The cancellation of Fly Africa’s operating licence could just be a tip of the iceberg in financial impropriety and fraud, as rival board members trade accusations that money was being siphoned out of the country.
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
The airline’s former chief executive, Chakanyuka Karase, claimed Fly Africa failed to remit $1 126 234 to the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ), saying the arrears arose as a result of externalisation of funds by the company’s foreign partners.
An affidavit signed by Karase on October 22 indicated initial investigations showed that partners from Fly Africa Limited of Mauritius made arrangements through Stanbic Bank Samora Machel Avenue Branch for Internet transactions.
“Our partners from Fly Africa Limited of Mauritius, from whom we leased the aircraft, had made arrangements through Stanbic Bank, Samora Machel Avenue Branch, Harare, for Internet transaction banking, which arrangements enabled them to move funds electronically from the Zimbabwean Bank accounts with Stanbic Bank Limited Samora Machel Avenue Branch, to foreign bank accounts without anyone’s knowledge with the exception of the bank,” he said.
“This was confirmed by a letter dated August 3, 2015 written to CAAZ by (Fly Africa’s director and group CEO) Adrian Hamilton-Manns of Fly Africa Limited of Mauritius, advising CAAZ he transferred $186 400 from a Dubai-based account, with a further $50 000 expected again from the same source.”
This came as Karase issued a request to freeze the bank accounts under the name Nu-Aero (Private) Limited trading as flyafrica Zimbabwe in a letter dated October 22.
“In good faith, I allowed the following to be signatories to the accounts namely Adrian Hamilton-Manns and Mike Bond on some accounts and Matipedza Karase on others.
“However, it has come to my attention that Messrs Adrian Hamilton-Manns and Mike Bond have been externalising funds banked into local accounts by sweeping account balances to foreign bank accounts,” he said.
Prior to that, Karase had on September 14 received a reminder from CAAZ about the arrears.
“We hereby advise and give formal notice that your aircraft movement are not promptly paid for resulting in arrears amounting to $1 396 119,25 as at 14 September, 2015,” part of the letter written by the CAAZ read.
In response, Hamilton-Manns queried the stated figures, which CAAZ confirmed in a follow-up letter that same day.
Hamilton-Manns agreed to pay the arrears through a $15 million fund made available by Fly Africa international investors fronted by Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba, Gabon Investment Fund and Ivor Ichikowit.
However, it later turned out that the correspondence between CAAZ and Hamilton-Manns contravened CAAZ regulations, as all communication was supposed to go through Karase as the accountable manager.
CAAZ amendment regulations 2010 (No 1 Part 9 Air Operator Certificate and administration clause 188.8.131.52 (a)) stipulate that: “Each AOC (Air Operator Certificate) holder shall have an accountable manager, acceptable to the authority, who has corporate authority for ensuring that all flight operations and maintenance activities can be financed and carried out to the highest degree of safety standards required by the authority.”
Karase was relieved of his posts of CEO, chairman and accountable manager in a board resolution authorised by acting company secretary Bond on October 27.
Yesterday, flyafrica.com in a statement said it had laid fraud and theft charges of over $140 000 against a family member of their local partner in Fly Africa Zimbabwe.
Fly Africa claimed they suspended a Zimbabwean partner for breach of directional and fiduciary duties and the unnamed person reportedly “illegally and unilaterally attempted to surrender our Air Operator Certificate” to CAAZ.
The airline said it was seeking a solution and hoped to be back in the air yesterday.
However, a CAAZ official said once the certificate had been surrendered, the airline had to make a fresh application for a new one.