Prosecutor General in bid to save crumbling Chihuri wealth seizure case

HARARE – Prosecutor General (PG) Nelson Mutsonziwa has filed an urgent chamber application through the Supreme Court seeking condonation after he had filed a defective appeal in a matter the state is seeking to forfeit former Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri’s property.

This comes after the apex court struck off the roll an appeal by the State challenging the High Court’s findings that all assets acquired by the self-exiled ex-police boss be removed from the terms of the unexplained wealth orders earlier granted in HACC16/20 and HACC20/20.

Chief Law Officer Chris Mutangadura said the state still has a strong case against Chihuri and was hopeful to win at the end.

“The record of proceedings shows that stand 832 Mount Pleasant Township of Mount Pleasant, Harare was acquired on 18 July 2017; Lot 28 Chisipite Township of Chisipite, Harare was acquired on 21 March 2018; all the six properties Gletwyn Township of Gletywn were acquired and developed during the period when US$34 875 948.10 was stolen from the public purse.

“This ground of appeal enjoys prospects of success on appeal,” said Mutangadura.

He added, “The statutory duty to investigate the veracity or otherwise of the respondents’ explanation is vested upon the appellant within sixty days of compliance with an unexplained wealth order by the respondents and the determination of the respondents’ explanation by the court a quo was not yet ripe.

“I also aver that the third ground of appeal enjoys reasonable prospects of success on appeal in that the High Court made an error of law when it delinked the theft of $34 875 948.10 from the other movable and immovable assets when the law permits seizure or confiscation of property equivalent in value to stolen assets even when such property is found not to be tainted.

“In other words, assuming that the immovable and movable assets removed from the unexplained wealth orders is to be found untainted after investigations, the law permits the court to seize and confiscate it,” said Mutangadura in an urgent chamber application soon after the matter was struck off the roll.

The matter was heard by Justices Susan Mavhangira, George Chiweshe and Joseph Musakwa.

Cited as respondents in the application are Chihuri, his wife, kids and companies.

On the last ground of appeal, Mutangadura said the High Court erred when it removed property owned by minors from unexplained wealth orders whereas the law allows the granting of unexplained wealth orders whether or not there are other persons who also hold the property.

He said the PG avers that reasonable prospects of success were very clear as the minors were not the ones primarily targeted by an unexplained wealth order.

“I aver that the matter enjoys public importance in that the law under which the matter stands to be adjudicated is fairly novel and concerns jurisprudential issues of both public importance and development of Zimbabwean law,” Mutangadura said.

The State is seeking to forfeit some of his properties including houses and motor vehicles in a bid to recover US$32 million allegedly lost through his alleged corrupt practices.

The matter spilled into the courts after the then prosecutor-general, Kumbirai Hodzi checked with the Deeds Office and established the rushed disposal of assets by the Chihuris.

This resulted in him being granted powers to freeze the properties and assets.

Chihuri is challenging the forfeiture.

He argued that he was gainfully employed having risen through ranks in the police force.

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