The Sunday News
POLICE in Bulawayo have arrested Jefat Chaganda, the chief suspect in the 14 kilogramme gold case that happened in Plumtree in 2018.
The case also resulted in the arrest of nine other suspects that included a magistrate, prosecutor, lawyer, police officers and Johane Masowe congregants. Chaganda (54), skipped bail last year and his lawyers, Nyikadzino, Simango and Associates, told Bulawayo High Court judge, Justice Thompson Mabhikwa, in court, that he was dead although they could not produce a death certificate.
A warrant of arrest was immediately issued and more than a year later, Chaganda was arrested last Wednesday in Emakhandeni after he allegedly sneaked into the country from his hideout in South Africa.
He appeared before Bulawayo High Court judge, Justice Evangilista Kabasa on Thursday and was immediately commuted to prison pending finalisation of the gold case.
It has also emerged that Chaganda had other warrant of arrests after two pending cases, one of which he was convicted by a Bulawayo magistrate and sentenced to four years in prison but he appealed to the High Court and was granted bail. While on bail, he also defaulted on his bail conditions.
In one of the cases that exposed how gold is being smuggled out of the country and how senior officials are allegedly also involved in the rackets, Chaganda was arrested on 7 July 2018 in possession of 14kgs of the yellow metal in a Botswana bound train.
According to State papers, Chiganda was in the company of Sidingumuzi Ncube, a police officer at Plumtree who, however, ran away from the train after discovering that they had been cornered by Zimbabwe Revenue (Zimra) officials.
However, what later followed after the arrest of Chiganda was a shocker as he allegedly working with a lawyer, a magistrate, a prosecutor, police officers, and business people to release the gold which they later sold to Fidelity Refiners and Printers for nearly US$400 000.
Investigations led to the arrest of nine more people, and evidence gathered by the State showed that some had already splashed the money on luxury cars, household property and even on girlfriends. Those who were arrested regarding the same case were Plumtree regional magistrate Timeon Tavengwa Makunde, area public prosecutor Stanley Chinyanganya, prominent Harare lawyer Admire Rubaya, three police officers based at Plumtree-Ncube, Tyson Ruvando and Ginger Vhiyano.
Two other police officers from the Minerals and Border Control, Ladislous Tamboonei and Ladislous Tinacho were also arrested together with Chaganda and Godfrey Makuvedze who are members of the Johane Masowe eChishanu sect.
State papers indicate that the 10 suspects hatched a plan or played a part to steal the gold that had been lawfully possessed by Zimra and in a safe custody of the police. The State alleges that when Chaganda was arrested with the 14kgs of gold, he later hatched a plan where he secured services of a Bulawayo miner Lovemore Sibanda whose documents were used in court to falsely claim the ownership of the seized gold.
Tinacho, a police officer then contacted lawyer Rubaya to represent Chaganda. Another police officer Tambone allegedly gave false evidence in court under cross-examination by Chiganda and the prosecutor Chinyanganya and the magistrate Makunde allegedly adopted an armchair approach to the proceedings.
The State seeks to prove that the prosecutor deliberately concealed existence of the notice of seizure issued by Zimra while the magistrate, without any evidence to support ownership of gold, processed an order to release the gold to Sibanda.
When the gold was released, the State has a paper trail and evidence from witnesses that showed how Chaganda then took the gold and sold it to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe using Sibanda’s papers before those who played a part in the criminal act got a cut from the loot.
For example according to the State, during investigations police managed to recover from Chaganda, a white Mercedes Benz E320 bought for US$10 000, a black Mercedes Benz E250 bought for US$33 000, a silver Mercedes Benz bought for US$25 000 and a silver Jeep Cherokee bought for US$18 000. Police also recovered US$39 750 and $520 bond notes that were kept at a security company and meant to purchase a flat.
The papers also showed the prosecutor allegedly pocked US$40 000 while the magistrate got US$60 000.
Police officers also got varying amounts of money in both US dollars and Zim dollars. The nine are out on bail after the Supreme Court lifted a High Court ruling which had revoked bail for them when Chaganda failed to appear in court and his lawyer claimed that he had died.