The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) has launched an investigation into allegations of money laundering at Zimbabwe Airways (Harare Int'l), which also involved officials of the existing flag carrier Air Zimbabwe (UM, Harare Int'l), the Zimbabwe Independent has reported.

"I can confirm that we have received a complaint of corruption at ZimAirways, and we now have a team which is investigating the issue concerning allegations of fraud, money laundering and violation of the Exchange Control Act and immigration laws," ZACC Commissioner Goodson Nguni said.

The investigation is focusing on the transactions related to the acquisition of two B777-200(ER)s by shadowy Zimbabwe Aviation Leasing Company (ZALC), as well as the proposed purchase of two Embraer regional jets.

Zimbabwe Airways reportedly spent USD35 million from public funds on the two Boeing widebodies and a further USD6 million on the Embraers, although it had initially budgeted USD70 million in total. According to earlier reports, the aircraft were, in fact, purchased by Air Zimbabwe on behalf of Zimbabwe Airways.

Zimbabwe Airways was initially set up as a nominally private firm, although it was linked to former president Robert Mugabe's son-in-law Simba Chikore (who was also Air Zimbabwe's COO) and ex-transport minister Joram Gumbo. It was subsequently taken over by the government with a plan to launch in October 2017. However, the plan was eventually dropped due to funding issues, although one of the B777-200s - ex-Malaysia Airlines Z-RGM (msn 28421) - arrived in Harare in April 2018 only to be ferried back to Kuala Lumpur Int'l in June.

The newspaper's sources said that the investigation has so far revealed that some of the money earmarked for the purchase of the aircraft ended up in Chikore's private account in Malaysia. Chikore fled Zimbabwe after a coup ousted Robert Mugabe late last year.

Joram Gumbo, who is now the minister of energy and power development, has been inconsistent about the ownership and the business strategy of Zimbabwe Airways, but hinted that the establishment of a new airline could have allowed the government to avoid sanctions and offload USD300 million debt carrier by Air Zimbabwe.

In July 2018, the government said it would seek to consolidate both carriers with Air Zimbabwe potentially availed off the aircraft purchased by Zimbabwe Airways.