Zimbabwe: Drama As PG Reverses Acquittal of Fraud Suspects

The High Court has reversed the acquittal of a local company, Christian Community Life Assurance and its directors, Washington Frera, Vincent Tom Baris and Norman Ngoshi, following a successful appeal by Prosecutor General Nelson Mutsonziwa.

Frera and his co-directors were being charged with fraud and forgery, but were acquitted by a Harare magistrate, Gloria Takundwa, despite glaring evidence linking them to the offence.

Judges of appeal, Justices Happias Zhou and Benjamin Chikowero, said the magistrate erred in acquitting the four.

They went on to convict the quartet on all counts.

"The verdict of not guilty and acquitted in all three counts and in respect of all the four respondents be and is set aside and substituted with guilty as charged.

"The matter be and is hereby remitted to the court a quo for mitigation, aggravation and sentencing," said the judges.

It was the state's case that between May 9 2017 and March 2018, the four, with intention to defraud one Yan Yu and the late Zhaosheng Wu, forged signatures on a bogus agreement of sale.

In terms of that bogus agreement, Frera had swapped a gold mining claim in Bindura with Yu and Wu's 100% shares in Shomet Industrial Holdings (Private) limited.

In the second count, the four, with intentions to deceive the Registrar of Companies, misrepresented that Yu and Wu had resigned as directors of Shomet when in fact the two had not.

They then appointed themselves as directors of Shomet.

This resulted in a prejudice of 25 1499 hectares of land in Waterfalls, Harare, valued at US$4, 2 million.

Prosecutors also alleged that in March 2018, the four misrepresented to Fortburry (Private) Limited's Cornilius Muzvongi that they were Shomet shareholders looking for a partner to develop the said land and expected the partner to pay them US$101 000.

Yu, Wu, and one Jethro Mazenge, Tarisai Hapanyengwi and Chipo Mupambiri were the directors of that land.

During the trial, it was proved that on November 2 2018, Frera, representing Shomet, applied for a certified copy of Deed of transfer registered under 621/2009.

It was established that in making the application, he lied to the Registrar of Deeds that the original Deed of Transfer was lost.

The successful application invalidated the original Deed of Transfer, which Yu, on behalf of Shomet, had placed in the custody of CABS Head Office.

However, the magistrate acquitted the four on grounds that Yu was not a credible witness.

The High Court ruled that a finding that Yu was not a credible witness defied logic or common sense.

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