Transport baron Rudland acquitted

HARARE - Unifreight Africa Limited (UAL) major shareholder Simon George Rudland has been acquitted of a $2 million fraud charge levelled against him by the state.

As well as Harare magistrate Noel Mupeiwa’s move to clear the 43 year-old transport baron, the Zimbabwean businessman’s lawyer Chris Mhike has also confirmed that his client had been discharged after the state had failed to prove its case.

“I can confirm that my client Simon Rudland was acquitted… after our successful application for his discharge at the close of the state’s case,” he told the Daily News yesterday.

“…the presiding magistrate Mr Mupeiwa returned a not guilty verdict after making the finding that the state had failed to establish a prima facie case after calling five state witness,” Mhike said.

The case was instituted after energy trader Future Muvirimi had claimed that Rudland had defrauded him of four properties worth $2,3 million under a fuel financing deal that had gone bad.

Just as it emerged that the former had given the Harare businessman special powers of attorney – over the houses and in case the Downtown Petroleum owner had defaulted on a $1 million loan – one of Rudland’s legal representatives Eric Matinenga had successfully parried the allegations of forgery on his client’s part.

“He (Rudland) is neither a legal practitioner nor a conveyancer,” the senior advocate said late last month.

"Consequently, he could not, in the circumstances, make any misrepresentation to the registrar of deeds for the purposes of transferring the properties…," Matinenga said.

Crucially, the seasoned lawyer had argued that for a man of his stature and means Rudland had – at all material times – acted through legal practitioners whom he had given instructions to effect the transfers in question.

“Legitimate documents for the transfers were tendered (and) there is no allegation of any collusive dealing between the legal practitioner or conveyancer, and the accused,” Matinenga said, adding his client’s “prosecution was malicious”.

According to the state outline, issues arose after Rudland had disposed off the properties – held under Deepstar Investments (Private) Limited and Leonfer Investments, among other entities – and given as collateral security for the loans.

Under that agreement, the bus and haulage investor had duly asked Muvirimi to sign acknowledgement of debt agreements for the properties, which were co-owned with his wife Petronella.

According to the same documents, the former was supposed to sell one or all of the properties in the event Muvirimi defaulted, but on condition that he had first notified the debtor and at a price to be determined by the two parties.

While Rudland insists that Muvirimi had failed to meet his obligations in terms of the agreement, the Downtown owner says the UAL founder had disposed off the properties at below-the-market prices.

In his argument, Muvirimi had accused Rudland of “generating false company resolutions” and authorising himself to sell the properties into his companies’ names.

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