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US$1 million gold theft: Judge revokes bail

By Mashudu Netsianda

High Court judge Justice Thompson Mabhikwa has revoked bail for eight suspects allegedly involved in the theft of nearly US$1 million worth of gold at Plumtree Police Station after being infuriated by their co-accused who faked death to abscond trial.

$1 million gold theft suspects (front row) being led to a prison truck by guards after they were remanded in custody in Bulawayo yesterday
$1 million gold theft suspects (front row) being led to a prison truck by guards after they were remanded in custody in Bulawayo yesterday

Jefat Chaganda’s lawyers, Nyikadzino, Simango and Associates informed the court that he had died but failed to produce a death certificate resulting in a warrant of arrest being issued against their client.

There are fears that Chaganda could have skipped the border. Police have since launched a manhunt for him.

Chaganda and eight others, Plumtree regional magistrate Timeon Tavengwa Makunde, Stanley Chinyanganya, who is the area public prosecutor, prominent Harare lawyer Admire Rubaya as well as Dingumuzi Ncube, Tyson Ruvando, Godfrey Makuvadze, Ladislous Tamboonei and Detective Assistant Inspector Ladislous Tinacho, who is in charge of the ZRP Minerals and Border Control, are facing theft charges or alternatively obstructing the course of justice.

They allegedly connived to steal the gold which was kept as an exhibit at Plumtree Police Station.

The accused persons had each been out of custody on $300 bail pending trial, but after Chaganda failed to appear in court, justice Mabhikwa revoked bail for the other eight accused persons and they were locked up.

Before claims that he had died, Chaganda had been arrested in a Botswana-bound train while his accomplice Ncube, who was in his company, managed to flee. The suspect took advantage of his temporary freedom to run away again.

Yesterday, Justice Mabhikwa ordered that the other eight suspects be kept in custody pending trial on September 8 following Chaganda’s failure to appear in court.

The judge said there was a likelihood that they would also abscond trial.

The accused persons’ trial has on a number of occasions failed to kick off due to several applications filed by the accused persons at both Supreme and High Courts, including an application for discharge at the close of the State case, which was dismissed.

Justice Mabhikwa said the accused persons were abusing court processes and their liberty as a delaying tactic.

According to court papers, it is alleged that the accused persons are behind the theft of gold weighing 28kg valued at US$970 000, which was stolen from the Plumtree Police Station armoury through unlawful entry on July 7, 2018.

The offence came to light a week later 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 leading to the arrest of Chaganda. He was found in unlawful possession of part of the stolen gold weighing 14 kg which he intended to smuggle to Botswana.

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

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

Tinacho contacted Rubaya to represent Chaganda. Rubaya allegedly roped in Makunde and Chinyanganya to further their plan of stealing the gold.

Tamboonei, a police officer, gave false evidence in court under cross examination by Rubaya while Makunde and Chinyanganya, who were aware of the scam, allegedly adopted an armchair approach during the court proceedings. The Chronicle