A CHINESE national has been handed the mandatory minimum sentence of five years in jail after he was caught with 21 grammes of gold at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport intending to fly out to Mali.
Tao Jianming pleaded guilty to the offence when he appeared before regional magistrate Stanford Mambanje last week.
He was also slapped with 12 months imprisonment for smuggling and the sentence will run concurrently with the five-year term.
The court heard that on 26 May, Jianming checked in at the airport intending to fly out to Mali.
He went through all the necessary protocols and his passport was date-stamped at the exit desk.
When he arrived at the last checkpoint, his hand luggage was scanned and one button of gold weighing 21,21 grammes gold and amalgam weighing 3,41 grammes was detected.
He was asked to produce documents to prove he was authorised to possess it and failed to do so. Jianming also failed to produce any gold export permit.
Jianming’s lawyer pleaded with the court saying there were special circumstances that did not warrant the imposition of the mandatory jail term.
The lawyer stated that his client did not know that it was an offence to be in possession of gold in Zimbabwe as it is not a crime in China.
Jianming said he was given the two pieces by a friend and they have been stashed in his wallet since November 2019.
However, the prosecution argued that there are no special circumstances in the matter and that Jianming had a total disregard of the law as he had knowledge of the stones for the past year and did not try to verify whether they are precious stones or not.
The State added that Jianming had also violated the country’s laws and was even fined by the Immigration department for overstaying in Zimbabwe.
State counsel Netsai Mushayabasa told the court that cases of people being caught with gold are on the increase and the people are depriving the country of the much-needed revenue.