FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe has opened up on the latest scandal she has been implicated in, claiming, instead, she is the victim in the diamond ring saga and was conned of nearly $1,4 million by Lebanese businessman — Jamal Ahmed — whom she accused of joining hands with her political foes to soil her family’s image.
by XOLISANI NCUBE
In an affidavit filed by her lawyers Manase and Manase Legal Practitioners opposing a High Court order granted by Justice Clemence Phiri in December last year ordering Grace and her proxies to vacate Ahmed’s three Harare properties they had allegedly occupied, the First Lady said she did not invade anyone’s premises, instead, she was a victim of a person she described as an “international fraudster wanted by the international police”.
Grace chronicled how she met Ahmed’s daughter and wife in Dubai, although she said on their first meeting they had not discussed the diamond ring and instead only had tea.
“The truth is that in April 2016, I called Zeina, the first applicant’s wife, who lives in Dubai, I told her that I wanted a diamond and to have it set on a ring,” she said.
“Furthermore, I told her that this diamond was a gift from my husband [President Robert Mugabe] on our 20th marriage anniversary. She then said she would give her husband, the first applicant (Ahmed), my number. I told her that the diamond was required, as my husband was saving for me for this stone for our 20th anniversary in August 2016.”
Grace said Ahmed then called her while she was in Singapore and said he would instruct his daughter, who was in Belgium, to start looking for the stone, as they did not keep it in stock.
“On April 8, 2016, applicant’s wife, on his instructions, phoned me and told me she had sent pictures of different shapes of diamonds for my choices,” she continued, adding the stones also had Gemology Institute of America certificates, which define colour, cut, clarity and carat weight of the gemstones.
Grace said she was then given the price for a 10,07-carat gemstone, which she had selected, but later believed the cost had been inflated.
The First Lady said Ahmed promised to deliver the ring before August 17, 2016, her wedding anniversary.
On May 2, Grace said she travelled again to Dubai, where again she met Zeina, but they did not discuss the ring although money was transferred from her CBZ Bank account to Ahmed’s held with the same bank on May 11, but she still did not have sight of the ring.
“Despite demand to view the stone, first applicant was adamant [not] to show me the stone I had ordered, saying the seller would only do that [show the ring] after receiving full payment,” she continued.
“Various communication on texts and on WhatsApp messaging will show how endlessly first applicant failed to show me the stone I purchased. Up to this day, I have not been shown the stone I purchased from him.”
Grace said in June 2016, Ahmed went quiet for a long time and Mugabe kept asking whether the ring would be ready in time for their anniversary.
She said they only managed to get in touch with Ahmed on July 26 and they asked why he had been quiet, but his response is not chronicled in Grace’s papers.
Two days later, Ahmed, Grace said, said he would deliver the ring, but on August 2, it still had not been delivered.
“So I called him and told him and of the anniversary date, August 17, which was fast approaching. He prevaricated and gave no definitive answer. I smelt a rat,” she said.
“On August 3, I called him back and asked him to send the money back into my account. I insisted the money be paid back into my CBZ account. My bankers were also, on the other hand, asking for the money back after I told them of my plight.
“All the information is contained in conversation via WhatsApp. My bankers have also threads of communication via text and WhatsApp, insisting the money be brought back to Zimbabwe.”
Grace said she did not ask for the money to be paid outside Zimbabwe, claiming she did not have a bank account outside the country.
“I have never thought of externalising money, neither can I do so, as any account I open will be pounced upon, as we are on sanctions with my husband. We lead by example,” she said.
“I never asked that I be paid in Dubai. It’s a lie and I don’t have an account thereat. I don’t externalise funds.
That’s illegal. I do not partake in such illegal activities.”
Grace said, when asked for the refund, Ahmed would claim he sent the money out of Zimbabwe clandestinely and it would take long for it to be repatriated.
“I realised, possibly, I had been duped. I threatened legal action as well. The fact that the police were investigating the same person was a coincidence,” she said.
“Possibly first applicant thought since he had defrauded me, it would be myself, who ordered the guarding of his houses. He was wrong.”
Grace said she had since learnt that Ahmed’s modus operandi was to hit well-placed citizens, hoping they would keep quiet and he gets away with it.
“This was hard-earned money saved over the years for this 20th anniversary. I cannot keep quiet,” she said.
“It’s a lot of sacrifice that my husband did from [our] farming and dairy business.”
Grace said there were no side expenses, just a balloon payment and she had Ahmed’s WhatsApp messages promising he would pay the money back.
“The true position is the first applicant spent the money,” she said. “He now wanted soft terms to refund the money. So long as my money is paid, whether in full or agreed instalments and with collateral, as we now have found he has properties in Zimbabwe through the police action.
“If he were honest, he should have simply refunded the money rather than demonise me and my family (sic).”
Grace said Ahmed had already paid back $120 000 to her CBZ account.
The First Lady denied grabbing Ahmed’s properties and that she used her status to force her way.
Ahmed dragged Grace to court after she allegedly grabbed his three properties demanding a full refund for the ring.
In approaching the court, Ahmed was also seeking protection from Grace’s son, Russell Goreraza, son-in-law and Kennedy Fero, who, according to court papers, is part of the First Lady’s security personnel.
In his papers through lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, Ahmed had alleged that he was afraid to come to Zimbabwe as he was being threatened.