A SOUTH African millionaire who recently crashed his helicopter in Gwanda was yesterday slapped with a seven-year jail term for violating the country’s airspace and tampering with the nation’s security systems.
Fredrick Wilhelm August Lutzkie will, however, serve an effective three-and-a-half-year jail term after Harare provincial magistrate Vakai Douglas Chikwekwe suspended half of the sentence on condition of good behaviour.
Chikwekwe said he had been fair enough and exercised mercy in passing sentence in view of the fact that Lutzkie was a danger to Zimbabwe’s security.
The magistrate further said despite the fact that Lutzkie (52) was a rich man, he would not be allowed to use his cash in tampering with the country’s sovereignty.
“There is nothing that can stop the court from presuming that the accused could have smuggled gems and even weapons in and out of this country during the time that he illegally entered this country via airspace,” Chikwekwe said.
“He is a danger, not only to himself, but to us all. The court cannot rule out money laundering by the accused and smuggling of contraband. He has not been denied a chance to invest in this country by following proper procedures. One who can smuggle the money into the country cannot fail to do the same and smuggle it out in the same manner. We cannot allow our own security to be undermined.”
The magistrate further said the helicopter that crashed in Zimbabwe’s land was going to be forfeited to the State.
Prior to sentencing, Lutzkie, through his lawyer Vonai Majoko, pleaded with the court to consider the option of a fine saying he had handed himself over to the Zimbabwean authorities after he had informed them of the crashed plane.
Lutzkie said he had some business investment in Zimbabwe and had paid more than R23 million in his joint venture with Gwanda Rural District Council.
Lutzkie, who was arrested on Monday this week, pleaded guilty to 14 counts of contravening sections of the Civil Aviation Act and the Immigration Act.
Prosecutor Michael Reza said during the period extending from February 1 to 28, Lutzkie flew his helicopter from South Africa and landed at Doddiebun Range in Gwanda where he runs a game farm. The court heard that during the material times, he was flying without permission from the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe in accordance with the terms and conditions specified by the authority.
But on the day in question Lutzkie, who is an engineer by profession, said the helicopter developed a mechanical fault and crash-landed prompting him to dig a trench and bury it for fear of an explosion.
This, he said, was done in order to cut oxygen supply to the plane since it had more than 500 litres of Jet A1 fuel. He told the court he had previously flown into the country undetected on two other occasions.