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$1 million gold theft: Court dismisses suspects’ application

By Mashudu Netsianda

The High Court has dismissed an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court by nine suspects allegedly involved in the theft of nearly $1 million worth of gold which was being kept as an exhibit at Plumtree Police Station.

Senior Harare lawyer Admire Rubaya
Senior Harare lawyer Admire Rubaya

The accused persons; Plumtree regional magistrate Timeon Tavengwa Makunde, Stanley Chinyanganya, who is the area public prosecutor, prominent lawyer Admire Rubaya and six others, among them police officers, intended to appeal to the Supreme Court against the dismissal of their application for discharge at the close of the State case by Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Thompson Mabhikwa.

Justice Mabhikwa ruled that although there was no direct evidence linking some of the accused persons such as Makunde and Chinyanganya to the furtherance of the offence, there was a need to put them to their defences.

“It is the court’s finding that all the accused persons are placed in their defence. Accordingly, the application for discharge at the close of the State case is dismissed,” ruled the judge.

In dismissing their application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, Justice Mabhikwa said there was no legal basis for the accused persons to challenge his decision at the superior court. He postponed the matter to September 17 for continuation of trial.

Makunde, Chinyanganya, Rubaya, Sidingumuzi Ncube, Detective Assistant Inspector Ladislous Tinacho, who is in charge of the ZRP Minerals and Border Control, Tyson Ruvando, Ladislous Tambooneyi, who are all police officers, Jefat Chaganda and Godfrey Makuvadze are facing charges of theft and obstructing the course of justice.

Prosecuting, Chief Public Prosecutor Mrs Tariro Takuva said on July 7 last year at Plumtree Police Station, gold weighing 28kg and worth $970 000 was stolen from the armoury through unlawful entry.

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 Jefat Chaganda.

He was found in unlawful possession of part of the stolen gold weighing 14 kg which he intended to smuggle to Botswana.

Chaganda was arrested in a Botswana-bound train while his accomplice Sidingumuzi Ncube, who was in his company, managed to flee.

The recovered gold was seized by Zimra and handed over to the police in Plumtree.

“The nine accused persons hatched a plan to steal the impounded gold and allegedly played various roles in the scheme. When Chaganda appeared in court charged with unlawful possession and smuggling of gold, Ncube allegedly 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.

Sibanda’s documents for his Qalo Syndicate were fraudulently used in court to claim ownership of the seized gold.

Det Asst Insp Tinacho (50), who is in charge of the ZRP Minerals and Border Control Unit in Plumtree, contacted Rubaya to represent Chaganda. Rubaya roped in Makunde and Chinyanganya to further their plan of stealing the gold.

Ladislous Tambooneyi, a police officer, 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. The Chronicle