The trial of four men accused of fraudulently importing a Land Rover Discovery 4 from South Africa on behalf of Prophet Walter Magaya’s Prophetic Healing and Deliverance (PHD) Ministries took a new turn yesterday with a police officer from the Vehicle Theft Squad (VTS) disputing the authenticity of the transfer of ownership form used to register the vehicle.
Detective Sergeant Wellington Shato of Bulawayo VTS told the court in the trial of Upenyu Mashangwa and three others that the transfer of ownership form used to register the Land Rover Discovery 4 had also been used to clear a VW Golf hatchback on behalf of the government.
Mashangwa is jointly charged with Cosmas Mushininga, Kudakwashe Larry Mapfumo and Clifford Tinashe Gonde for defrauding the church of $116 000 in a botched deal to import the Land Rover from South Africa or alternatively smuggling and failure to pay duty for the vehicle.
Shato in his evidence in chief told the court that the form reference number, 2345/14 used to clear the PHD car was, according to the Bulawayo VTS registration board, also used to clear a VW Golf hatchback.
“I physically checked the vehicle and signed the form, but I realised the car that I cleared was a VW Golf hatchback not a Land Rover Discovery 4,” said Shato.
He added, “The part on the form on change of ownership is not proper because the car referred to here was a government vehicle PL047 and therefore if it was change of ownership, its previous registration and owner should have been filled on the form.”
“The change of ownership register on which is captured all information shows that Aaron Gadzira and I cleared a VW Golf, not a Land Rover,” Shato said.
He, however, admitted that the signature on the form was his, but the other details filled in were not correct and questioned the authenticity of the VTS stamp on the form.
However, the defence lawyers objected to the tendering of the extract of the VTS change of ownership register saying that they needed to inspect the whole book first.
Regional magistrate Noel Mupeiwa upheld their objection and ordered the State to bring a longer version of the extract for the period September to October 2014 when the reference number was used.
The trial continues today with Zimra official Simbarashe Chinyongo, the investigating officer and Tendai Magaya expected to testify.