Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Investigators following the P500 000 money trail to an even bigger crime

Local Courts and police investigators handling the case in which two Zimbabweans were arrested with a huge stash of money in Botswana are following the money trail with the belief that it will finally lead them to a big crime.
High Court Judge Thomas Masuku last week upheld Magistrate Thato Mujaji’s judgment and sent Zimbabwean national Tafadzwa Nedziwe back to jail to await prosecution on charges of possessing goods suspected to be proceeds of a crime and failing to declare goods at the border.

Nedziwe was arrested in June together with one Themba Chuma after they were found in possession of over P500 000 in their car. The duo was apprehended while sitting in their sedan at the Francistown bus rank. Police found them in possession of large sums of money including P128 810, R50 and USS240.A further search of the car unraveled P 385 000 in a bag hidden under the spare wheel.

When asked about the origins of the money, Nedziwe claimed that it belonged to his businessman brother in Harare further stating that he had declared the money at the border. He also claimed that he had come to deposit the money into a local bank.

The police would later consult with the Department of Customs and excise and established that Nedziwe had lied when he claimed to have declared the money at the border.

In July, Nedziwe appeared before Magistrate Thato Mujaji to apply for bail. Mujaji denied the application on the grounds that the case involved substantial amounts of money whose origins have not yet been established and that there are strong suspicions that further investigations would probably turn out even more serious offences. She also told Nedziwe that there was every chance that he could skip the country to Zimbabwe as he had told the court that the money belonged to his businessman brother. He, therefore, has nothing to lose if he skipped bail. She also noted that Nedziwe did not forward any sureties and he had no property in Botswana that could persuade him to honour his bail conditions. Nedziwe was, therefore, remanded in custody pending police investigations to establish the origins of the money.

Last week, Nedziwe and his attorney, Wada Nfila, appeared before Justice Masuku to challenge Mujaji’s judgment. Nfila argued that the magistrate had erred when she placed undue emphasis on the fact that the amount involved was substantial and that her refusal to grant bail when there is no prima facie evidence that the money in question is from proceeds of a crime is unfair.

Nfila also told the court that the only concrete offence for which his client can presently be charged with is failure to declare the money in question upon entry into Botswana which does not carry a penalty so stiff that it would induce him to abscond if admitted to bail.
But the state argued that investigations were still at a preliminary stage and would involve looking for proof within and outside the country.

When passing judgment, Masuku said that Mujaji was right in placing emphasis on the amount of money involved describing it as “staggering”. He said that he agreed with the magistrate that the large amount of money heightened suspicion that the money could be proceeds of a more serious crime. He also said that even though the state has not yet established whether the money was from criminal activities, investigations were still ongoing to establish the exact circumstances and origins of the money.

Masuku further said that a clarion call had been made in the sub region to clamp down and combat serious cross border crime. He said that police investigations to establish the origins of the money must not be interfered with as they would ensure that Nedziwe eventually answers to the appropriate charges.

”In my view the time taken for investigations is not inordinate,” he said.

“It is an ineluctable fact in this case that the appellant does not have any emotional, occupational or family roots in this country. He has no assets in this country and while he has claimed that he has sureties who are members of society in good standing he has failed to disclose their identities.” he said.
The judge also said that the means of skipping the country at Nedziwe’s disposal are substantial considering the proximity of Botswana to Zimbabwe and the free flow of his countrymen who come to this country on a daily basis.

”Furthermore, even if he were ordered to surrender his passports or other travel documents, he may use undesignated points to egress this country more so that he has no personal interest in the money which has been seized as he claims it belonged to his brother,” he concluded.

Masuku also said that the accused is not forthcoming with information about the contact details of his said employer (the brother).

He, therefore, concluded that magistrate Mujaji was correct in refusing Nedziwe bail.

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The Telegraph October 21

Digital edition of The Telegraph, October 21, 2020.