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Farai Rwodzi charged with espionage

by Staff reporter
29 Oct 2011 at 05:21hrs | Views
TWO Africom Holdings bosses and a Harare businessman yesterday appeared in court on espionage charges after they  reportedly illegally set up satellite communication equipment and leaked official secrets to foreign countries, the Herald reported.

Africom acting chief executive Simba Mangwende and non-executive director Farai Rwodzi, together with Oliver Chiku of Global Satellite Systems, are also being charged with contravening Section 33 (i) of the Postal and Telecommunications Act that makes it an offence for one to illegally possess, control or work for a radio station.

The trio allegedly connived to install communication equipment at a yet-to-be-disclosed location and connecting it to the Africom main network system without the authority or knowledge of Africom management and the Post and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe.

It is the State's case that between July this year and Thursday this week, the three sent confidential security information to Canada, the United States and Afghanistan.

The communication system was linked into the Africom system without the knowledge and authority of the company management, the State alleges.

The three - who were represented by Artherstone and Cook, IEG Musimbe and Wintertons law firms - were provisionally remanded in custody to today for a hearing on preliminary arguments.

Harare area public prosecutor Mr Jonathan Murombedzi appeared for the State, while provincial magistrate Mr Munamato Mutevedzi presided over the matter.

Mr Mutevedzi said he will make an effort to seek authority for the court to sit today, but he did not make a promise.

If the matter is not heard today, it will continue on Monday.

Yesterday, the defence team challenged the authority to prosecute presented by Mr Murombedzi during the initial remand in respect of the espionage charge saying it was not signed by the Attorney-General Mr Johannes Tomana.

According to the Official Secrets Act, the AG should authorise the prosecution of such serious matters.

It was the defence's argument that the law did not allow the AG to delegate his power of signing the document after it emerged that one of Mr Tomana's deputies had signed on his behalf.

The defence team argues that the deputy AG, who is said to have signed, did not write his or her name on the document.

Mr Mutevedzi reserved ruling on the prosecuting authority challenge.

The lawyers are yet to make bail applications.

According to the State papers, between July and October 27 this year, the three hatched a plan to send messages to the US, Canada and Afghanistan about confidential data from Government ministries.

It is alleged Chiku, who is connected to a Canadian firm called Juch Tech, invited the company's representatives to Zimbabwe.

Juch Tech is reportedly hostile to the Zimbabwean Government.

While in Zimbabwe, Chiku allegedly organised a meeting with Rwodzi and discussed the installation of satellite dishes and other equipment capable of transmitting Internet voice over the Internet protocol.

The two allegedly agreed and Rwodzi referred Chiku and Juch Tech representatives to Mangwende.

Mangwende, the State alleges, then instructed Africom engineers to install the equipment brought in by Chiku and the Canadians.

The equipment was tested and it was fully operational.

Thereafter, the Canadians left the country and police investigations established that the three had bought the equipment in their personal capacities.

They allegedly operated the system for three months before their arrest.

Espionage is a serious offence which falls under Section 3c (ii) of the Official Secrets Act.

If convicted, one faces a jail term of up to 25 years.

Source - Herald