The inquiry seeking explanation from former police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri on the sale of five properties that were part of the family’s large property portfolio opened at the High Court this week.
Chihuri is being accused of side-tracking US$32 million of public funds into family companies and buying properties during the 25 years he was at the helm of the police force.
He is alleged to have sold five properties between 2017 and 2018, following his unceremonious departure from the police’s apex office.
Among the five properties sold is a well imposed mansion in Gletwyn, sitting on 30 acres of land valued at US$7 million.
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.
Through his lawyer Mr Addington Chinake, the former police chief is seeking to be absolved of any wrongdoing and discharge of the court orders issued to forfeit his properties.
Arguing the matter before Justices Pisirayi Kwenda and Benjamin Chikowero, Mr Chinake attacked the State’s bid to forfeit Chihuri’s properties without affording him a chance to explain his wealth, saying this showed the danger that exists in allowing public officials unfettered power.
He described the action of the State as grossly irrational and unconstitutional. According to Mr Chinake Chihuri owned a company called Kidsdale for 20 years after obtaining a loan from CBZ bank.
The company owned tippers, earth movers and other construction equipment, and had big contracts.
“My client is not a dubious character who suddenly woke up to amass such wealth,” said Mr Chinake.
“It is painful, for example, that the applicant being a beneficiary of the land reform programme was also a farmer producing maize, which he sold to GMB.
“The applicant cannot be said to have obtained money or generated money through improper or elicit means when in fact he has chronicled before this court full details of how he was engaged in banana farming and maize farming which was sold for profit.”
Mr Chinake also accused former Prosecutor General Kumbirai Hodzi, of abusing his powers and harbouring a vendetta against his client.
“The conduct of the PG in our view is irrational and it is unconstitutional,” said Chinake. “When you have such power, you have to exercise it judiciously, fairly and you should give any such person due notice of what you intend to do and affording them opportunity to respond and an opportunity to be heard.”
To this end, Mr Chinake said the PG’s office did not satisfy the requirements for forfeiture of Chihuri’s assets hence the unexplained wealth order was obtained improperly and in an unconstitutional manner. He urged the court to set aside the ‘unexplained wealth orders.”
Earlier on, Justice Kwenda granted an application by Ms Erinah Muchingambi, one of the five people who bought houses from Chihuri shortly before he fled the country, to be joined in the proceedings citing direct and substantial interest into the case.
Ms Muchingambi was sold Number 8 St Aubin’s Chisipite house in Harare, for US$365 000.
Both the defence and State counsel consented to have Ms Muchingambi joined in the counter-application since she was an innocent buyer of the property. She feared to lose her property in the event the property is confiscated by the State. The Chihuri family is expected to also 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 hearing continues on March 29, when the State led by Mr Chris Mutangadura, the National Prosecuting Authority’s chief public prosecutor in charge of the asset forfeiture unit, is expected to make his submissions on behalf of the State.