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US$783k gold smuggling ensnares intelligence officer

By Nyore Madzianike

Central Intelligence Organisation officer Chamakandiona Nyahunda has been arrested on suspicion of carrying more than 13kg of gold in 23 pieces worth US$783 000 through Robert Mugabe International Airport terminal on a route that avoided all security checks, thus abusing his position, and then handing the gold in the final waiting area to the person taking it South Africa.

Immigration workers wear protective masks at a departure port at Robert Mugabe International airport in Harare, Zimbabwe, March 11, 2020. Picture taken March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
Immigration workers wear protective masks at a departure port at Robert Mugabe International airport in Harare, Zimbabwe, March 11, 2020. Picture taken March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

That Zimbabwean, Tashinga Nyasha Masinire (33), was arrested on arrival in South Africa, after being caught carrying the gold at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, and has already appeared in court in Gauteng and been remanded out of custody on R100 000 bail on charges of smuggling and possessing gold without a licence.

Following that arrest, and the realisation that there must have been a major breach of security at RGM International in Harare for someone to board a plane with more than 13kg of gold in their bag, a full investigation was launched. That resulted in Nyahunda’s arrest.

It is now alleged that Masinire walked through all required security checks at the RGM International without gold in his bags, and only loaded the gold in the smoking room in the final boarding area after meeting Nyahunda.

Nyahunda, also known as Vincent Moyo, appeared at the Harare Magistrates Court yesterday charged with smuggling and criminal abuse of office. He was not asked to plead to the charges when he appeared before Regional Magistrate Mr Stanford Mambanje.

The State led by Mrs Netsai Mushayabasa opposed bail at Nyahunda’s hearing saying the police were still to account for other members of the suspected syndicate, which was described as complex and sophisticated and running a major smuggling operation.

The police investigating officer (IO), Bruno Chiketo summoned to give evidence, testified against Nyahunda during his bail application and said releasing him would jeopardise their investigations.

“The investigations are still at infancy and we are yet to visit several places and people. If granted bail he may interfere with the process.

We still want to establish the source of the gold and visit South Africa where an accomplice of the accused (Nyahunda) was arrested.

“We have a CCTV (closed circuit television) recording showing how accused (Nyahunda) aided his accomplices by circumventing security procedures at his workplace.

“Besides the recording, police have taken oral evidence from people who allegedly witnessed Nyahunda by-passing the security points.”

Added IO Chiketo: “We are dealing with a complicated syndicate involving a huge amount of gold and given that we have not fully accounted for the members of the syndicate, the country will continue losing millions of dollars through smuggling.”

Nyahunda is expected back in court on Monday for continuation of his bail application.

It is the State’s case that on Saturday last week, Nyahunda, who is attached to Aviation Ground Services at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, was on duty and was expected to inspect and clear goods for export.

That day, at around 9.46am, Nyahunda was spotted entering the Departure Terminal wearing a jacket and a pair of trousers whose pockets were laden with heavy objects.

The allegations are that Nyahunda avoided the authorised entry route where there are scanners and metal detectors fixed at the strategic points and proceeded to the Arrivals Terminal.

The route he used is not allowed when getting into the terminal.

The court heard that on the same day just over an hour later at around 11am, Masinire arrived at the airport driving a Ford Ranger (AEK3911) vehicle. He got out and the car was driven off by someone else who remained in the car.

Masinire then went through the clearing procedures with a light bag and later went to the duty free shops waiting to board a South Africa bound flight which was due to depart at 1pm.

Masinire allegedly went to the smoking room at the waiting area holding a light bag where he was joined by Nyahunda, who was holding a black satchel which, according to the State, looked heavy on the CCTV footage.

After about two minutes, Nyahunda left the smoking room with his bag now looking lighter while Masinire’s appeared heavier. The Herald

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