Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Bulawayo 24 journalist arrested over extortion involving US$400

Bulawayo 24 journalist Simbarashe Sithole has been arrested for allegedly extorting WestProp Holdings (Pvt) Ltd out of US$400.

According to the charge sheet, the complainant is WestProp Holdings (Pvt) Ltd, a company in the business of Properties and land development and is listed on the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange. It is represented by Michael Chideme, the company’s Public Relations manager.

“The accused is a freelance journalist who among other publications contributes to an online publication styled Bulawayo 24 News. He resides at house house number 251 Suwoguru township, Mvurwi,” read part of the charges.

“On the 3rd of April 2023, the accused authored and made to be published a news article on the Bulawayo 24 news website.

The article stated that the complainant was misleading investors in its bid to list on the stock exchange; a statement the complainant felt was malicious and untrue.

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“On the 6th of April 2023, Michael Chideme, the Public Relations manager of WestProp Holdings (Pvt) Ltd, was assigned by his company to look into the matter as the news was detrimental to its listing.

“Michael Chideme went on to meet the accused person at Pariah State bar along Second street extension to discuss the issue. The accused indicated that he was agreeable to have the offending article removed from the website but laid out some monetary conditions without specifying the amount.”

It is further alleged that on the same date, Chideme apprised his employers about the conditions he had been given for the article to be taken down. His employers advised him to further engage the accused to establish the actual figure that the accused was demanding.

On the 11th of April 2023 Chideme allegedly went and met the accused at Total Service Station opposite Harare Agricultural Show grounds, along Samora Machel Avenue.

The accused person reiterated his willingness to remove the article from the website, but this time he explicitly stated that he wanted USD 400-00.

“He further stated that he had another article which he was on the verge of posting for publication, but was amenable to abort on condition they pay another undisclosed figure.

“Michael Chideme updated his employers about the accused’s demands, who in turn resolved to report the matter to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.

“Consequently they mandated Michael Chideme to report the issue to the Commission and a report was made on the same date.

“On the 11th of March 2023, a trap was conducted, after the approval of the Trap Authority, using US$ 400-00 in US$ 100-00 denominations. This led to the arrest of the accused person after he had received the money.

“By doing so, the accused person acted unlawfully,” read the charge.

The matter is still before the courts.