In a landmark ruling, the High Court, presided over by Justice Benjamin Chikowero, sentenced former Deputy Finance Minister Terrence Mukupe to a three-year prison term following his conviction on fraud charges. Initially facing a three-and-a-half-year sentence, Mukupe’s term was reduced due to a six-month suspension contingent on good behavior.
Mukupe, along with accomplices Same Kapisoriso, Joseph Taderera, and Leonard Mudzuto, faced similar sentences for their roles in a sophisticated smuggling operation. Justice Chikowero remarked on the premeditated nature of their crimes, emphasizing the gravity and organization behind their fraudulent activities.
In addition to imprisonment, Mukupe is mandated to pay a US$2,780 fine or risk an additional two-year sentence. The judge acknowledged the prolonged anxiety and mental strain experienced by the defendants, citing delays in their trial that were unexplained by the State.
The case centered on a significant smuggling operation uncovered in 2017. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) presented evidence showing the group illicitly imported 138,979 liters of diesel into Zimbabwe without paying the required duties. The contraband was seized by Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) officials at the Chirundu border post, leading to the subsequent arrests.
Justice Chikowero highlighted the extraordinary scale and cross-border nature of the offense, noting its orchestration by an organized criminal group. He stressed the importance of international cooperation in combating such extraterritorial criminal activities.
The court’s decision sends a strong message of deterrence, not just to local offenders but also to potential international conspirators, underscoring the judiciary’s commitment to upholding justice in the face of significant, organized criminal endeavors.