Saturday, August 2, 2008

Police nab diamond baron

A diamond baron suspected to have links with the wealthy Mujuru family was arrested after he was found in possession of 262 pieces of diamonds, the largest single haul since the discovery of the gems over two years ago.
The diamonds are estimated by industry experts to be valued at close to US$1, 3 million although the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe valued them at ZW$52 trillion (US$520).
Misheck Muhwehwesa, a Mutare resident was nabbed in Chiadzwa, Marange two weeks ago after police stopped him at a road block at Mutimba Bridge in Marange.
The diamonds were recovered from his vehicle’s air cleaner. The gems weighed 668 carats. A carat can fetch to as much as US$2000 depending on the clarity of the stone.
Muhwehwesa, 38 of Number 8 Pike Place in Mutare’s medium-density of Yeovil, has since appeared in court and is out on ZW$25 trillion (US$250) bail. Senior Magistrate Billiard Musakwa presided over the bail hearing.
Muhwehwesa’s lawyer, Chris Ndlovu has applied for the discharge of their client arguing the State did not have solid evidence to prove the diamonds belonged to Muhwehwesa.
Muhwehwesa, a renowned diamond dealer, is suspected to have strong links with the country’s Second Family. His connection with the Mujuru family came to light after Muhwehwesa successfully sought the prosecution of a Zanu PF politician and losing candidate for Mutasa South, Sherrington Dumbura, who had allegedly swindled him of an unknown number of diamonds valued at millions of United States Dollars.
Muhwehwesa is said to have approached retired General Solomon Mujuru to have Dumbura arrested and prosecuted. Dumbura is also involved in the illegal diamond trade.
To settle matters and avoid being jailed Dumbura, a lightweight Zanu PF politician in the eastern border city, he ceded several top of the range vehicles and an assortment of other properties. He was immediately freed.
It was not possible to get comment from Mujuru as this correspondent could have easily been identified as working for a publication blacklisted by authorities. Journalists working for online publications such as thezimbabwetimes face great risk if identified and caught.
The arrest of Muhwehwesa come amid growing concern that police operations to quell illegal diamond mining and trading was targeting small players only. Over 2000 have been arrested during the past two months and sentenced to jail terms of up wards of two years each. But it has proved difficult for the police to arrest big players in the mega rich trade.
However, court officials said they were eager to see how Muhwehwesa’s case would be handled given his vast wealth which he allegedly accumulated through the illegal trade in diamonds.
If convicted he faces up to five years in jail.
“This will be very interesting because we have never seen any of the big guys being send to jail,” said one court official. “It will be a precedent if this guy is convicted.”
Top diamond dealers have formed powerful cartels which have become immune to both arrest and prosecution despite repeated threats by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, Gideon Gono that the long arm of the law was closing in on the illegal dealers and miners.

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