ACTING President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been sucked into a property wrangle in which a Harare-based Cypriot businessman has invoked his name to wrest a multi-million business complex from his partner.
SENIOR COURT REPORTER
According to documents, the businessman, Paris Olympios, allegedly bragged of being close to Mnangagwa, saying he would use the Zanu PF strongman to elbow out his business partner Brian Jembere from a business venture they jointly owned in Hillside, Harare.
The matter came to light when Jembere and his alleged accomplice, Tichaona Muhonde, were taken to court last Friday on charges of failing to pay capital gains tax to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra).
Olympios, who owns 40% in the disputed company, HER (Pvt) Ltd, is said to have reported Jembere and Muhonde to police for having fraudulently issued share certificates to the firms’ other shareholders without paying capital gains tax.
But in a letter dated January 6 this year addressed to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Muhonde claimed: “Paris Olympios has openly bragged that he has the power of the vice-president behind him hence he will be able to get his way through the system to get the shares back from Brian Jembere for free.
“What I know for a fact is that the wife of the VP (Auxilia) operates a hair dressing saloon at the company premises HER Bonanza, which Paris Olympios has declared that she operates rent-free and must not pay rent at all.
“Further, which I know for a fact is that Paris Olympios also imposed the VP’s child Emmerson (Jr) on the company board of directors for reasons best known to himself without following procedures as other shareholders were not consulted nor did they agree to that appointment.”
Muhonde added: “I am a lawyer and an officer of the court, so I want to rise above politics and focus on the law, but suffice to state that it could be possible that it is because of politics that the police were very active and vicious in this matter allowing Paris Olympios in abusing the police and criminal justice system.
“I do not believe that the vice-president is involved in this and the good name of the VP is being abused and dropped into the arena in order to achieve unfair advantage.”
On Friday last week, Jembere, who holds 50% shares in the disputed business, was summoned to court alongside Muhonde, who is Olympios’ former lawyer and company secretary, to answer to the fraud allegations.
This was after the matter had been referred to the NPA offices, where prosecution was reportedly declined and the parties “directed to go and have a meeting to resolve all the disputes on issues relating to directorship and shares transfers”.
Muhonde dismissed the allegations levelled against them claiming that instead, Olympios’ mother Nitsa Olympios, who sold the 50% company shares to Jembere for $600 000 in 2009, should have paid Zimra its dues, but had shown reluctance in doing so.
“The obligation to pay capital gains tax falls on the taxpayer who is the seller of the shares, Nitsa Olympios who must attend to her taxation obligations at Zimra,” Muhonde said.
“I am shocked that I am now being summoned to be prosecuted for the alleged fraud over a commercial matter, which essentially is a civil dispute between Paris Olympios and Brian Jembere.
“I have taken great exception to Paris Olympios’ serious spurious, malicious and baseless allegations, which merely achieve maligning me and tainting my good name and earned reputation.
“My only crime is that of doing the correct thing and my job correctly as a lawyer and secretary much to the dislike of the complainant, who now accuses me of conniving with his co-shareholder to defraud on shares, simply because his mother did not process the capital gains tax, when she sold the shares to Brian Jembere in 2009.”
Jembere’s lawyer advocate Thembinkosi Magwaliba, who was instructed by Takura Gumbo, said the alleged capital gains saga was simply an abuse of the criminal justice system.
“We went to Harare Magistrates’ Court on Friday last week when my clients received the summons, but for some reasons we were referred to Mbare Magistrates’ Court, where the magistrate refused to entertain the matter on the question of jurisdiction,” he said.
“In fact, she (the magistrate), in her own words, stressed that she did not want to be part of the circus. We are now waiting for the NPA to issue us with new summons if they still want the matter to be prosecuted.”