11 suspected kidnappers cleared

Source: The Herald – Breaking news.

11 suspected kidnappers cleared

Yeukai Karengezeka

Court Correspondent

The State has withdrawn before trial, charges against preacher Charles Matondo and 10 others, who were facing charges of kidnapping a Chinese national and demanding a ransom of US$120 000.

This was after the complainant, Cheng Song, submitted an affidavit asking the court to withdraw the case, saying he was not kidnapped.

“I kindly request the prosecutor to withdraw the case against all the accused persons. All of them did not kidnap me for ransom and they did not detain me illegally.

“It was purely a financial dispute between us and l was a third party in the dispute,” he said.

The case was withdrawn before Harare magistrate Mr Dennis Mangosi on Friday.

The 11, who were arrested a month ago, were out of custody on US$200 bail each and the trial was supposed to commence last week.

The State had alleged that on April 17 at around 3pm, five of the suspects went to a Chinese restaurant in Belgravia in a white Toyota Fortuner and a Toyota Belta that was being driven by Tendai Notice.

Cheng was at the restaurant having lunch with his friend, Tu Muqing.

When the suspects arrived at the restaurant, they introduced themselves as police officers and claimed that Cheng was under arrest, but did not notify him of his alleged offence.

The court heard that the suspects handcuffed Cheng and forced him into the Toyota Belta and drove away, leaving Tu Muqing behind.

The suspects allegedly took Cheng to a house in Mandara, Harare, where Matondo and four others were waiting for them.

Tu Muqing then phoned Cheng’s cousin, Wang Yanan, informing her that Cheng had been arrested by some “police officers”.

Cheng sent his Google Maps location to Wang through a Chinese WeChat internet platform as he sought assistance from her.

Wang contacted police Superintendent Victor Phiri seeking assistance. Supt Phiri met Wang and on checking the Google Maps location, he discovered that the place was in a bushy area adjacent Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, with no police stations close by.

Wang then received a phone call on her WeChat platform from Cheng who told her that he was being held hostage by the suspects and that they were prohibiting him from using ordinary voice calls or the WhatsApp platform.

Cheng further told her that the suspects were demanding a ransom of US$120 000, which was to be delivered to them to ensure his safe release.

It was alleged that after about 15 minutes, the suspects used Cheng’s cell phone to contact Wang whom they ordered to drive to their location.

Supt Phiri alerted CID Homicide Harare of the kidnapping and extortion attempt, and officers swiftly reacted and waylaid the suspects at the indicated Google Maps location, where some of the suspects were caught before leading detectives to where Chang was being held hostage.