Motors were yesterday acquitted in a case in which the magistrate described as “not easy to handle”.
Mr Mliswa (39) and Mr Mutasa (48) – who is son to Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Didymus Mutasa – who were being charged along with four others – Mr Alfred Mwatiwamba, Mr George Marere (36) and Mr
Hammarsskjold Banda and his wife Brendaly – had pleaded not guilty to fraud charges involving over US$1 million.
Regional magistrate Mr Never Katiyo presided over the case.
The six were cleared of the charges after their lawyer Mr Charles Chinyama applied for discharge at the close of the State case on the grounds that no prima-facie case had been proved against them.
In his ruling, Mr Katiyo said the case had not been easy to handle and it generated a lot of interest as exhibited by the media hype.
He pointed out that both the defence (Mr Chinyama) and State counsel (Mr Godwin Nyasha) were arrested and were now on remand on issues related to the case.
Mr Katiyo, however, said as a sworn in magistrate his duty was to treat every case as equal without any fear or favour.
In applications of this nature the court, Mr Katiyo said, did not look at the credibility of witnesses but whether the State managed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.
He added that even if the court was to accept that Mr Mliswa used the names of Minister (Saviour Kasukuwere) and his Excellency (President Mugabe) it was to instill fear in the complainant Mr Paul Westwood and not to misrepresent.
“Now if the complainant as put by this case felt threatened then I believe the charges laid against these accused are totally misplaced. This was a highly technical issue which needed thorough consideration before being brought to court,” he said.
He said even if the State was to call more witnesses the only relevant one was Mr Westwood as the case lingered on technical issues relating to Noshio Motors.
“In the final analysis it is this court’s view that the mere transfer of shares into a trust cannot constitute fraud as the person (Mr Banda) who did remained as the owner of these shares. To show that the State case has always been weak it attempted to call the previous defence counsel engaged by the accused before following up with a mocking application of re-opening its case before this ruling was given . . . ,” he said.
The magistrate said the company in question was run like a tuckshop, as it did not carry out any meetings. Mr Katiyo said no competent court could convict the six on such evidence hence they were entitled to a discharge at the close of the State. Mr Mliswa was alleged to have misrepresented to Mr Westwood that President Mugabe and Youth, Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere gave him permission to take over 50 percent of his company, Noshio Investments Limited. The company was valued at US$2,1 million while Mr Banda owned the other half.
The State alleged that in October 2009, Mr Westwood and Mr Banda had a dispute over alleged misappropriation of money by Mr Banda’s wife, Brendaly, who was the company’s finance and human resources manager and had withdrawn US$25 000 without Westwood’s knowledge.
The State alleged that in August 2009, Banda borrowed US$100 000 from Mr Mliswa at five- percent interest per month.
Mr Banda allegedly failed to repay the loan at the agreed rate and Mliswa is said to have demanded that he surrender his Noshio shares to him to offset the debt.
Meanwhile a State witness in the case in which Mliswa is accused of stealing irrigation equipment and a 60kVA generator from a Karoi farmer on Tuesday denied making a police report against him.
Mr John Coast said he was in good books with Mliswa. Mr Coast was testifying in the theft trial of Mliswa, which opened on Tuesday before another magistrate Mr Munamato Mutevedzi facing theft charges.
Under cross-examination by defence lawyer Mr Chinyama, Mr Coast said they were in ‘good books’ and did not report the matter to the police. Earlier in his testimony Mr Coast said he entered into an agreement in which he sold his farm equipment to Mliswa. Mr Chinyama questioned Mr Coast where the pressure could have come from.
Mr Coast said he did not remember visiting the police station in connection with the case. State Prosecutor Ms Rufaro Mhandu alleged that Mliswa stole irrigation equipment and two generators from Mr Coast of Hesketh and Westland farms.
It is alleged that he hired youths who besieged Hesketh and Westland farms following which he allegedly took control of the farms where he allegedly stole farming equipment all valued at over US$300 000.