Zimbabwean-based Russian businessman, Stephen Paul Sugden, who allegedly used fake documents to secure a Zimbabwean passport six years ago, is set to continue facing fraud trial at the Harare Magistrates’ Court after the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) dismissed his application for permanent stay of criminal proceedings.
BY CHARLES LAITON
Sugden was last year unmasked by a State witness, who revealed that he was not Zimbabwean, but a Russian citizen whose real name was Stanislav Sytchev.
Sugden denied the fraud charges when he initially appeared before Harare magistrate Tendai Mahwe, but as the trial progressed, he made several applications, one of which was the referral of his matter to the ConCourt, challenging the manner his trial was being handled.
But Chief Justice Luke Malaba, who was heading the nine-member bench, pointed out that Sugden’s application had been improperly brought before the court and as such it could not be dealt with on merit.
Justice Malaba said magistrate Mahwe had already made a determination in the matter and allowed the State to re-open its case, following an order by Judge President George Chiweshe, and as such there was no constitutional question to be determined by the court.
“When I granted direct access to the ConCourt, I concentrated on whether the request for referral was frivolous or vexatious, that was an oversight on my part. I could not have granted direct access if I had known there was a decision by the lower court,” Justice Malaba said.
Sugden’s lawyer, Advocate Thabani Mpofu, who was being instructed by Admire Rubaya and Oliver Marwa, tried unsuccessfully to convince the court to hear the matter on merits, but the apex court would not budge, and instead dismissed the application by consent of both parties.
“By consent, the application be and is, hereby, dismissed with no order as to costs,” Justice Malaba said.
It is the State case that sometime in April, 2012, Sugden made an application for a passport at the Registrar-General’s Office in Bindura, where he allegedly used a fake birth certificate with birth entry number GZI 266/74.
While applying for the same document, it is alleged Sugden also used a fake national identity card, bearing registration number 70-0037720-F and it is the State’s case that acting on the misrepresentation, the Registrar General’s Office issued him with a passport which is valid till 2022.
Using the same fake documents, and this time in December 2012, Sugden allegedly applied for yet another passport at the Registrar General’s Office in Chinhoyi where he was issued with a second passport bearing a different name.
The State alleges, when the offence came to light, investigations by the police with the help of the RG’s Office revealed that the birth entry number used by Sugden belonged to Sarudzai Kufa and the identity card number he used belonged to one White Jere.