HENRIETTA Rushwaya is now stating that she picked up the wrong bag with four gold bars weighing 6kg, instead of a similar bag with her clothes when she went to the airport over a week ago and that her arrest was being used for political expedience aimed at “soiling’’ the name of the First Family.
Although she acknowledged owning the gold in question, Rushwaya told the court that there was a “mix-up’’ of bags when she left home for the airport ending with her picking the wrong bag containing gold instead of the one with her clothes.
Through her lawyer Mr Tapson Dzvetero, Rushwaya said the handbag containing gold was loaded into her car instead of a similar handbag containing the clothes she intended to travel with.
Mr Dzvetero said this was brought to the attention of the investigating officer, who initially handled the matter upon Rushwaya’s arrest at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on October 26.
He said this while cross-examining the investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Michael Chibaya, during Rushwaya’s bail application.
Rushwaya is appearing before Harare regional magistrate Mr Ngoni Nduna along with Pakistani business tycoon Ali Muhamad, State security agents Stephen Tserai and Raphios Mufandauya, and miner Gift Karanda.
READ: Rushwaya gold heist gets chilli hot
They are facing allegations in various groups of smuggling, illegal possession of gold, criminal abuse of office and obstructing the course of justice.
“The bag was similar to another bag which she was about to carry out of the country. The wrong bag was put into her vehicle and she did not have the knowledge of the contents that she took to the RGM Airport and she realised this at the point the scanners revealed that there was gold. Will you dispute that the investigating officer, one Bruno Chiketo, captured this aspect which is critical to her defence when she interviewed first accused (Rushwaya) upon her arrest at airport,” asked Mr Dzvetero.
Detective chief inspector Chibaya could not dispute the averments saying: “Yes, she could have indicated that.”
Mr Dzvetero went on to say that Rushwaya’s arrest has since been politicised.
“My client is now being played a political victim which explains why once a simple matter was transferred to Law and Order. We hear of name dropping of the First Family and it has now political connotations,” he said.
Mr Dzvetero distanced Rushwaya from the commercial invoice bearing the name of Ali Muhamad’s company, Ali Japan 786 Limited, that the State says was found in possession of Rushwaya upon her arrest at the airport.
He said the document was manufactured. “She denies ever having given anyone a document that was said to belong to Ali. Without you having seen it you are uncertain to tell the court whether it forms the exhibit. The commercial invoice is a cooked up document which is being used for political expedience,” said Dzvetero.
Detective chief inspector Chibaya in his response said police compiled facts from witnesses’ statements which pointed out that the documents were recovered from Rushwaya upon her arrest.
“There are many witnesses we recorded statements from. There are some police officers arrested for having connived with accused persons to alter some information to the advantage of the accused persons. It was like we were starting investigations. I interviewed first investigations officer (Bruno Chiketo) when she (Rushwaya) indicated that the gold was not hers and it belonged to Ali which was further supported by documents in Ali’s name,” he said.
Answering to why the matter was being handled at the Law and Order unit instead of the Minerals Flora and Fauna Unit and whether her permit was of importance to the case of illegal possession of gold, Detec Chief Insp Chibaya said: “That is an administrative question that should be dealt with at Police General Headquarters.
“I feel this document (commercial invoice) will be of no importance to Rushwaya because there are conditions set and given by the issuing authority as to how the holder should deal with the gold.
“I have never seen where it is written giving permission for one to take it for export without RBZ authority taking into cognisance the place where she was arrested.”
The hearing continues today. Meanwhile, two police officers, Douglas Shoko and Paul Chimungu, who are being accused of failing to arrest Ali Muhamad and altering his statements that implicated him in the smuggling deal, were denied bail.
Deputy chief magistrate Mrs Bianca Makwande denied the duo bail saying they were likely to interfere with witnesses. They are expected to appear in court on November 16 for routine remand.
Shoko and Chimungu are charged with criminal abuse of office. Herald