Ex-Kaizer Chiefs striker Liberty Masunda sentenced to three years in prison for alleged fraud

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The former Amakhosi marksman has been jailed in England for allegedly defrauding the department for work and pensions

Former Zimbabwe and  Kaizer Chiefs striker Liberty Masunda is behind bars in England after he was found guilty of fraud.

The former Zimbabwean striker has been nabbed for an offence where he defrauded the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) a reported amount of £450,000 in maternity payments.

According to the DWP, Masunda has been arrested and will remain behind bars for three years in the United Kingdom for defrauding the state.

The Zimbabwean Herald reports that the ex-Warriors international was convicted as being part of a gang that conned the department in maternity payments in the United Kingdom.

The 43-year-old who previously played for Blackpool, also had a brief spell in Turkey and was part of the 12-member gang of Zimbabweans that was convicted as they are said to have created 165 fake profiles to draw the grant money.

It is reported that the syndicate claimed £720 000 in maternity allowance payments over more than four years, but got their hands on less than half a million pounds worth after DWP officials became suspicious.

Although the Zimbabwean got the third harshest sentence, he will now also have a permanent criminal record as he will serve his three-year imprisonment term.

"People who steal identities or use fake ones in order to receive benefits they don't deserve are cheating money out of hardworking taxpayers and stealing funds, which should be used to help those who really need them," DWP said in a statement.

"In addition to any sentence imposed by the court, these benefit thieves must pay back all the money they falsely obtained and face a criminal record for life," concluded the statement.

The retired forward represented Amakhosi on 23 occasions during the 1997/98 Premier Soccer League (PSL) season while netting six goals.

In addition, the former footballer has been an active member of the Zimbabwean diaspora in the UK where he helped in raising funds for charity and returning home to support former players in the past few years.

Moreover, the Herald  reports that prosecutor Gurminder Sanghera said the defendants set up an expert operation to create false documents and falsely stamp them to ensure they were accepted by the DWP.

“As a result of their actions, there has been a loss to the taxpayer of £450 000 in false payments,” Sanghera was quoted as saying.

“Many of the defendants denied knowing about the fraud, or that their bank accounts were used. Evidence put forward by the CPS showed they each played an integral part of the scheme and ultimately the jury has found them guilty,” added the prosecutor.

Masunda has reportedly been arrested with the likes of Clemence Marijeni, who is a journalist.

Also forming part of the gang are Poula Cikuhwa, Tinashe Sagomba (38), Toad Tagarira (50), Kudakwashe Mhembere (37), Faith Mavis Tagarira (41), Tiwone Dowoke (38), Walasungu Ngwira (39), Patience Kanjira (19), Casper Mawoko (36), Tapiwa Madziwa (37) and the others were based in Peterborough and Norwich.

The Herald further reports that Sagomba was sentenced to five years in prison, Tagarira to four years while Dokowe, Madziwa and Ngwira were each sentenced to six years in prison.

Mawoko got four years and Mhembere was jailed for two-and-a-half years and Tagarira to 22 months in prison, but suspended for two years.