Gold heist: Ali Muhammad to spend weekend behind bars
One of Zimbabwe’s biggest gold buyers, Pakistani national Ali Muhammad, will spend the weekend behind bars after he was remanded in custody to Monday with five others.
Muhammad who has business interest spanning three continents is being accused of being the ring leader of an attempt to smuggle 6kgs of gold out of the country by Zimbabwe Miners Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya on Monday.
He denies the charges insisting he is a legitimate businessman who buys and exports gold from Fidelity Printers with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe paying him through off-shore accounts.
He was remanded in custody to Monday when Harare Magistrate Court is expected to make a ruling on his application challenging his placement on remand.
It is the State’s case that Muhammad “is a holder of a gold buying permit but he hatched a plan with Rushwaya to smuggle the gold to Dubai without acquiring a licence to do so, and that Rushwaya would go with the gold first.”
The State said “there are commercial invoices that show the directorship of the company from which the gold had originated.”
“We also make the averment that Ali originated the commercial invoice purporting that Rushwaya had entered into an agreement with his firm in Dubai and it (the company in Dubai) involves itself in trading of gold,” Prosecutor Garudzo Ziyaduma said.
“The commercial invoice clearly gives the impression that Rushwaya had been dispatched from Zimbabwe to Dubai to deliver the gold,” Ziyaduma added.
The court heard that the commercial invoices that he said were produced by Rushwaya at the airport proved that there was a contract between Rushwaya and Ali’s company.
“Among the requirements where one intends to export gold, the police and Support Unit section were supposed to be called to accompany whoever is exporting gold and it was not done,” State Prosecutors alleged.
“By giving Rushwaya the gold in question and assigning her to take it outside the country, that constitutes the offence of smuggling. The fact that the accused could not successfully export the same is cured in the definition of smuggling. The commercial invoice also had a list which was stamped using Ali’s company,” the State added.
“These documents were produced at the point of exit and when a search was contacted in Ali offices, other documents were also recovered. A cellphone was recovered during the search and it also had information that implicated Ali,” Ziyaduma concluded.
Muhammad denied the charges insisting “it was falsehood that the documents were recovered from the office.”
Through his defence team, Muhammad said he buys gold from Fidelity Printers and exports through Fidelity with the RBZ paying the funds off-shore.
“He has a legitimate business,” his lawyers said.
“He was not at the airport and was not found with any gold despite being subjected to three searches by three different teams of police officers from two different departments of the CID in a space of four days.
“During the occurrence of these developments, he was at home playing with his children. If he was involved in smuggling, on the day in question when he was at home, what did he smuggle and where?” Muhammad further argued.
“The holder of the permit is a company which is a separate legal entity from Ali. Much was made by the appearance of Ali’s name on the State outline. The reason is because by operation of law, three individuals must be listed on the permit and Ali just appears to be one of them and being the director of the company,” Muhammad’s defence team continued.
“The company is based in Geneva and has offices in Tokyo and Zimbabwe. It spans three continents and one can imagine the number of people who work for it, even here in Zimbabwe. It is not enough to say, as a director he is the person who hatched a plan,” Muhammad’s defence team added.
Muhammad is jointly charged with Rushwaya, security agents Stephen Chenjerai Tserai and Raphios Mufandauya and Gift Karanda.
They are facing charges of smuggling and illegal possession of gold.
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