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Zimbabwean Prosecutors Call Key Witness in Hearing on Alleged Diamond Fraud

Prosecutors called Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp. Acting Chairman Godwills Masimirembwa, assigned by Mines Minister Obert Mpofu to investigate Canadile Miners, a government joint venture partner

Six top officials of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp. and a joint venture partner firm spent another night in jail Tuesday after a hearing in which the state produced a key witness who laid out the case against them.

ZMDC Acting Chairman Godwills Masimirembwa, assigned by Mines Minister Obert Mpofu to investigate the operations of Canadile Miners, a joint venture partner with the government in developing the Marange diamond field, said Canadile's parent company, Core Mining and Minerals Resources, entered an agreement with a South African mining company, Benny Steinmetz Group Resources, for BSGR to provide US$2 billion financing for Marange mining operations.

But Masimirembwa told the court Tuesday that the supposed agreement was never signed.

He said Core Mining later signed a different agreement with a ZMDC subsidiary, Marange Resources, to create the new company, Canadile Miners, which was given a license to extract diamonds in the controversial Marange field.

State prosecutors say the information provided to the government at the formation of the company was false or that the six misrepresented the facts to Mpofu, who wrote to President Robert Mugabe informing him incorrectly that BSGR was going to bankroll the Marange operation. Masimirembwa said that in his investigations he came across a South African company by the name of BSGR, but which said it had no dealings with Core Mining.

Earlier the lawyers representing the six accused filed applications for their bail which the state opposed. But Magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe said he would rule on the bail request on Wednesday, when the hearing is to continue.

Meanwhile the High Court was to hear an urgent application on Wednesday filed by one of the six detained officials seeking the enforcement of an order issued Saturday by the same court ordering the state to release him.