Henrietta Rushwaya and her alleged gold smuggling syndicate comprising of Pakistan business tycoon Ali Mohamed and two State security agents face a mandatory five-year jail term if convicted on smuggling, the State has said.
The State said provisions of the Gold Trade Act state that anyone convicted of smuggling faces a mandatory five-year jail term.
Rushwaya is jointly appearing at the Harare Magistrates Court along with Mohamed, Stephen Chenjerai Tserai, Raphios Mufandauya and Gift Karanda on smuggling, illegal possession of gold, criminal abuse of office and defeating the course of justice.
“The offence under Gold Trade Act has a minimum mandatory sentence of five years and it cannot be taken as short time in prison,” said prosecutor Mr Garudzo Ziyaduma, when opposing the five’s bail.
Mr Ziyaduma, who is appearing for the State along with Mr Charles Muchemwa, told the court that Rushwaya and her accomplices were likely to evade trial once granted bail.
He said there was overwhelming evidence against them, which may induce them not to stand trial.
“Rushwaya is facing three allegations of smuggling, bribery and possession of gold without a licence, while Ali is facing smuggling and possession of gold without licence charges,” said Mr Ziyaduma.
“Tserai and Chenjerai are facing smuggling and illegal possession of gold and criminal abuse of duty charges, while Karanda is facing charges of defeating the course of justice, (and) illegal possession of gold. The offences are of a serious nature and they are likely to interfere with witnesses and evidence.”
Tserai and Mufandauya are alleged to have failed to arrest Ali after they met him and simply recorded his statement and left him, when he was supposed to be arrested, a conduct seen as suspicious.
Karanda is facing allegations of attempting to defeat the course of justice by trying to reach out to the officers to leave Rushwaya.
Mr Ziyaduma said the accused were known to the witness and there was a likelihood they will interfere with investigations.
He told the court that there was CCTV footage showing the three passing through the VIP section, deliberately avoiding the public section to ensure the safe passage of the gold.
Mr Ziyaduma said Mohamed was a Pakistan national and was in Zimbabwe on a business trip.
His visa expired as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown and there were fears that he could use his contacts across the world to evade trial since he had the means to sustain himself outside Zimbabwe.
“This country has no extradition treaty with Pakistan,” said Mr Ziyaduma.
“In the event that he is convicted, he will face five years in prison. Ali is the one who facilitated the travel arrangements for Rushwaya. This demonstrates that he is a man of means.
“He works for a company in Dubai where the gold was to be handed by Rushwaya. Because of the means he possesses, it is easy for him to facilitate for his co-accused to flee. All the accused know that there is a possibility that upon conviction, they maybe sentenced to five years in prison and this knowledge may induce them to abscond.”
Mr Ziyaduma called the investigating officer handling the matter, Detective Chief Inspector Michael Chibaya to testify in opposition of granting bail to the five.
Det Chief Insp Chibaya told the court that Rushwaya was well connected, with some of her connections dating from the time she was the Zifa chief executive.
The matter continues today before magistrate Mr Ngoni Nduna.