Pay up or face jail, Pandey told

HARARE - Controversial trader Dinesh Pandey faces a three months jail term over an unpaid $140 000 debt to Cosmic Resources (Private) Limited (Cosmic) – unless he repays the money, the High Court has said.

This comes as the Indian businessman has been fighting tooth-and-nail to avoid serious legal sanctions over the debt, which arises from a fraudulent 2010 gold mine investment deal involving the Nandlal Goenka-led company.

“An order of civil imprisonment for a period of 90 days to be lodged at the Harare Central Prison is hereby granted against defendant (Pandey) for being lawfully indebted to plaintiff in the sum of $140 000,” Justice Priscillah Chigumba said in a November 20 ruling.

“The order in paragraph (I) is suspended on condition the defendant pays the sum of $20 000 by the 30th of November 2013 and thereafter… $10 000 per month by the 30th of each, and every subsequent month until the full amount is paid,” she said.

“The order… will remain in operation until defendant pays plaintiff… by virtue of judgement of this court dated 13th February 2013 in case number 13958/12 together with interest at the prescribed rate from 5th December 2012, the taxed costs and the further costs of the application for the order.”

While the Elkhart Mine (Private) Limited (Elkhart) owner has largely escaped censure and scrutiny from authorities about he acquired his Zimbabwean citizenship, he has also been battling fraud-related extradition proceedings from his native India and Thailand in charges dating back to the 1990’s.

Chigumba’s judgement comes as Goenka had clearly demonstrated in a July 2012 affidavit that Pandey had twice attempted to defraud him by inflating the acquisition price of Sirius Mine (Sirius) mine Selous – held through Prowick Investments – and other acquisitions in Guruve, and Darwendale.

Although the latter had signed an acknowledgment of debt in June last year, he had chosen to dodge, if not neglect, the obligation altogether.

And as the embattled debtor tried to wriggle out of the mess – by pulling in his government allies and presumed co-Elkhart investors – a damning dossier about Pandey’s chequered history and conduct was sent to Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi.

“As it is, Pandey faces the broader allegation that he convicted on serious bank fraud… in Thailand in early 1990s, managed to secure bail and which he then skipped by going back to India. While there (in his native India), he allegedly defrauded a number of other people in the diamond industry, especially varying sums ranging from $40 million to $60 million. For instance, a Surat called Jaitin Mehta was among his victims as he lost nearly $4 million in gem deals, which never materialised,” it said. In addition, the letter projects the sneaky businessman as a fugitive from justice.

Despite all this, the Daily News reported in July that President Robert Mugabe’s government was quivering about probing Pandey’s residence status.

According to the same dossier, the controversial businessman was once arrested on a plane in Mumbai – while trying to leave for Harare – but managed to escape for Zimbabwe in 1995 where he acquired his papers in 2000.

A multiplicity of September 2011 indictments from India also say the runaway businessman allegedly swindled Thai investors of $4,5 million-plus through his White Gems Company Limited in 1998.

And in the Zimbabwean cases, the cunning businessman not only bilked his erstwhile partners by over-inflating the asking prices of several mining assets, but he had even tried to outmanouvre some sitting shareholders, especially in Sirius mine, through various schemes.

According to Goenka – chairman of a Bombay-listed gold and gem trading company – he had transferred monies totalling $740 000 to Pandey’s local accounts, but the money never reached its intended destination.

And prior to the latest High Court ruling, the swaggering businessman had gone on a counter and whereby he accused his ex-business partner of a number of transgressions, especially related to the operation of the gold mines.

Among the litany of serious allegations thrown at Goenka was that he was understating bullion production and earnings at his Sirius mine, and that he had booted out his empowerment partners, including Kaitano Mugabe and senior government official Anne Knuth, when this was not the case.

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