Nokutenda Chiyangwa Herald Reporter
A Harare lawyer, Fred Machokoto of Machokoto and Partners Legal Practitioners, was yesterday jailed 60 months for embezzling $57 000 in trust funds.
Machokoto was jointly charged with another lawyer, Mr Pardon Nhokwara who was also a signatory to the trust fund and his firm Machokoto and Partners was cited as the first accused.
However, Nhokwara and the firm were both acquitted of all charges after their evidence proved that they were not working in cahoots with Machokoto.
Machoko will however, serve 24 months after Harare magistrate Ms Victoria Mashamba suspended 12 months on condition of good behaviour and another 24 months if he repays the $57 000 on or before March 30, 2019.
The two had been out on $200 bail.
Prosecuting, Mrs Idah Mateke-Maromo told the court that in 2013 four farmers, Patience Tsvakwi, Killiot Mukanya, Robert Makwanya, Tawanda Mungwari and Simbarashe Murerwa got offer letters from the Ministry of Lands for various pieces of land on Lot 3A Triangle Ranch in Chiredzi, which was formerly owned by Triangle Limited.
The farmers, who are the complainants, planted and harvested their sugar cane and delivered it to Triangle Limited for sale. Triangle Limited refused to give them their money and they approached the High Court for recourse through their lawyers Machokoto and Partners.
In their application, they sought the eviction of Triangle Limited from the plots. They also wanted the court to intervene so that they could get their payments for the sugar cane they had delivered.
The farmers won their case but before they could execute the court order, Triangle agreed to pay them a total of $57 000, the court heard.
The company then transferred the money through their lawyers Scanlen and Holderness into Machokoto and Partners trust account.
Despite the money having been transferred, Machokoto and Partners went on to instruct the Sherriff to attach property belonging to Triangle Limited on the basis that the funds had not reflected in their account.
On April 5 last year, Machokoto went to Triangle Limited in the company of the Sheriff where he demanded payment of $68 098-89.
To avoid having their property attached, Triangle Limited, transferred the $68 098,89 into Machokoto and Partners trust account.
Since Triangle had made another payment, Machokoto was supposed to refund the $57 000 to Scanlen and Holderness.
Instead, Machokoto, who was a signatory to the trust account, converted the money to his personal use.
This prompted Scanlen and Holderness to sue the farmers in a bid to recover their money and a default judgment was granted in favour of the law firm.
A report was then made to the police, leading to Machokoto’s arrest.