By Fidelis Munyoro
Three suspects allegedly involved in a $7 million tax fraud in the United States will not be extradited to that country to face trial because the extradition treaty between Zimbabwe and US is invalid, the High Court has ruled. The Marimbire brothers – Chris and Julius – along with Andrew Tashanduka Bere, were facing imminent arrest as police last week launched a manhunt for the trio.
They are wanted in the US in connection with the $7 million tax fraud case.
In a bid to stop their imminent arrest, the Marimbe brothers yesterday filed an urgent chamber application with the High Court to stop the police from taking them into custody before their extradition to the US to face trial.
The duo named Commission-General of Police Mr Godwin Matanga, Prosecutor-General Advocate Ray Goba and Home Affairs Minister Dr Obert Mpofu as defendants in the application.
Justice David Mangota granted the application by the Marimbire brothers, who were being represented by Advocate Tawanda Zhuwarara.
“The arrest and detention of applicants (Marimbe brothers) for purpose of extradition to USA is unlawful,” said Justice Mangota.
He said although Zimbabwe and the US had got an extradition treaty signed in 1999, that treaty was not incorporated in the country’s law as required by the Extradition Act.
The ruling means no criminal suspects can be extradited to the US because Zimbabwe has not complied with its Extradition Act.
One of the Marimbire brothers, Tawanda, and co-conspirator Kudzaishe Robert Bungu were jailed 70 months and 27 months in prison, respectively, for their roles in a tax fraud scheme that netted millions of dollars. In early 2012, the Secret Service and IRS began investigating a large ring of individuals around the Cincinnati community who were using stolen identities to file fraudulent income tax returns, from which they stole the tax refunds.
Members of the ring purchased stolen identities for thousands of actual taxpayers through illicit online forums and from accomplices.
Kudzaiishe Marimbire was alleged to be the head of the scheme.
Most of the stolen funds, according to the USA authorities, were laundered and sent to Zimbabwe.
In April 2012, US government agents executed a search at several locations and seized numerous luxury cars, computers and tax documents.
They also found more than $1 million in cash and money orders in a storage locker used by the Marimbire ring.
Several members of the group immediately fled the Cincinnati area.
Kudzaiishe Marimbire, Hlomera Mabhande, Andrew Bere, and Julius Marimbire fled to Zimbabwe and are regarded as fugitives in the US.
Tawanda Marimbire was arrested days after the search as he attempted to cross the Canadian border with about $76 000 in cash, while Johannes Tagarisa was arrested in Atlanta months after the seven were indicted in September 2012.