Zimbabwe: Diamonds Scam Accused Seek the Release of Vehicles

SIX Mbada Diamonds employees who were fingered in a US$3 million scam implicating Mutare diamond dealer Mudassar Khan, have filed a High Court application seeking the release of their vehicles which were confiscated upon their arrest.

Khan allegedly bought a range of vehicles -- including Mercedes Benz, Toyota Hilux, Nissan March, Honda Fit and a Toyota Hiace minibus for the six Mbada employees allegedly as a token of appreciation for facilitating illegal diamond sales.

But the six Tendai Gwazaza, Temba Mvalo, Hardlife Kuudzehwe, Simbarashe Gondo, Talkmore Chigeza and Innocent Tsindi last week applied to the High Court to force the police to release their vehicles.

Khan appeared before Mutare magistrate Sekai Chiundura last month facing 12 counts of unlawful dealing in or possession of precious stones prohibited as defined in Section 3(1)(a) of the Precious Stonesand Trade Act, Chapter 21.06.

He was granted US$3 000 bail.

The state is alleging that Khan connived with Mbada Diamonds employees to steal the diamonds and in turn Khan gave them vehicles.

On Friday, the six who are represented by Trust Maanda claimed they were heavily tortured by police and forced to make confessions implicating Khan.

In their High Court applications, an assistant commissioner Mvere is cited as the first respondent while Chief Superintendent Nyamupaguma, Detective Inspector Jachi, Detective Inspector Nyoni, Officer in Charge Mutare main Camp and Commissioner General of Police are the other respondents.

Maanda said yesterday that the six filed the application to have their cars back.

"They want their cars back because they were unlawfully taken from them. They were also made to confess through torture," the lawyer said.

In one of the affidavits filed at the High Court, Tendai Gwazaza, who is employed as a sorter supervisor by Mbada Diamonds, claimed to be earning US$2 200 and argued that owning a vehicle was achievable.

"They (police) boasted that they could kill me and nothing would happen to them by way of being arrested and tried. One of the respondents wielded a baton and told me to agree with what they were saying and admit the allegations," Gwazaza said in his affidavit.

"He hit me on my back about once or twice. I saw that I was in great danger and I had to accede and submit."

Simbarashe Gondo said he was assaulted while being handcuffed and had to admit to what police were demanding fearing for his life.

"First respondent then told his juniors that they were not assaulting me enough to secure a confession. He produced a pistol from a laptop bag and pointed it at me," reads the affidavit. "He asked me to say my last prayer loudly before he shot me dead. I was terrified. It would take a man of superhuman fortitude not to feel terrified under the circumstances. I believed that I was going to be shot dead in a few minutes."

All the six applicants said they earned enough to buy cars and denied being involved in the alleged diamond scandal. They also disputed stealing diamonds and selling them to Khan.

Khan used to have a diamond polishing licence which expired early this year. He holds an Indian passport and a Zimbabwean residence permit.

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