33 216 rounds of ammunition stolen from Zim police armoury

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A suspected Chinese arms dealer and three senior detectives from the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Criminal Investigations Department (CID) have faced charges of stealing 33 216 rounds of ammunition from the police armoury over the past six years.

Woncai Huo appeared before a judge at the Harare Magistrates Court charged with contravening the Firearms Act arising from illegal possession of two Browning shotguns and one CZ pistol, 1 146 x 7.62mm and 29 934 x 7.65mm rounds of rifle ammunition, as well as 323 x shotgun rounds.

The State alleges that Huo, who is out of custody on $2000 bail, bought all the firearms and ammunition from Criminal Investigations Department (CID) officers Detective Assistant Inspector Ananias Machingura, Detective Constable Vengesai Hakunandaba and Assistant Inspector Brian Marufu who allegedly stole them from the ZRP National Armoury in Harare between 2007 and their arrest last month.

The three detectives earlier this week remanded out of custody on $100 bail each and will be back in court for the continuation of the trial on August 20.

Huo faces additional charges of contravening the Gold Trade Act after being found with two bars of gold bullion and other gold objects.

The Chinese national is also separately charged with contravening the Parks and Wildlife Act after being found in possession of 32 pieces of Chinese chess ivory.

Prosecutors accused the three detectives and two other suspected accomplices who are still at large, of operating an arms dealing syndicate which stole firearms and ammunition from the police armoury and sold the weapons to the underworld through its links with a Harare-based arms dealer since 2007.

The prosecution said there are genuine fears that some of the weapons stolen are now in the hands of dangerous criminals like poachers or other individuals who may use them to pose threats to national security.

The accused persons were rounded up last month on implication after the arrest of Huo by police acting on a tip-off suggesting that he was a buyer of arms and ammunition. The trial continues on August 20.