PROSECUTORS yesterday said prominent lawyer Thabani Mpofu faced up to 20 years in jail if convicted of charges of corruption and defeating the course of justice he is facing.
Mpofu, who is also opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s lawyer, appeared before chief magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi and was granted $20 000 bail and ordered to report at Highlands Police Station once a week. He was remanded to July 10.
In 2017, Mpofu allegedly connived with then Venturas and Samukange Legal Practitioners’ professional assistant Everson Samukange to divert legal representation of a client from the law firm to Chamisa’s attorney.
Mpofu had been engaged by the law firm to represent the client in a legal case.
The law firm allegedly lost US$6 000
Mpofu is also alleged of having acted in connivance with Goodlucky Tapiwa Makanza and Choice Damiso to file a Constitutional Court application challenging Prosecutor-General Kumbirai Hodzi’s appointment using a “non-existent” person called Simbarashe Zuze.
According to court papers, after Zuze’s application was thrown out on February 6, last year, Mpofu together with Joshua Chirambwe and Lawman Chimuriwo filed another application the following day. They reportedly plagiarised contents of the affidavit in Zuze’s case.
Opposing Mpofu’s admission to bail, prosecutor Michael Reza yesterday had argued that there were high chances that the top lawyer would abscond if freed.
“There is a very sad happening taking place in our country, a big number of accused persons are coming to court, being granted bail and never come to stand their trial
“The maximum prison term is 20 years, level 14 fine or both. The quantity and quality of evidence that the police have so far found is such that this is a case easier to secure a conviction. Twenty years will persuade any person to run away,” Reza said.
He said the investigating officer had made an effort to contact Mpofu to come to the police station, but he did not comply.
“A lawyer subsequently called the investigating officer and said I understand you are looking for my client and I will bring him, but that never happened. The investigation officer called the lawyer again and was told efforts would be made, but that was the last communication with that particular lawyer.
“The following day, another set of lawyers including (Beatrice) Mtetwa went to the police station and made a request to be told what charges Mpofu would face before bringing him, but the police declined. They eventually brought the accused person to court and police were lying in wait for the accused person,” he said.
Reza said as a lawyer, Mpofu had an obligation to visit the police after he heard they were looking for him.
However, Mpofu’s lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa argued that the State’s case was weak.
“It would be most unusual for him to get 20 years on a case that is clearly the weakest link of all and when they have not aerated the agent of Samukange who knows how the money ended up with him. This cannot constitute an exceptional circumstance,” she said.
She said judicial notice must be taken to the effect that law firms were not principals of advocates.
“Once it is accepted that he was briefed by Everson acting for him on behalf of the law firm and once he was paid his fee that ought to have been the end of the matter. The investigating officer has not attempted extracting something to come up with what constitutes connivance or diverting a transaction. Whatever arrangements Venturas had with Everson has nothing to do with the accused.
“There has been no suggestion that he was paid from proceeds of crime. Clearly the connivance is completely unclear … because he did not do anything wrong and the weakness of first count becomes apparent and there will be absolutely no reason for any lawyer to fail to attend trial faced with such weak allegations,” she said.
Meanwhile, MDC Alliance youth leader Obey Sithole, who is charged with gathering with intent to promote public violence, was also freed on $1 000 bail