THERE was drama at the Harare Magistrates’ Court on Monday, when a Russian man, Stephen Paul Sugden, accused of using forged documents to obtain a Zimbabwean passport, fled midway during his trial after a State witness blew the lead on his true identity.
BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
Sudgen asked for a break mid-trial, which was granted by presiding magistrate, Tendai Mahwe, but when proceedings resumed in the afternoon, he did not show up, prompting the court to issue a warrant of arrest against him.
This was after a State witness told the court that the suspect’s real name was Stanislav Sytchev.
The witness, who could not be named, claimed that she brought Sugden to Zimbabwe and partnered him in a family business before the latter allegedly changed his identity by acquiring local identification particulars.
While explaining his client’s absence, Sugden’s lawyer, Rungano Mahuni, told the court he had rushed his wife to hospital. However, Mahwe refused to accept the excuse, saying it was one of the accused person’s tactics to delay trial, which had almost taken three years without being completed.
Mahuni also made an application seeking the postponement of the matter, saying he wanted almost a month to go through the court record of proceedings, but his application was thrown out.
Asked by prosecutor, Oscar Madhume to explain how she knew Sugden, the witness said: “I know the accused, not as Stephen Sugden, but Stanislav Sytchev, who was born in Russia. I am the one who brought him to Zimbabwe and I have photos to prove what I am saying.”
Earlier in the day, Mahwe had shot down several attempts by Sugden to stall the trial.
Sugden was initially represented by Admire Rubaya, who later renounced agency.