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THE High Court on Wednesday referred the case of five of six diamond executives charged with fraud to the Supreme Court while ordering the release of the sixth and alleged mastermind of the swindle.

Magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe said Lovemore Kurotwi, the head of Canadile Miners, should be released without charge because police failed to bring him to court within four days following his arrest.

High Court Judge President George Chiweshe issued an order last Saturday directing police to arraign mining company executive Lovemore Kurotwi or release him.

Chiweshe was ruling on an urgent application by Kurotwi who with five others is accused of a US$2 billion fraud in connection with mining concessions in the Marange diamond field granted to Canadile Miners of South Africa.

The magistrate was compelled to release Kurotwi on the strength of that order.
 
The state agreed to bail conditions for five of the six accused diamond executives.

The executives from two firms were arrested last week on suspicion of fraudulently obtaining a licence to mine gems in the controversial Marange fields.

The five ordered detained include Dominic Mubayiwa, CEO of the government-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), which formed a joint venture with South African firm Core Mining Minerals to form Canadile.

The defendants are accused of duping the government into believing that a non-existent South African firm was ready to invest US$2 billion in Zimbabwe in order to obtain a licence for Canadile Miners.

The accused men say the dispute is a "simple contractual matter", lawyer Lewis Uriri said.

"The fraud charges will not stick," he added.

Zimbabwe has contracted three firms -- South Africa's New Reclamation Group (Mbada), China's Anjin and Canadile -- to mine in the Marange fields, believed to be the cash-strapped country's largest diamond find in a decade.

Last week the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) met in Israel and failed to agree whether to allow Zimbabwe to sell gems from Marange, after claims of forced labour and torture at the mines.

Zimbabwe has said it will sell the diamonds with or without the Kimberley seal of approval.


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