Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Reporter
The National Prosecution Authority will soon summon former Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu to testify in the $2 billion diamond fraud case in which Core Mining and Mineral Resources director, Lovemore Kurotwi, accused him of soliciting a $10 million bribe.
NPA revealed this yesterday when it successfully sought postponement of the fraud trial of Kurotwi and former Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation chief executive, Dominic Mubaiwa to July 23.
Kurotwi stated in his defence that the woes that he faced were a result of his failure to pay the money that was allegedly being demanded by Minister Mpofu.
Kurotwi and Mubaiwa are being tried on allegations of defrauding government of $2 billion in the diamond deal.
They allegedly misrepresented to the government that Core Mining was a special purpose investment vehicle of an internationally recognised mining giant BSGR.
This resulted in the government partnering an undeserving company to form Canadile Miners to mine diamonds in Chiadzwa.
It later turned out that BSGR had nothing to do with Core Mining and that the company had no capacity to bankroll the massive project as promised.
To that end, the government claims it suffered prejudice to the tune of $2 billion.
However, in their defence, Mubaiwa and Kurotwi raised issues allegedly linking Minister Mpofu to the transactions with some insinuating he had “dirty hands.”
At some point Justice Chinembiri Bhunu described the allegations against the minister as grave and advised the state to summon him to clear his name.
Yesterday state lawyer chief law officer Chris Mutangadura and lawyers representing the suspects, went into the trial judge’s chambers with Mutangadura seeking postponement of the trial to enable him to subpoena Minister Mpofu.
Justice Bhunu granted the application and deferred the trial to July 23 when Minister Mpofu is expected to give evidence.
After the chamber proceedings, Mutangadura confirmed the postponement saying the state wanted to subpoena the minister.
“In the chambers we sought postponement of the matter to enable the state to subpoena former Mines and Mining Development Minister Honourable Obert Mpofu and record a statement from him.
“Justice Bhunu granted the application and the court will resume on July 23 when we intend to bring the witness,” said Mutangadura.
Advocate Lewis Uriri, who was representing Mubaiwa, also confirmed the development.
“Yes the matter was deferred to July 23 and 24 when the State will call Minister Mpofu to testify,” Adv Uriri said.
Adv Uriri said he queried why the state failed to record the statements and subpoena the witness over the past years.
“My client was arrested in 2010 and the state had four years to have done what they now seek to do.
“We wanted an explanation to that but, however, the judge allowed the state to do the formalities to bring the minister to court,” he said.
When the trial of the two opened in March 2012, Justice Bhunu heard defence outlines by the suspects and recommended that the minister should be called to testify.
“After listening to the defence outlines read in this court, I find that there are very serious allegations levelled against the minister.
“His name is being dragged through the mud. The allegations might also be true.
“If none of the parties calls him as a witness, I am inclined to call the minister.
“There are very serious allegations and the minister should come and clear his name,” said Justice Bhunu.
The court heard that Minister Mpofu, on two occasions, asked for money from Kurotwi after the finalisation of the joint venture agreement.
“After signing the MoU, the minister said these words (to my recollection) ‘vakomana ini ndapedza rangu basa. Chindipai mari yangu’.
“Loosely interpreted, he said ‘gentlemen I have done my part, can you now pay me?’
“These words were in reference to a previous communication I had had with him during the negotiation, wherein he alluded to his desire to be paid if there was successful conclusion of an agreement,” Kurotwi said through his lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa.
The court heard that Minister Mpofu persisted with his demand as he demanded again in South Africa that he be paid before the signing of the shareholder’s agreement.
Adv Uriri, on behalf of Mubaiwa told the court that Core Mining was known as the “Minister’s project” and that Minister Mpofu pressurised him to sign the agreement and at times he used threats.
Adv Uriri also told the court that Minister Mpofu was the one who recommended the partnership deal to President Mugabe before the ZMDC board deliberated on other potential investors.