‘She realised this at the point the scanners revealed that there was gold’

HARARE – Zimbabwe Miners Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya told a court on Tuesday that she took the wrong handbag to the airport where she was intercepted with gold weighing 6kg before boarding a flight to Dubai.

Lawyers for Rushwaya told a court during her bail application that she had packed clothes into a handbag similar to the one she was carrying at the airport, but aides placed the wrong bag in the car.

The handbag story now forms the bedrock of Rushwaya’s defence to charges of smuggling following her arrest at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on October 26.

“The wrong bag was put into her vehicle and she did not have the knowledge of the contents that she took to the RGM International Airport,” lawyer Tapson Dzvetero told Harare magistrate Ngoni Nduna.

“She realised this at the point the scanners revealed that there was gold.”

Dzvetero said Rushwaya had given this account to investigating officer Bruno Chiketo of the Criminal Investigations Department’s Minerals Flora and Fauna Unit, who has since been taken off the case after it was transferred to CID Law and Order.

Cross-examining Detective Chief Inspector Michael Chibaya, who now leads the investigation, Dzvetero asked him: “Will you dispute that the investigating officer, one Bruno Chiketo captured this aspect (of wrong handbag) which is critical to her defence when he interviewed first accused (Rushwaya) upon her arrest at airport?”

Chibaya responded: “Yes, she could have indicated that.”

Rushwaya is appearing with Pakistani businessman Ali Muhamad, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s security aide Stephen Tserai, Central Intelligence Organisation agent Raphios Mufandauya and miner Gift Karanda.

The former Zimbabwe Football Association CEO is charged with smuggling and illegal possession of gold; Tserai and Mufandauya face criminal abuse of office charges while Karanda is charged with obstructing the course of justice after allegedly arriving at the airport shortly after Rushwaya’s arrest and telling investigators that the gold belonged to first lady Auxillia Mnangagwa and her son, Collins.

On Tuesday, Rushwaya denied that the gold belonged to the Mnangagwas, or Muhamad, whose company Ali Japan 786 imports second hand vehicles to several African countries.

Dzvetero said a commercial invoice which police said was found on Rushwaya bearing Muhamad’s name was “cooked-up”.

“I interviewed first investigating officer Bruno Chiketo who said Rushwaya to him that the gold was not hers and that it belonged to Muhamad, which was further supported by documents in Muhamad’s name,” Chibaya said.

Chibaya said the bottom of the matter is that Rushwaya did not have Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe authorisation to take gold out of Zimbabwe.

He said the decision to move the case to CID Law and Order was “an administrative matter that should be dealt with at Police General Headquarters.”

The bail hearing was rolled over to Wednesday. -ZimLive