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Mbada workers in $3m diamond scandal

By Abel Zhakata

Six employees with Mbada Diamonds at Chiadzwa are at the centre of a $3 million diamonds case for allegedly supplying several carats of the precious stones they stole from their employer to an Indian businessman in Mutare in a well-calculated scandal that saw them being paid with vehicles. 

Prominent Mutare lawyer Chris Ndlovu and businessman Mudassar Khan being escorted to court by CID details on Wednesday
Prominent Mutare lawyer Chris Ndlovu and businessman Mudassar Khan being escorted to court by CID details on Wednesday

This was revealed on Wednesday at the Mutare Magistrates’ Court where Mudassar Khan appeared before Mutare senior magistrate Mrs Sekesayi Chiundura facing 12 counts of illegally dealing in or possessing precious stones and theft charges.

The six — Simbarashe Gondo (sorter), Hardlife Kuudzehwe (dozer operator), Temba Mvalo (dozer operator), Talkmore Chigeza (sorter), Innocent Tsindi (power screen operator) and Alexander Daru (sorter) — have since confirmed their involvement in the scandal.

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They allegedly received several vehicles from Khan as tokens of appreciation or payment for supplying the gems. The cars have since been recovered and impounded by the police.

Khan is the director of Akin Investments which is into diamond cutting and polishing. He is also a co-director at Kassim Wholesalers in Mutare.

Public prosecutor Mr Malvin Musarurwa told the court that the police got to know of the scandal following a tip-off.

“On March 18, a tip-off was received to the effect that the accused was illegally dealing in diamonds with Mbada Diamonds employees. The information further indicated that the accused was using his company licence as cover-up. As a result, between March 19 and 23, investigations were carried out into the matter and it was established that the accused was involved in the illegal dealings.

“The accused bought the diamonds from the employees who smuggled them out of the mining fields at Chiadzwa. The investigation further established that the accused recruited three agents, Charles Chave, Albie Marima and Charles Gonzo, as his runners. Their duties were mainly to transport the employees from Chiadzwa to Mutare and back to deliver the diamonds at his offices.”

After supplying the diamonds, the Mbada employees were allegedly given cars that range from $5 500 to $30 000.

Gonzo was allegedly given a Toyota Hilux (ABH 0248), Kuudzehwe allegedly received a Honda FIT (ADE 2003), Mvalo allegedly got a Mercedes-Benz (ACJ 8851), Chigeza was allegedly given two vehicles; a Honda FIT (ACV 2829) and a Mercedes-Benz sprinter. Tsindi and Daru allegedly got a Nissan March and Toyota Hiace minibus respectively.

The court also heard that the accused recruited Tapfumaneyi Karingamupembe to become his buyer of diamonds at Chiadzwa. The accused later claimed that Karingamupembe had caused a loss of $3 000 in one of their transactions.

As a result, the accused confiscated the buyer’s Toyata Chaser held under his custody and disposed it.

Mr Musarurwa opposed the granting of bail, saying the accused would interfere with State witnesses and that he had a propensity to keep on illegally dealing in the diamonds if he is left to go home.

The State called on the investigation officer, Chief Superintendent Alison Nyamupaguma, to tell the court why the accused should be denied bail.

He said Khan had earlier interfered with witnesses during investigations by telling them to lie that they did not receive the vehicles from them and that they must hide some of the exhibits.

“As we approached some of the witnesses, we discovered that the accused had influenced them, telling them not to tell the truth once approached by the investigating team. The accused phoned four of the Mbada Diamonds employees and influenced them not to disclose the nature of their transactions and also deny that he gave them the motor vehicles in question. Some of the vehicles had been removed from Mutare to Rusape. Certain exhibits are still out there and we need about three weeks because some of the people key to this case are in Gweru and Harare,” he said.

Chief Supt Nyamupaguma said if granted bail Khan would continue with the illegal trade.

“The accused’s licence expired on January 13, 2014. He will not stop dealing in diamonds because that is how he survives. Even when his licence expired, he kept on dealing in diamonds.”

Defence lawyer Mr Tafadzwa Charles Hungwe of Venturas and Samukange Legal Practitioners said his client was a good candidate for bail and was not a flight risk.

He said the Mbada employees were the chief culprits to this case and they must be in the dock together with Khan.

“These employees are alleged to have been transported by certain individuals to the accused. But where are these people? They are the suspects together with the employees. The accused person is not in any way involved.”

Mrs Chiundura granted Khan $3 000 bail with stringent reporting conditions.

She said arguments raised by the State that they needed time to finish investigations and thus the accused must be remanded in custody do not hold water because the police must investigate first before making arrests. She said since Khan handed himself over to the police in Harare after he heard of the investigations was sufficient enough to show that he would not abscond court.

He will be back in court on April 10. Manica Post