By Nozwelo Hadebe
A Zimbabwean man who was being accused of stealing more than R10 million from a company he was working for in South Africa yesterday wept for joy after a magistrate acquitted him.
Reginald Bernstein (61), originally from Bulawayo but residing at 30 Canterbury, Avondale in Harare could not hold back tears as he slowly left the dock to sit on a bench in the courtroom.
He tried in vain to wipe away tears until he was led out of the courtroom by prison officers.
This was after Victoria Falls magistrate Ms Rangarirai Gakanje ruled that there were no compelling reasons to have him extradited to South Africa for trial after the State failed to prove its case.
Bernstein had been in custody for about eight weeks following his arrest in March, as his lawyer Mr Givemore Mvhiringi of Mvhiringi and Associates challenged the extradition.
Discharging him, the magistrate said: “Both the State and their counterparts in South Africa failed to produce enough evidence to this court to prove that the accused committed the offence. There were no witnesses who were brought to testify against the accused. The defence said that the accused was authorised by the company he was working for to cause payment to First National Bank and there was no one who came to this court to dispute all this,” said Ms Gakanje.
The magistrate said the court also considered that the State failed to produce certified documents or an affidavit as required for extradition in terms of Section 32 and Section 25 of Extradition Act Chapter 9:08.
“I therefore do hereby discharge the accused and order his release from custody with immediate effect,” said Ms Gakanje.
The State’s case was that Bernstein allegedly stole some money from his employer in neighbouring South Africa.
“Between April 7, 2009 and November 27, 2015 and at Danger Golf Estate in Gauteng Province, the accused took cash amounting to R4 214 177,52 which belonged to Dainfern Golf Estate and Country Club Home Owners Association. During the same period, he misrepresented that he was authorised to cause payment to be effected to First National Bank of South Africa for maintenance work and defrauded the company of R6 616 172,39,” prosecutors alleged. The Chronicle