A MULTI-AGENCY investigative taskforce has busted a syndicate believed to have smuggled out over six tonnes of gold over the past six years.
BY ANDREW KUNAMBURA/DESMOND CHINGARANDE
Addressing journalists in Harare yesterday, acting Prosecutor-General Kumbirai Hodzi said high-profile people, including a lawyer, magistrates, prosecutors and senior police officers, were part of the alleged sophisticated gold-smuggling ring.
The lawyer and some of the police officers have already been arrested and are awaiting trial, which is set to kick off next week, while the net is closing in on prosecutors and magistrates who are part of the racket.
The taskforce, according to Hodzi, included police detectives, State security agents and officials from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
“Over the last five days, we have broken a ring, one of the most powerful gold-smuggling rings acting together with our partners, including the police and our security agencies.
This ring was quite very sophisticated because it involved members of the police, corrupted members of the NPA, prosecutors, magistrates and lawyers,” he said.
“One of the persons who was organising this smuggling ring was a lawyer and as I am speaking now, he is in police custody. We are going to be very forceful, we are adopting a no-nonsense approach to crime. We now have a good grasp of what has been going on. I am told that this might be the tip of an iceberg. These people had captured the whole justice delivery system, but there will be no sacred cows. We are not going to pull any punches in the manner in which we are going to execute our mandate.”
Hodzi said they had treated the suspected criminals with “kid gloves” over the years, but the game had changed and heads were now rolling.
“We have been treating these people with kid gloves for the past 12 years. They have been depriving the country of its riches and it must now come to an end. The conservative estimate is that they have smuggled about six tonnes of gold over the past six years through our borders. It’s a massive leakage of State resources which can be used for the development of the country and we are saying enough is enough. We need to help our country in the fight against corruption,” he said.
Recently, a police officer was arrested for theft of 28,5kg of gold worth close to $1 million from Plumtree Police Station armoury.
Gold smuggling is classified among many transnational organised crimes involving billions of dollars annually.
The acting PG also urged the media to participate in investigating and exposing economic saboteurs.
“Media is very vital in the prevention of crime. There are some of you, members of the media, who are protecting or you are part of the syndicates. If you are part of the syndicates, we urge you to desist, as we will not hesitate to arrest you,” Hodzi cautioned.
He said they were working round the clock to ensure security of all citizens was guaranteed and, at the same time, fighting corruption at all levels.
The acting PG pledged to change the work culture at the NPA through quality administration of justice.