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Land developer in dock for fraud

News
THE trial of a Harare housing developer, Georgios Katsimberis, who is accused of fraud, started yesterday after his application for referral of the matter to the Constitutional Court was dismissed by magistrate Letwin Rwodzi last week.

BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE

THE trial of a Harare housing developer, Georgios Katsimberis, who is accused of fraud, started yesterday after his application for referral of the matter to the Constitutional Court was dismissed by magistrate Letwin Rwodzi last week.

Katsimberis is accused of duping Pokugara Properties (Pvt) Limited of close to US$1 million in a joint venture to build cluster houses in Harare’s Borrowdale suburb.

The contractor, who was represented by Tendai Biti, filed an application for exception saying the facts did not disclose an offence.

Biti submitted that there was no complainant in the matter as Katsimberis financed the showroom, which was later demolished by City of Harare.

He argued that the matter was a dispute of shareholding, which could not be criminalised.

“You don’t take the law into your own hands. How do you destroy a US$300 000 house without a court order? This is the criminalisation of a private commercial dispute,” Biti told court.

But the State, represented by Michael Reza, submitted that Katsimberis misrepresented to the complainant, which caused prejudice to him.

“If his misrepresentation causes prejudice to another person or is potentially prejudicial to another person, he must know that even potential prejudice is a crime,” Reza said.

He said the joint venture agreement involved land with 13 residential stands valued at US$800 000 and that was the prejudice the complainant suffered.

The prosecutor submitted that Katsimberis was not told to build just a house, but a properly approved building with an approved plan and quality material.

“The accused just built a showroom without approved plan or structural guarantees and statutory requirements after he undertook an agreement to build an approved house. He proceeded to build a showroom without approved plan and materials used were of cheap quality,” Reza said.

He said the plan submitted in court as exhibit was not signed by the chief building inspector.

Reza said there was a witness who would testify in the trial, who told Katsimberis to go and see an architect, but he did not do so and proceeded to build the showroom.

“We have the correct accused person in the dock as opposed to Biti’s assertion that he is not the right person to be accused,” Reza added.

He said the destruction of the showroom was a triable issue and that 95% of submissions made by Biti were triable.

“They must be tested by an impartial tribunal, which is this honourable court,” he said.

The trial was postponed to July 6 for continuation.

Follow Desmond on Twitter @DChingarande