ACR has case to answer: Court

HARARE - A High Court judge has dismissed an application to quash charges against a British-registered company, African Consolidated Resources Private Limited (ACR), accused of illegally mining diamonds in Marange.

ACR is accused of fraud or alternatively contravening the Precious Stones Trade Act.

It is alleged that between April and June of 2006, ACR misrepresented to the ministry of Mines and Mining Development that its subsidiaries, Heavy Staff Investments, Olible Investments (Pvt) Limited and Possession Investments Services were qualified to obtain mining claims.

According to court papers ACR, through the misrepresentation, managed to obtain certificates of registration when it knew the said companies were non-existent.

On the alternative charge, ACR is accused of being in unlawful possession of 129 031, 87 diamond carats, yet it did not have a valid licence.

ACR is further accused of buying diamonds from illegal miners in Marange.

It is alleged ACR’s subsidiaries were only registered after the company had already obtained certificates of registration for the mining claims.

“Following several enquiries from the ministry of Mines and Mining Development concerning the activities at the mining location, the accused (ACR) claimed that no mining was taking place,” reads part of the court papers.

ACR filed an application for exception, arguing the matter was subject to civil litigation.

The matter is also still to be determined by the Supreme Court, after High Court judge Charles Hungwe’s ruling validating the mining claims was challenged.

“It is the accused’s contention that until the appeals before the Supreme Court are determined, it will be prejudiced or embarrassed in its defence to the criminal charges,” ACR told the court in the application.

However, in his Friday ruling, High Court judge Joseph Musakwa said prejudice or embarrassment must relate to an accused’s inability to formulate a defence on account of imperfections in the charge.

“The remedy for the accused may well have been to seek a stay of execution of proceedings whilst awaiting the outcome of the appeals. However, this is not the issue before me. Accordingly, the exception is hereby dismissed,” said Musakwa. - Tendai Kamhungira

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