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Foreign big wheel fights for passport

Blessing Masakadza

SENIOR STAFF WRITER

masakadzab@dailynews.co.zw

THE arrest of foreign investors in the country is counter-productive and could destroy the goodwill that Zimbabwe has internationally, lawyers representing businessman Ali Mohamad have argued.

This comes after the businessman — a director of a company called Ali Japan — was arrested last year together with businesswoman Henrietta Rushwaya, on allegations of smuggling gold.

Then, Mohamad was linked to the crime through papers bearing the name of his company that were allegedly produced by Rushwaya when she was arrested at Robert Mugabe International Airport — on claims that she attempted to smuggle 6kg of gold to Dubai.

However, Rushwaya has since denied implicating Mohamad, which saw him being granted $100 000 bail on first instance — while Rushwaya and other accused people spent close to three months in custody.

Mohamad, through his lawyer Admire Rubaya, complained bitterly yesterday about his arrest.

“The arrest of investors destroys the goodwill made by the government. He (Mohamad) is one of the real investors that the new dispensation managed to convince through various international forums to come and invest in the country and to improve the economy and better the lives of people.

“He is an investor in this country and though he is accused of a criminal offence he has not stopped investing in this jurisdiction,” Rubaya argued.

“The arrest of the accused person as an investor, where the arrest and prosecution is unwarranted, is counter-productive.

“He does not claim to be special, but where there is no evidence he ought not to be arrested. This is a brazen abuse of arresting and prosecuting non-deserving investors,” Rubaya added.

During his bail application in November last year, Mohamad told the court that he had invested more than US$50 million in the country.

Yesterday, Mohamad also sought the release of his passport before regional magistrate Ngoni Nduna, to allow him to travel to South Africa to meet other investors and “convince them to invest in mining in the country”.

He also wanted the court to relax his bail conditions for the next two months while abroad — volunteering to deposit a further $2 million, on top of his bail and title deeds to a Hatfield property, as surety for his return.

Mohamad cited changed circumstances as the basis for the application, adding that even while in South Africa he could be made to report at the Zimbabwean Embassy — while also pointing out that there were extradition protocols that could be followed to bring him back to the country.

“He (Mohamad) has merged with Gregton Consultants where he is required to visit the Joburg-based company for meetings relating to investment and mining.

“He wants to go to South Africa to engage other investors in a bid to convince them to invest in major mining ventures in this country.

“The travel is designed to complement the government’s efforts as the economy has not been spared by Covid-19,” Rubaya submitted.

The State opposed the application for the release of the passport saying Mohamad would flee, which he vehemently disputed.

“He is an investor with international recognition and the company Ali Japan operates in 40 countries and he will not ruin the goodwill he has by absconding.

“The court noted that there was no real evidence which linked him to the offence, except alleged implication through documents written Ali Japan allegedly produced by Rushwaya, which she vehemently denied,” Rubaya argued further.

“He has shown the court that he can be trusted with his liberty. If he was a flight risk, he could have absconded since November 2020. He does not intend to be a fugitive of justice,” he added.

But State counsel Netsai Mushayabasa argued that Mohamad was a foreigner, which meant that if he was given his passport back he may not return.

“He is not a citizen of this country. Once given the opportunity, he will never be seen again and this will jeopardise the interests of justice.

“The surrender of his passport is a guarantee that he will not flee. He wants to travel for two months, but that is an indefinite period which is not explained as to what business he will be doing for that period,” she added.

The magistrate has set today for the ruling on the application.

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