By Mashudu Netsianda and Thandeka Moyo
The trial of 10 suspects who allegedly stole part of the nearly $1 million worth of gold which was being kept as an exhibit at Plumtree Police Station kicked off yesterday at the Bulawayo High Court.
Plumtree regional magistrate, Timeon Tavengwa Makunde, Stanley Chinyanganya who is Plumtree area public prosecutor, prominent Harare lawyer Admire Rubaya, the officer-in-Charge of Plumtree Police Station, Inspector Ginger Vhiyano, Detective Assistant Inspector Ladislous Tinacho who is in charge of the ZRP Minerals and Border Control Unit in Plumtree, Sidingumuzi Ncube, Tyson Ruvando, Ladislous Tambooneyi who are all police officers, Jefat Chaganda and Godfrey Makuvadze appeared before Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Thompson Mabhikwa on charges of theft and obstructing the course of justice.
Prosecuting, Chief Public Prosecutor Mrs Tariro Rosa Takuva, who was assisted by Ms Nonhlanhla Ndlovu, said on July 7 this year at Plumtree Police Station, gold weighing 28kg and worth $970 000 was stolen from the armoury through an act of unlawful entry.
The 10 are accused of stealing 14,7 kgs valued at US$647 266,40 which was part of the 28kgs that went missing in Plumtree. Nothing was said in court about the remaining 13,3 kgs of gold.
The offence came to light on July 15 when Chief Inspector Mangena, who was reporting for duty, noticed that two FN rifles which were booked in the charge office were not physically there in the armoury.
The gold was later intercepted by police at One-Stop Shop leading to the arrest of Chaganda. He was found in unlawful possession of part of the stolen gold weighing 14,7 kgs which he allegedly intended to smuggle to Botswana.
Chaganda was arrested in a Botswana-bound train while Ncube, who was in his company, managed to flee. The recovered gold was seized by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) and handed over to the police in Plumtree.
“All the 10 accused persons then hatched a plan to steal the impounded gold and they allegedly played various roles in the scheme.
When Chaganda appeared in court charged with unlawful possession and smuggling of gold, Ncube sought the services of one Vusumuzi Sayi who in turn contacted his friend, Kailos Moyo, to secure the services of Lovemore Sibanda, a registered miner,” said Mrs Takuva.
The court heard that Sibanda’s documents for his Qalo Syndicate were fraudulently used in court to claim ownership of the seized gold. Det Asst Insp Tinacho (50) allegedly contacted Rubaya to represent Chaganda. Rubaya then allegedly roped in Makunde and Chinyanganya to further their plan of stealing the gold.
“Tambooneyi gave false evidence in court under cross examination by Rubaya while Makunde and Chinyanganya, who were aware of the scam, adopted an armchair approach during the court proceedings,” said Mrs Takuva.
The court heard that Chinyanganya allegedly deliberately concealed the existence of a notice of seizure issued by Zimra while Makunde, without any evidence to support ownership of the gold, allegedly proceeded to order the release of the gold to Sibanda, the purported owner.
Insp Vhiyano, Makuvadze and Ruvando were constantly communicating with other accused persons who subsequently went to Bulawayo where the gold was sold and they allegedly received their share of the loot.
Makuvadze was arrested on August 17 leading to the recovery of US$37 900 cash, $527 bond notes and an unregistered Toyota Quantum worth US$10 000 allegedly bought from the proceeds of the sale of the stolen gold.
He implicated his accomplices leading to their arrest. Police also recovered a Toyota Wish which Ncube allegedly bought for US$5 300 from one Blessing Matyukira and US$5 500 cash.
A consignment of household property which included television sets, a refrigerator, tyres, solar chargers and panel were found from the accused persons including US$20 000 in cash.
On August 19, Chaganda was arrested leading to the recovery of US$6 000, two Mercedes Benz cars bought for a total of $58 000 and a Jeep Cherokee worth $18 000.
In addition to the cars, police also recovered US$39 750 and $520 bond notes from a security company where Chaganda had left the money for safekeeping. He allegedly intended to buy a flat using the money.
The stolen gold valued at US$647 266,40 and cash amounting to US$129 000 and $1 090 in bond notes was recovered.
One of the key State witnesses, Mr Mehluli Dube, who is the head of gold operations at Fidelity Printers and Refineries in Harare, told the court that Rubaya contacted him four months ago saying Qalo Mining Syndicate would deliver about 15kg of gold on August 10.
Mr Christopher Ndlovu of Gonese and Ndlovu Legal Practitioners is representing Ncube, Makuvadze, Ruvando and Vhiyano while Advocate Thabani Mpofu with the assistance of Mr Oliver Marwa and Tymon Thabane from Rubaya and Chatambudza Legal Practitioners are Rubaya’s lawyers.
Chaganda is being represented by Adv Sylvester Hashiti while Mr Tanaka Muganyi of Tanaka Law Chambers is appearing for Tambooneyi and Tinacho.
Mr Prince Butshe-Dube of Mathonsi Ncube Law Chambers is Chinyanganya’s lawyer with Makunde being represented by Mr Brighton Mufadza of Mufadza and Associates.
One of the expected 11 witnesses Mr Bruce Munyengeri testified in court yesterday and prosecutors say the trial will go on until tomorrow.
The trial continues today. The Chronicle.