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VP Mujuru fingered in property scam

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Extortion suspects yesterday fingered Vice President Joice Mujuru and Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono in a property scam.

The accused persons Abdul Rajak Ibrahim Talati (36) and Mehboob Valia Gocha (34) are alleged to have approached the complainant Mohamed Sabir Iqbal Patel seeking to purchase houses.

After making a deal to buy two properties, Patel decided to reverse the deal after the accused had deposited too much money into his account, raising his suspicion.

According to court papers, the accused persons refused to have the deal reversed saying it did not matter that the money was too much, having previously told him they were in good books with Mujuru and Gono who could give him a good price.

When the complainant insisted he wanted the deal reversed, the accused allegedly turned around and demanded $1 million from Patel as payment for allegedly inconveniencing the two senior officials.

Patel also told the court the accused in fact threatened him that Mujuru and Gono could harm him and his family if he failed to pay them inconvenience money.

They told me those people (Mujuru and Gono) are very dangerous. They can kill you and can handicap all your family, Patel told regional magistrate William Bhila, in his evidence-in-chief.

The accused appeared at the Harare Magistrates Court yesterday for continuation of trial but their matter was postponed to August 7 as the presiding magistrate, who is now based in Bindura, was not available.

During the previous court hearing, Patel told the court that Talati and his co-accused, Gocha, who are both denying the extortion charge, approached him in September 2008 seeking to buy his properties.

He said he had agreed to sell them properties that belonged to the Patel Family Trust before eventually reversing the deal.

The court heard that after calculations were made, both properties were valued at ZW$77,7 billion and Patel was asked to provide his bank details for the transfer of the cash and at the same time he surrendered the title deeds for the two houses.

However, contrary to the agreed purchase price, Patel said he realised the accused had deposited ZW$537 300 billion, which was a lot more than what was agreed.

After consultations with his family, he cancelled the deal. Patel said Talati and Gocha told him that they would not return his title deeds as they had already handed them over to their clients (Mujuru and Gono) and ordered him to pay them cash for the inconvenience.

They told me the buyers were very infuriated and they were politically powerful. I told them I didnt have cash but had a property in Gunhill (valued US$450 000) and if these people were dangerous I could give them the property, Patel told the court.

The court heard that after several threats, Patel gave in and in the presence of his family, he allegedly gave the accused US$500 000 and US$50 000 on November 6 and 10 2008 respectively.

They just took the money and promised to return my documents but they still demanded more money to release my title deeds. They wanted $1 million, Patel said.

Asked by prosecutor Obi Mabahwana, how the accused arrived at the $1 million figure, Patel said: They alleged Gono and Mujuru were demanding it. They told me behind the scenes there were very big people. I then proceeded to a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia and when I came back they still demanded the money.

Mabahwana further asked Patel what his reaction to the demands was and he said: I was nervous and scared and I reported to the police.

Patel told the court that before he proceeded to Saudi Arabia, the accused returned some of the property documents and he was told the other papers were being held by Mujuru and Gono.

However, under cross-examination by the accuseds lawyer, the late George Chikumbirike, Patel was asked where in any documentation it was ever said Mujuru and Gono would cause him problems, to which he replied: Gono and Mujuru did not threaten me.

When the trial started sometime in 2009, Talati and Gocha were charged with extortion, fraud and perjury but they were acquitted on the fraud and perjury charges after successfully applying for an exception.

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