Senior Court Reporter
BUSINESS tycoon Ali Muhamad, who has been accused of being at the centre of Monday’s attempt to smuggle 6kg of gold by Zimbabwe Miners Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya, yesterday challenged his placement on remand saying he was a legitimate businessman who buys and exports gold from Fidelity Printers with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe paying him through off-shore accounts.
Ali told the court that he was a holder of a gold trading permit. The 52-year-old businessman told the court that he was never at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport when Rushwaya was arrested and was home playing with his children. Through his lawyer Tinashe Robin Tanyanyiwa (Snr), Ali said he was only implicated in the smuggling syndicate because he is simply a director in Ali Japan, with business interests in Tokyo, Geneva and Zimbabwe.
The State counter argued that none of the correct procedures for exporting gold were followed and that there is evidence of a commercial relationship between Rushwaya and Ali’s company and thus he should be placed on remand for smuggling charges.
Ali is jointly appearing with Rushwaya, security agents Stephen Chenjerai Tserai and Raphios Mufandauya and Gift Karanda on charges of smuggling and illegal possession of gold. He is also separately appearing with Rushwaya on smuggling charges.
Tserai, who is being represented by lawyers Mr Admire Rubaya and Mr Oliver Marwa and Mufandauya, who is being represented by lawyer Mr Joshua Chirambwi, are being separately charged in addition of criminal abuse of office for allegedly escorting Rushwaya and giving her VIP access at the airport.
Rushwaya, who is being represented by lawyer Mr Tapson Dzvetero, is appearing on her own on bribery charges, being accused of trying to bribe airport staff who found the gold. Karanda, who is being represented by lawyer Mr Dumisani Mtombeni, is appearing on his own on obstructing the course of justice being accused of intervening after the arrest and claiming to be a CIO officer.
The five were all remanded in custody to Monday for a ruling on their applications for bail, while the ruling for Ali’s additional application challenging his placement on remand will be heard at the same date. Prosecution led by Mr Garudzo Ziyaduma and Mr Charles Muchemwa, argued that although Ali is a holder of the gold trading permit, he was the mastermind to smuggle the gold outside the country.
“He is a holder of a gold buying permit but he hatched a plan with Rushwaya to smuggle the gold to Dubai without acquiring a licence to do so, and that Rushwaya would go with the gold first. There are commercial invoices that show the directorship of the company from which the gold had originated. This comes out from that gold buying permit and where Ali is the holder of that permit.
“We also make the averment that Ali originated the commercial invoice purporting that Rushwaya had entered into an agreement with his firm in Dubai and it (the company in Dubai) involves itself in trading of gold.”
“The commercial invoice clearly gives the impression that Rushwaya had been dispatched from Zimbabwe to Dubai to deliver the gold,” said Mr Ziyaduma.
Mr Ziyaduma told the court that the commercial invoices that he said were produced by Rushwaya at the airport proved that there was a contract between Rushwaya and Ali’s company. He alleged that Rushwaya and Ali failed to follow processes required when exporting gold.
“Among the requirements where one intends to export gold, the police and Support Unit section were supposed to be called to accompany whoever is exporting gold and it was not done.
“By giving Rushwaya the gold in question and assigning her to take it outside the country, that constitutes the offence of smuggling. The fact that the accused could not successfully export the same is cured in the definition of smuggling. The commercial invoice also had a list which was stamped using Ali’s company.
“These documents were produced at the point of exit and when a search was contacted in Ali offices, other documents were also recovered. A cellphone was recovered during the search and it also had information that implicated Ali,” he said.
Ali through Mr Tanyanyiwa denied the State’s claims saying he was a polished businessman and the stamps purported to have been stamped at his company could have been manufactured in Harare’s streets.
“It was falsehood that the documents were recovered from the office. He (Ali) buys gold from Fidelity Printers and exports through Fidelity with the RBZ paying the funds off-shore. He has a legitimate business,” said Mr Tanyanyiwa.
“He was not at the airport and was not found with gold or any gold despite being subjected to three searches by three different teams of police officers from two different departments of the CID in a space of four days.
“During the occurrence of these developments, he was at home playing with his children. If he was involved in smuggling, on the day in question when he was at home, what did he smuggle and where?” he said.
Mr Tanyanyiwa argued that Ali Japan was the holder of a permit which the State claims was personally owned by Ali. “The holder of the permit is a company which is a separate legal entity from Ali. Much was made by the appearance of Ali’s name on the State outline. The reason is because by operation of law, three individuals must be listed on the permit and Ali just appears to be one of them and being the director of the company.
“The company is based in Geneva and has offices in Tokyo and Zimbabwe. It spans three continents and one can imagine the number of people who work for it, even here in Zimbabwe. It is not enough to say, as a director he is the person who hatched a plan,” he said.
Harare magistrate Mr Ngoni Nduna remanded Rushwaya, Ali, Tserai, Mufandauya and Karanda in custody to Monday when he is expected to make a ruling on Ali’s application to be removed from remand and the five bail applications.
In another court, two police officers Douglas Shoko and Paul Chimungu, who are charged with criminal abuse of office stemming from the gold smuggling attempt, were also remanded in custody to Monday for bail application. They appeared before Deputy Chief Magistrate Mrs Bianca Makwande.
The arrest of the two officers brought the total number now in custody to seven.