Daniel Nemukuyu Investigations Editor
Five of the properties owned by former Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and his family, now under investigation for diverting US$32 million of public funds into family companies and buying a large swathe of property, were sold shortly before he left the country in 2017 or last year after he had already left.
Buyers paid a total of US$620 000 for the five properties registered in the names of his family members and the State is still trying to find out how ownership changed in respect of two other assets previously owned by the Chihuris.
Prosecutor General Mr Kumbirai Hodzi has already been granted orders that freeze company and property assets, orders now being disputed by Chihuri, and has filed a fresh application seeking explanation of the sale of the additional properties.
In the latest High Court application countering Chihuri’s recent bid to set aside two orders issued against him, Mr Hodzi said a check with the Deeds Office showed the rushed disposal of assets by the Chihuris.
National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) head of Asset Forfeiture Unit Mr Chris Mutangadura recently filed the counter application of behalf of the State.
Chihuri, his wife Isobel and children — Ethan and Samantha — were listed as respondents together with five companies involved in the alleged siphoning of money from the Police Revolving Fund.
“My inquiry with the Registrar of Deeds’ office and correspondences I received from interested parties, revealed more of how the respondents went on a rampage to dispose of properties that are subject to investigations and possible forfeiture,” said Mr Hodzi.
On July 17, 2018, Isobel Halima Khan Chihuri sold stand 1421 Gletwyn Township which was walled, gated with a borehole, water tank, tank stand and wooden cabin to Brian Chijaka for US$130 000. Her brother Aitken Khan had her power of attorney to make the transaction, reads the application.
Stand Number 1411 Gletwyn was also sold by True Hope Trust again with Khan standing in for his sister but the value of the property is yet to be established.
On March 21, 2018, Khan sold 8 St Aubin’s Chisipite in Harare on behalf of owner Samantha Chihuri to Erinah Muchingami for US$365 000. The property, measuring 9 094 square metres has a four-bedroomed house, with borehole, and is gated and walled.
On August 29, 2017, Khan had sold 784 Strathaven, registered in the name of Nicole Tawonga Chihuri to Fairline Investments Pvt Ltd for US$125 000.
The Chihuri family is expected to disclose how they acquired Lot 3 of Plot 4 of Juliasdale Nyanga, a property worth US$3 860 000 and registered in the names of Samantha Chihuri, Ethan Augustine Chihuri, Nicole Tawonga Chihuri and Anashe Melamine Chihuri under Deed of Transfer 2208/12.
The family should also explain how it originally acquired — 14453 Ibhalabhala Crescent, Selbourne in Bulawayo which was transferred from the ex-police boss’s name into the name of Tendai +Madamombe on July 24, 2018. The buyer resold it in December.
Chihuri is challenging earlier unexplained wealth orders.
The order, which the NPA obtained at the High Court last month, placed known family property in Zimbabwe under the management of the Asset Management Unit of the NPA. This means the property and companies cannot be sold without permission of the courts.
Chihuri, who is being represented by Kantor and Immerman law firm, argues that when the order was granted neither he nor others listed were given any prior notice of the proceedings, nor were given an opportunity to respond to the allegations that allegedly support the unexplained wealth order.
The order is an ex parte order, that is one made without the other party being aware. Such orders provide instant relief, albeit on a temporary basis and usually issued when immediate relief is needed and when scheduling a regular hearing and providing notice to the other party is not feasible.
Chihuri argues that the unexplained wealth order constituted a “gross irregularity and a fundamental breach of their legal rights” and wants the High Court to declare that certain provisions of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act of 2019, infringe the constitution.
In challenging the constitutionality of these provisions in the High Court, Chihuri and his family rely on a constitutional provision that gives courts subordinate to the Constitutional Court the power to make constitutional declarations and to pronounce as invalid, offensive pieces of legislation, although any such finding is subject to confirmation by the Constitutional Court.
Chihuri argues that if for any reason, the High Court does not wish to consider the constitutional matter, then the constitutional questions he is raising should be referred to the Constitutional Court for determination.