Zimbabwe: Gold Smuggling Suspect Denied Bail

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A member of the security services suspected to have dodged security checks at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport while assisting in the smuggling of 13kg gold worth US$783 000 was yesterday denied bail by Harare magistrate Mr Stanford Mambanje.

Chamakandiona Nyahunda, who is charged with smuggling, was denied bail after Mr Mambanje noted that the State had a strong case against him arising from the fact that he was spotted on CCTV carrying a bag believed to have been containing the 23 pieces of gold in question.

Mr Mambanje said Nyahunda was also spotted avoiding security check points and ended up at the smoking room where he allegedly handed the bag to Tashinga Nyasha Masinire before he left for South Africa, where he was later arrested at OR Tambo International Airport.

"The accused is seen in the smoking room with a light weight bag suggesting that it (bag) had been emptied after meeting Nyasha. Nyasha Masinire travelled to OR Tambo International Airport where he was arrested. These circumstances lead to a smuggling job.

"The CCTV footage showed a well (planned) smuggling exercise and the accused would have given an innocent explanation to his movement and meeting Nyasha in the smoking room.

"The State case is strong and facts show that he participated in the smuggling process," he said.

Mr Mambanje said the strength of the State case might earn Nyahunda a lengthy custodial sentence, which may induce him to flee the court jurisdiction.

The court also noted that the arrest of Masinire in South Africa proved that the gold had a recipient outside the country and that the same recipient might be also linked to Nyahunda.

Mr Mambanje said the connection leaves room for Nyahunda to find a place to find refugee.

It is the State's case that on Saturday last week, Nyahunda, who is attached to Aviation Ground Services at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, was on duty and was expected to inspect and clear goods for export.

That day, at around 9.46am, Nyahunda was spotted entering the Departure Terminal wearing a jacket and a pair of trousers whose pockets were laden with heavy objects.

Allegations are that Nyahunda avoided the authorised entry route where there are scanners and metal detectors fixed at the strategic points and proceeded to the Arrivals Terminal.

The route he used is not allowed when getting into the terminal, according to the State.

The court heard that on the same day just over an hour later at around 11am, Masinire arrived at the airport driving a Ford Ranger (AEK3911) vehicle.

He got out and the car was driven off by someone else who remained in the car. Masinire then went through the clearing procedures with a light bag and later went to the duty-free shops waiting to board a South Africa bound flight which was due to depart at 1pm.

Masinire allegedly went to the smoking room at the waiting area holding a light bag where he was joined by Nyahunda, who was holding a black satchel which, according to the State, looked heavy on the CCTV footage.

After about two minutes, Nyahunda left the smoking room with his bag now looking lighter while Masinire's appeared heavier.

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