Mashudu Netsianda Bulawayo Bureau
THE trial of 10 suspects allegedly involved in the theft of nearly $1 million worth of gold which was being kept as an exhibit at Plumtree Police Station has been set for tomorrow at the Bulawayo High Court.
At least 31 witnesses, among them the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) regional manager in charge of Plumtree Border Post, are expected to give their testimonies. The accused persons, among them Plumtree regional magistrate Timeon Tavengwa Makunde; Stanley Chinyanganya, who was the area public prosecutor; prominent lawyer Admire Rubaya; and the Officer-in-Charge of Plumtree Police Station, Inspector Ginger Vhiyano; and six of his subordinates, were on Thursday indicted to the High Court for trial on charges of theft and obstructing the course of justice.
Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Thompson Mabhikwa will preside over the matter.
According to court papers, on July 7 this year at Plumtree Police Station, gold weighing 28kg and worth $970 000 was stolen from the armoury through unlawful entry. The offence came to light on July 15 when Chief Inspector Mangena, who was reporting for duty, noticed that two FN rifles which were booked in the charge office were missing from the armoury.
The gold was later intercepted by police at One-Stop Shop leading to the arrest of Jefat Chaganda. He was found in unlawful possession of part of the stolen gold weighing 14kg which he intended to smuggle to Botswana. Chaganda was arrested on a Botswana-bound train while his accomplice, Sidingumuzi Ncube, who was in his company, managed to flee.
The recovered gold was seized by Zimra and handed over to the police in Plumtree.
It was stated that the 10 accused persons hatched a plan to steal the impounded gold and they allegedly played various roles in the scheme.
When Chaganda appeared in court charged with unlawful possession and smuggling of gold, Ncube allegedly sought the services of one Vusumuzi Sayi, who in turn contacted his friend, Kailos Moyo, to secure the services of Lovemore Sibanda, a registered miner.
Sibanda’s documents for his Qalo Syndicate were fraudulently used in court to claim ownership of the seized gold.
Detective Assistant Inspector Ladislous Tinacho (50), who is in charge of the ZRP Minerals and Border Control Unit in Plumtree, contacted Rubaya to represent Chaganda. Rubaya roped in Makunde and Chinyanganya to further their plan of stealing the gold.
Ladislous Tambooneyi, a police officer, gave false evidence in court under cross examination by Rubaya while Makunde and Chinyanganya, who were aware of the scam, adopted an armchair approach during the court proceedings.
Chinyanganya allegedly deliberately concealed the existence of a notice of seizure issued by Zimra while Makunde, without any evidence to support ownership of the gold, proceeded to order the release of the precious mineral to Sibanda, the purported owner.
According to court papers, Insp Vhiyano and two of his subordinates were constantly communicating with other accused persons who went to Bulawayo where the gold was sold and they allegedly received their share of the loot.
One of the accused persons, Godfrey Makuvadze, was arrested on August 17 leading to the recovery of US$37 900 cash, $527 bond notes and an unregistered Toyota Quantum worth US$10 000 allegedly bought from the proceeds of the sale of the stolen gold.
He implicated his accomplices leading to their arrest. Police also recovered a Toyota Wish, which Ncube allegedly bought for US$5 300 from one Blessing Matyukira and US$5 500 cash. A consignment of household property which included television sets, a refrigerator, tyres, solar chargers and panel were also recovered from the accused persons including US$20 000 in cash.
On August 19, Chaganda was arrested leading to the recovery of US$6 000, two Mercedes Benz cars bought for a total of $58 000 and a Jeep Cherokee worth $18 000. In addition to the cars, police also recovered US$39 750 and $520 bond notes from a security company where Chaganda had allegedly left the money for safekeeping. He allegedly intended to buy a flat using the money.
Stolen gold valued at US$647 266,40, US$129 000 and $1 090 in bond notes was recovered.