“The court is sentencing them separately because the second accused (Guwu) initially committed the offence with the first accused (Mapanzure), but later received money to buy American dollars from the latter.”Timothy Katsande for the Prosecution
There must be something in the water in Chipinge
Econet isn’t the only MNO that has issues with employees defrauding the company of funds. Early last year state-owned mobile network operator NetOne suffered a similar situation when a University of Zimbabwe intern stole 53 NetOne social welfare lines (with ZWL$1,700 in their OneMoney wallets) and then proceeded to transfer ZW$90,100 in total. Strangely Econet and NetOne’s cases both occurred in Chipinge.