By Leonard Ncube
A High Court judge has ordered the magistrates’ court in Hwange to temporarily stop prosecution of seven Chinese nationals who are being charged with possessing ivory and money laundering pending a review of their application for discharge.
Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Martin Makonese granted interim relief to the accused through a provisional order over the weekend.
“Interim relief is granted on the provisional order that proceedings be and are hereby stayed pending the return date of this provisional order,” said Justice Makonese.
The regional magistrate presiding over the trial court in Hwange Mr Collet Ncube and the State are cited as 1st and 2nd respondents.
The judge said the respondents can file notice of opposition with opposing affidavits within 10 days before the review hearing can be set down.
The order halts the trial of Zeng Dengui (35), Peicon Jang (35), Liu Cheng (23), Yu Xian (25), Yong Zhu (25), Chen Zhiangfu (30) and Qui Jinchang (29) pending determination of their application for review of an earlier application for discharge which was dismissed by the magistrate.
Their lawyers, Mr Martin Chakasara instructed by Mr Givemore Mvhiringi of Mvhiringi and Associates applied for review of dismissal of the earlier application and also for stay of prosecution last week pending determination of the application.
The defence argued that the State led by Mrs Marth Cheda and Ms Memory Munsaka failed to bring compelling evidence incriminating the accused at the close of the State’s case.
The seven Chinese nationals were supposed to be put on their defence last week.
The court deferred the matter to today following the two applications.
Defence team is expected to serve the provisional order to the trial court with no further prosecution pending determination on the review process.
Prosecutors allege that the accused were found in possession of several pieces of rhino horns weighing 20,98kg and valued at $938 700 at house number 858 Aerodrome suburb in Victoria Falls where they were renting.
Dengui, Jang, Cheng, Xian, Zhu, Zhiangfu and Jinchang have been in custody since their arrest on December 23 and have pleaded not guilty to money laundering and possession of ivory.
Police allegedly received a tip-off and raided the house after obtaining a search warrant from court. They recovered several pieces of rhino horns weighing 20,98kg in a bedroom used by one of the accused.
A digital scale was also recovered. The house belongs to a taxidermist who operates a wildlife trophy shop. The Chronicle