Friday, March 30, 2012

(HERALD) Israeli pilot pleads not guilty to diamond possession

Israeli pilot pleads not guilty to diamond possession
Friday, 30 March 2012 00:00
Court Reporter

The Israeli pilot who was allegedly found with US$2 million worth of diamonds yesterday pleaded not guilty to unlawful possession of the gems and entry into Zimbabwe by evasion.

Shmuel Kainan Klein (58) appeared before a Harare magistrate and denied being in unlawful possession of diamonds and contravening Section 12 (1) of the Immigration Act Chapter 4:02, which criminalises entry by evasion. After the court session, Klein was re-arrested by immigration officials who were under the impression that he was in the country illegally.

His lawyer Mr Jonathan Samukange had made an application seeking to bar immigration officials from arresting his client and interfering with his bail conditions. The order was granted with the State’s consent by regional magistrate Mr Clever Tsikwa.

In his defence outline Klein said that he was in lawful possession of the diamonds and police had stolen some of them.

However, an official from the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, said the diamonds were from Marange and conceded that the diamonds were being smuggled out of the country. Klein denied committing the offence claiming he was an agent for Masri diamonds.

“He advised them that he would be flying that afternoon to Tel-Aviv, Israel, where he would be handing the diamonds to the owner.

“He also said that he carrying the diamonds on behalf of Masri diamonds and was to hand them to Mr Nisim Masri. He told them that he was acting as his agent for the purpose of possessing and carrying the diamonds to Tel-Aviv,” read part of Klein’s defence outline.

Mr Samukange told the court that some of his client’s diamonds were missing.

“He will state that he has been shown a copy of the affidavit by Mr Clever Sithole, which shows that the total carats were 8 486.66 and further state that there is missing about 2 140.34,” submitted Mr Samukange.

He further submitted that police must have stolen them since the diamonds were in their custody.

Mr Samukange also submitted that when the diamond parcel was opened by the assayer, Klein was not represented.

He argued that the valuation of the diamonds was “extremely exaggerated” valuing them at US$220 000.

The first witness in the case a Civil Aviation Authority security officer, Ms Wendy Gomo, who was being led by prosecutor Ms Tracy Mundanga, said Klein was shaky when he presented himself at the passenger screening point prompting her to request a further search of his luggage.

She said when she discovered the diamonds Klein told her that they were objects used in a plane.

During cross-examination, Ms Gomo said she was not in a position to comment on the shortfall as she did not conduct a physical search.

Another witness Detective Shamiso Tashu of the Police Border Control and Minerals Unit said when she counted the stones they totalled 1 446 although she did not know the caratage.

In cross-examination she conceded that some of the evidence was missing.
Mr Sithole of MMCZ said when he was given the diamonds he noticed that they were Marange diamonds after seeing the texture adding that every diamond has a trace element.

He said the Marange diamonds were brownish.

He said the diamonds in question weighed 1,7kg with a caratage of 8 486 and valued at US$2 437 708 22.

Mr Samukange doubted his qualifications saying, “the court needs to rely on a qualified person not someone who has gone for a seven day crash course programme”.

After the hearing, Mr Samukange tried to prevent immigration officials from arresting his client since the court had made an order barring them from arresting the Israeli.

Mr Samukange pulled his client’s left hand while an immigration official pulled his right hand.

The parties went to the police post at the Harare Magistrates’ Courts and three immigration officials finally emerged from the post holding Klein by his belt before whisking him away in a white Mazda pick-up truck.

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