Woman, son cleared of $380k fraud

fraudDaniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
A Harare woman and her son, who were accused of fraudulently selling her deceased husband’s estate for $380 000 without first registering it with the Master of High Court, were last Friday found not guilty and acquitted. Ms Nighert Parweem Savania (62), a widow of Mr Mahendra Savania, sold her late husband’s property without first registering the estate with the assistance of her son Mr Deen Mahendra Sivania (33).

They sold shares in a company called Norwich Trading (Pvt) Ltd to Mr Nathan Mnaba, a development that was wrongly perceived as fraud by the State. Mr Mnaba had paid $250 000 for the shares, leaving a balance of $130 000 when the matter was criminalised.

Last week, Harare magistrate Ms Tendai Rusinahama cleared the two of fraud charges at the end of the prosecution’s case. Ms Rusinahama granted the pair’s application for discharge after convincing arguments by defence lawyer Mr Musindo Hungwe that there was nothing criminal in the conduct of the two who were the legitimate beneficiaries to the estate in question.

In the application for discharge mounted at the close of the State’s case, Mr Hungwe argued that there was no misrepresentation on the agreement of sale signed by Ms Savania and Mr Mnaba.

The lawyers argued that the agreement was clear that Ms Savania was a beneficial owner of the shares and that selling any property belonging to a deceased’s estate for the subsistence of the family was permissible.

“It is critical to note that there is no law which outlaws the sale of any assets belonging to a deceased estate for purposes of subsistence of the family. “The first accused (Ms Savania) is the executor dative of the Estate in question and also the surviving spouse while the second accused person (Mr Savania) is the son of the deceased.

“The Master of High Court, Mr Madi was very clear that there were no official objections to the registration of the estate. “Since there were no creditors or any outstanding estate debts accrued after the death of the deceased, the Master of High Court simply stated that there was no prejudice at all,” argued the lawyers.

It was also submitted in court that Mr Mnaba’s case was simply an abuse of the criminal court since he was in control of the purchased shares and had not be defrauded in any way.

“It is therefore submitted with respect that the complainant is seeking to abuse the criminal justice system in a bid to settle a civil matter through a criminal court in the hope that the accused persons would duck consequences in fear of a criminal sanction.

“It is clear that the complainant is crying prejudice for something already in his pocket. These allegations were unwarranted and uncalled for because he is in control of all the shares that he bought in line with the agreement of sale in question,” argued the lawyers.

The complainant Nathan Mnaba told the court he bought Norwich Trading for $250 000 which was owned by the deceased. Mnaba further told the court that after he paid the money, he then injected more than $210 000 before discovering that the company was registered under a deceased estate.

Allegations are that after the death of Mahendra Savania on March 9, 2010, Ms Savania took charge of Norwich Trading’s day-to-day operations. Sometime in 2011, Ms Savania and her son offered to sell Norwich Trading to Mr Mnaba. The State alleged that the two misrepresented to Mr Mnaba that Ms Savania owned 100 percent shares in Norwich Trading and that she was the sole beneficiary.

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