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$1 million gold theft suspect jailed for witness tampering

By Mashudu Netsianda

One of the suspects linked to the theft of part of the nearly $1 million worth of gold kept as an exhibit at Plumtree Police Station was yesterday sentenced to four years in jail for interfering with State witnesses.

Jefat Chaganda (51) of Matendele suburb in Plumtree, was on $300 bail when he interfered with State witnesses in violation of his bail conditions.

He is part of the nine suspects allegedly involved in the theft of 28kg of gold worth $970 000 stolen from the armoury through an act of unlawful entry.

Chaganda was yesterday convicted of obstructing the course of justice by Bulawayo magistrate Mr Tinashe Tashaya.

He will serve an effective three years in jail after one year was suspended for three years on condition that he does not within that period commit a similar offence.

Chaganda, together with Plumtree regional magistrate, Timeon Tavengwa Makunde, Stanley Chinyanganya, who is Plumtree area public prosecutor, prominent Harare lawyer Admire Rubaya, Detective Assistant Inspector Ladislous Tinacho who is in charge of the ZRP Minerals and Border Control Unit in Plumtree, Tyson Ruvando, Ladislous Tambooneyi who are both police officers and Godfrey Makuvadze, have pending charges of theft and obstructing the course of justice at the Bulawayo High Court before Justice Thompson Mabhikwa.

Prosecuting, Mr Khumbulani Ndlovu said sometime between June and July last year, Chaganda arrived at Mr Sambo Magutswa and Ms Simangaliso Mpala’s shop in Bulawayo and requested them to duplicate a key. Mr Magutswa is a locksmith.

The court heard that on August 18 last year, Chaganda was arrested for a case of unlawful entry and theft which occurred at Plumtree Police Station.

The charges arose from the facts that Chaganda duplicated an armoury key, which he used to unlock the armoury and stole 14,7kg of gold. He was taken to court and released on bail.

Following other leads, police commenced investigations into the unlawful entry and theft of 28,5 kg of gold which was being kept at Plumtree Police Station as an exhibit.

Chaganda got wind of the investigations.

“On January 21 this year, while police investigations were going on, Chaganda visited Magutswa’s shop at Tshaka Centre in Bulawayo and informed him that he should close his shop, throw away his old cellphone simcard and relocate so that police struggle to locate him together with Ms Mpala,” said Mr Ndlovu.

Chaganda offered to pay Mr Magutswa and Ms Mpala an undisclosed amount to facilitate the plan.

Mr Magutswa reported the matter to the police leading to Chaganda’s arrest. Mr Magutswa is a key State witness in the case before the High Court. The Chronicle