An illegal diamond dealer who is based in Francistown was on Friday sentenced to seven years in jail by the Francistown magistrate, Njabuliso Siziba for illegal possession of rough diamonds. It is alleged that, on the 9th of March 2010 at or near block 3 location in Francistown, Messiah Kentse Mbo, the accused being a person not licensed, authorized or exempted under the Precious and Semi- Precious Stones Act was found in possession of three diamonds weighing 10.174 carats and valued over P27 000.
Mbo has pleaded not guilty to the offence. According to the evidence before court, on the 9th of March 2010 the police were tipped by members of the public that the accused was in possession of the diamonds. They then conducted investigations and arrested the accused at Block 3 location in Francistown and found the stones in his possession. During trial, the accused blamed the police of framing him. He said that during the day of arrest he was with his friend, one Dereck George a mechanic who was fixing his vehicle.
Mbo said that the police approached him and demanded that he should go with them to their offices. He said that upon arrival at the police station, one of the officers produced three shiny stones saying that they (police) took the stones from their reliable source implicating the accused as the owner. He said that he was then kept in custody and the following day on the 10th of March 2010 the police took him back to his yard to conduct another search and nothing was found. He said that he was then returned to the police station and on the way, the police vehicle stopped with one of the officers saying that he dropped one of the diamonds.
Mbo said that the officer then picked up the stone from the ground and asked him if he knew anything and he(Mbo) maintained that he did not know anything about the diamonds. On Friday after the prosecution closed its case, the court found Mbo guilty of the offence saying that his testimony was not credible. The magistrate said that there was overwhelming evidence incriminating the accused.
Mbo was also convicted of similar offences in 1999 and in 2000 where he was given a suspended sentence and a two year sentence respectively. However, during mitigation the accused pleaded with the court to be lenient when sentencing him. “I plead with this court to be lenient when sentencing me because I am the sole breadwinner who has three children. I am also a reformed person who is now a Christian. The court should at least give me a suspended sentence or a fine,” he said. Delivering his verdict, the magistrate said that the accused committed a serious offence. “The legislature provides for first offenders of this crime to be sentenced a minimum of four years to maximum of 14 years in jail. The second offender would be sentenced to a minimum of seven years to a maximum 14 years in jail. In this case the accused is not a first offender as he was previously convicted of two similar charges in 1999 and in 2000.
The previous convictions should have given him the opportunity to reform,” said the magistrate. He quashed the accused’s grounds of mitigation saying that he should have learnt from his past mistakes. He said that illegal possession of diamonds should be treated as a serious crime because diamonds are a source of revenue for this country. He said that a suspended sentence or fine would not be reasonable. “I therefore sentence the accused to seven years in jail. The exhibits or the diamonds will be forfeited by the state. The accused can appeal to the high court in 14 days if he is unsatisfied by the ruling,” said Magistrate Siziba. The accused was not represented while Ogolotse Tampa of Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was prosecuting.