Mutanga up for fraud

HARRE - Harare businessman Bernard Mutanga is back in the dock today on a fraud charge related to his irregular acquisition of Gurlyn Barton A (Gurlyn) Farm in Borrowdale.

While the dispute has been raging between the self-styled property developer and Cecily Jean Macquire’s family since the mid-2000s, the case revolves around the Braitwood Institute of Gemology (BIG) founder’s ownership claims of Twairob Investments (Private) Limited (Twairob) — which in turn owned the land.

As such, Mutanga has been on trial before magistrate Aidonia Masawi for fraud and the falsification of data presented to the deeds office, which enabled him to obtain a copy of the 30-hectare Gurlyn’s title deeds — listed as 194/2004 — in 2012.

According to prosecutor Michael Reza, the controversial businessman “deposited an affidavit claiming that the original deed had been lost” yet he knew it was with Phillip Macquire — one of the deceased pensioner Cecily Jean’s sons.

However, Mutanga has denied the charges and claimed that the complainants (Phillip and his brother Christopher) “are trying to abuse all forums in a bid to grab property owned by Twairob”, and he had executed the transaction in question as the company’s managing director.

The elder Macquire, nonetheless, has disputed this and argued that he has the sole mandate to manage the shelf company’s affairs as the executor of his late mother’s estate.

About two years ago, the Daily News also reported that Mutanga had been arraigned before the courts for allegedly defrauding Intermarket Discount House (IDH) of Z$4 billion over the same issue and plot known as Makomo Farm.

In that case, the 48-year-old businessman reportedly sold Gurlyn to First Mortgage Investments (FMI), despite knowing fully well that he had no title or proper claim to Twairob.

According to the state outline, Mutanga’s theft by false pretences charge related to the land holding’s disposal when the ownership of the investment company was in dispute.

In the same papers, it was alleged that the ex-Bernwin Development Company boss had offered to buy the property from Macquire and went on to change Twairob’s directorship on account of preliminary agreements back then.

“Accused (Mutanga) and… Macquire agreed that before the full purchase price of the property was paid, the accused was supposed to change the property to Twairob… a shelf company… bought from Petros Johnson and Emma Nasho,” a police dossier running 10 years back said.

“Accused paid for capital gains and before he paid the purchase price… he registered Twairob as his,” it said, adding he then caused “the resignation of Johnson and Nasho as directors of the company when they were never directors of the same”.

Despite failing to meet some pre-sale conditions and leading to the cancellation of the initial agreement — an issue which the embattled businessman was amply advised through his lawyers — police investigations established that Mutanga still went on to sale the property.

At the time, the Criminal Investigations Department (CID)’s serious fraud squad not only satisfied itself that the self-styled developer purported to be the Gurlyn owner through fabricated company documents, but went on to receive Z$4 billion from FMI’s sister company IDH without Macquire’s knowledge. The property is now worth about $3 million.

Crucially, the investigation probe also noted that Mutanga had no share certificates to back up his Twairob ownership claim and yet Macquire had two with a face value of 498, and another for two shares under Macquire Farmer (Private) Limited.

“There is no company resolution from… Macquire nor directors of Twairob confirming the transfer of shares to the accused. Gurlyn… is the property owned by… Macquire, and she has title to the property. Accused had no right to sell the property to First Mortgage Investments,” read the CID dossier, adding transfers were thus impossible because the accused knew he was bluffing.

It also emerged during the investigations that Mutanga had even instructed his IFS Real Estate employee Jacob Mugugu to backdate his appointment as a Twairob director to October 2003 and ownership of the same.

At the height of the Maikai Real Estate owner’s battles with the Macquires, a petition — detailing the man’s shenanigans — was even sent to police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri nearly two years ago.

This was at a time Mutanga had even attempted to evict the family through the alleged sale of the same holding to his proxy Munyaradzi Tichaona in July 2013.

In that episode, the BIG proprietor and his allies had threatened to overrun the northern Harare plot, and only to be stopped by police and the courts.

But even, though, a case was opened against him about 10 years ago — just as he has been hauled for several other offences — Mutanga has somehow managed to escape proper legal censure and prosecution.

Comments (1)

Mutanga is con-artist and will remain so until he gives his soul to Jesus Christ. Bernwin collapsed after he swindled desperate home seekers their hard earned monies. Wants to reap where he did not sow!

Guest - 12 February 2015

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