Senior Court Reporter
GOKWE-Nembudziya legislator Justice Mayor Wadyajena and three Cotton Company of Zimbabwe bosses charged with fraud and money laundering involving more than US$5 million, were yesterday granted $200 000 bail each by a Harare magistrate and ordered to surrender the title deeds to their properties as surety.
Wadyajena, suspended Cottco Chief Executive Officer Pious Manamike, suspended Cottco marketing manager Maxmore Njanji and Fortunate Molai also of Cottco, are jointly charged with Pierpont Moncroix Zimbabwe (Pvt) Limited and Mayor Logistics (Pvt) Limited.
The four were also ordered to surrender their passports and report once every Friday to the police as part of their bail conditions. If they breach their bail conditions or do not turn up in court when called, they will lose their bail money and their properties will be seized, so the financial implications of the bail are among the heaviest ever set.
Wadyajena and the Cottco bosses are alleged to have converted money which was meant for the importation of bale ties and bought 25 trucks through Mayor Logistics, where Wadyajena is believed to be a director, and allegedly diverted a second order for ties to energy companies.
In his ruling, regional magistrate Mr Stanford Mambanje said the State, through a Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission investigating officer Arthur Murambiza, failed to place before the court a compelling reason that warrants continued detention of Wadyajena and the Cottco bosses.
Mr Mambanje ruled that the investigating officer failed to outline how the Cottco bosses and Wadyajena attempted to interfere with investigations and potential State witnesses.
“The investigating officer failed to give evidence that they were likely to commit other offences as alleged. It would appear that the reason for opposing bail on fears that they will commit other offences was later abandoned after cross-examination by the defence.
“The court noted that they have no previous convictions save for accused 1 and 2 (Manamike and Njanji) who have pending cases,” he said.
In granting them bail, the court also noted that they have strong ties within the country which range from assets and their families.
“The 4th accused (Wadyajena) is a Member of Parliament who takes pride in his constituents so he would not abandon them,” said Mr Mambanje.
He also ruled that the State failed to give well-founded grounds to prove that they will interfere with witnesses.
“The risk of interference must be well founded and not based on assumptions. There is a serious allegation made by witness (Mr Murambiza) that they held secret meetings. He left room for speculation and did not specify where and when the meetings were held. We were not told about what was discussed in those meetings,” Mr Mambanje said.
He also ruled that there was no evidence placed before the court to prove that the four were inclined to abscond trial once granted bail.
Mr Mambanje said Wadyajena was called while chairing a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee meeting and later surrendered himself to ZACC offices after Parliament business. His conduct was not consistent with a person who is a flight risk.
The magistrate also noted that the ZACC officer gave a “fatal blow” to the State’s opposition to the granting of bail when he conceded that he had not investigated the directorships of Mayor Logistics and Pierpont Moncroix and failed to substantiate that Wadyajena and the Cottco bosses have links in Mauritius and United States of America, as he claimed in opposing bail.
He said the State’s fears that they might find refuge in other countries would be cured by ordering them to surrender their travel documents.
Wadyajena and the Cottco bosses are expected back in court on September 8.