Thursday, August 27, 2009
Thu, 27 Aug 2009 18:52:00 +0000
SUSPECTED illegal diamond dealer, Newman Chiadzwa — who also masquerades as Chief Chiadzwa, appeared in court last week for allegedly possessing about 8kg or 43 028.20 carats of diamonds worth about US$300 million.
The quantity is arguably the largest that the police have recovered from an individual after the crackdown on illegal diamond dealings, which started in 2006.
According to diamond values listed on the diamondhelpers.com, the carats recovered from Chiadzwa are valued at about US$283 984 800. The website states that a carat costs US$6 600.
Chiadzwa's wife, Callista Chiadzwa, is also appearing separately after she was found in possession of 2 462 carats of diamonds worth about US$16, 2 million.
The two, who pleaded not guilty, appeared before Mutare provincial magistrate, Mr Billard Musakwa. They are alleged to have contravened Section 3 (1) (a) of the Precious Stones Trade Act, Chapter 21:06.
Although they were arrested on October 14, 2006, the trial commenced on May 21, 2009 and had to be adjourned after some of the State witnesses were involved in an accident.
The State has already called two witnesses to testify in Detective Sergeant Romeo Makavi and Detective Assistant Inspector Paul Chimungu from the CID Minerals Headquarters in Harare.
Testifying in court, Det Ass Insp Chimungu said they arrested Chiadzwa after receiving a tip-off that he was dealing in diamonds.
He said when they arrested him, he had about 1.07 grammes of diamonds in his pockets. Some of the diamonds were recovered from his car, while the bulk of them were recovered from his shop.
"We gathered that the accused was buying diamonds from panners or exchanging them with groceries. When we arrested him, he denied that he had bought the diamonds or exchanged them with groceries, despite the fact that we had found pieces of papers from his shop indicating that goods in his shop were being quoted against the weight of diamonds.
"The accused did not have any papers authorising him to be in possession of the diamonds. When we arrested him, he even addressed himself as the chief, but we later found out that he was not a chief.
“For the defence to say the diamonds belonged to the late 'chief' is a lie because the accused was identifying himself as one.
“He even said he got the diamonds from the fields since 'his' people had been authorised to mine the diamonds.
"Initially, we weighed the diamonds using his scale and later took them for assaying where they weighed 8.61 kg," he said.
Under cross-examination from Ndlovu, Det Ass Insp Chimungu insisted that only licensed people were allowed to mine for diamonds and other precious minerals.
Ndlovu insisted that there was a Government policy allowing locals to mine the diamonds, but in response, Det Ass Insp Chimungu said: "I am not aware of that Government directive and policy.
“We were only briefed of the mission to arrest illegal diamond dealers and that is why we travelled to Chiadzwa and arrested the accused."
The defence also stated that the late 'chief' Chiadzwa had even visited the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development offices in Harare asking for permission to recover the confiscated diamonds.
In response, Det Ass Insp Chimungu said: "I am not aware that the diamonds belonged to the late 'chief'.
“In actual fact, from the memo the defence produced, it shows that it was the accused who had visited the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development offices because I understand the 'chief' was long dead by then."
On his first appearance last Thursday, the defence, led by Chris Ndlovu of Gonese and Ndlovu and David Tandire of Maunga Maanda and Associates, unsuccessfully applied to the court to force the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) to release a video clip, which was recorded in June 2006 during a tour of the Chiadzwa diamond fields by the then Manicaland Provincial Governor, Tinaye Chigudu and the late Deputy Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Tinos Rusere.
The defence argued that the two had outlined the Government policy on the exploitation of the Chiadzwa diamonds to the villagers.
"In June 2006, the Government gave express permission for locals and villagers of Marange area to search and mine for diamonds in Chiadzwa and thereafter sell them to the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ).
“We are aware that sometime in June 2006, senior Government officials visited the Chiadzwa diamond fields where they took their time to explain to the people of Marange what the Government policy was regarding the mining of diamonds in the area.
“The meeting was filmed by the ZBC crew and was also recorded by journalists from Manicaland's leading publication, The Manica Post. What we are interested in is the footage produced by the ZBC cameraman.
“In view of our defence, it is essential and very material that we have access to the whole footage taken by the ZBC crew and better still, to the edited version that appeared in one of the news bulletins of that week," said Ndlovu.
However, the State, led by Nelson Makunyire, said the application was frivolous and vexatious.
He argued that it was meant to frustrate the trial proceedings and should be dismissed.
"The application is frivolous and vexatious because the defence submitted that the diamonds did not belong to the accused (Newman Chiadzwa), but to his late father, who was Chief Chiadzwa. We cannot rely on what the defence is saying because the so-called application to ZBC to have access to the footage is just on a piece of paper, which anyone can produce," said Makunyire.
Musakwa dismissed the application.
"The so-called application to ZBC is just on a piece of paper and is not signed for. Anyone can just type a piece of paper and claim to be the application. I am quite surprised because the application seems to depart from the tendered defence outline.
“This application is just the defence's gimmick to frustrate proceedings and I, therefore, dismiss the application. Full reasons will follow," said Musakwa.
The case was adjourned to September 9 and is expected to spill to the following day.
The State is also expected to close its case. - MP/TZG