21 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Cops Extort U.S.$20 000 From Israeli Man

TWO police officers stationed at Mabelreign Police Station in Harare have been charged for allegedly extorting US$20 000 from an Israeli national.

Sergeant Victor Makoni (30) and Constable Richard Majome (28) allegedly connived with a local businessman Edmore Zviitwa (41), owner of Kebbab and a member of the neighbourhood watch committee.

Zviitwa has since appeared in court facing the same charge and was remanded to January 28 on US$200 bail while the neighbourhood watch committee member is on the run.

During the commission of the offence, the neighbourhood watch committee member posed as a Zimra official and together with Makoni and Majome threatened to arrest Gilad Shabtai who has mining claims in the country.

They then demanded US$20 000 from him for his 'freedom'.

Makoni and Majome yesterday appeared before magistrate Mr Tendai Mahwe charged with extortion. They were remanded to February 1 on US$100 bail each.

As part of their bail conditions, they were ordered to report once a week at CID Serious Frauds, not to interfere with witnesses and to reside at their given addresses until the finalisation of the matter.

Prosecutor Miss Junior Mugebe alleges that on January 6, the quartet acting in connivance hatched a plan to extort money from Shabtai.

Zviitwa, who is a friend to Shabtai, directed his alleged accomplices to Meikles Hotel where Shabtai was booked and upon arrival they introduced themselves as police and Zimra officials.

According to the State, the trio allegedly told Shabtai that they had come to arrest him for shutting down his Chegutu gold mine without paying his workers contrary to Zimbabwean laws.

They allegedly took him to the hotel's lobby threatening him with detention and court appearances. It is alleged they demanded $20 000 bribe to facilitate his 'release'.

Shabtai, the court heard advised his friend, Jacob Shwarts who was booked in the same hotel to call Zviitwa to come and assist him.

Zviitwa arrived and was told by Shabtai what the trio was demanding. Zviitwa allegedly took his alleged accomplices aside purporting to negotiate and later told Shabtai that they had agreed to reduce the amount to US$12 000.

It is further alleged that Zviitwa offered to help and pay the money since Shabtai had no money with him.

The following day, Zviitwa allegedly lied to Shabtai that he had paid the money and wanted his refund. Shabtai gave him back his money and an extra US$1 000 as a token of appreciation, the court heard.

On January 8, Shabtai who felt the behaviour by the purported police officers and the Zimra officials was uncalled for, made a report to the police and investigations led to the arrest of the trio.

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