By Audience Mutema
A HARARE lawyer has been jailed five years after he was convicted for diverting his clients’ funds amounting $57 000 to personal use.
Fred Machokoto (42), of Machokoto and Partners legal practitioners, was sentenced to two and half year’s imprisonment effective by Harare magistrate Victoria Mashamba after suspending half of his sentence conditionally.
He was jointly charged with his partner Pardon Nhokiwa (34) and their law firm.
Nhokiwa and the law-firm were however cleared of any wrong doing after a full trial.
The clients are Tawanda Mugwari, Simbarashe Murerwa, Robert Makwanya and Patience Taurai Mafume Tsvakwi who are sugarcane farmers in lot 3A of Triangle Ranch Farm Chiredzi.
Machokoto once represented the farmers during their wrangle with Triangle Limited.
The lawyer won the case on behalf of his clients and received funds on behalf of the complainants for safe-keeping.
When the farmers asked for the money, Machokoto was said to have become evasive.
However, even though Triangle Limited had paid in full, Machokoto went on to instruct the sheriff to attach Triangle Limited property on the basis that the funds had not yet reflected in their ZB Bank account.
On April 5 2016, Machokoto went to Triangle Limited in Chiredzi in the company of the Sheriff where he demanded payment of $68 098 from them.
The company, in an attempt to avert attachment of its property, made an internal bank transfer from their account held with ZB Bank into Machokoto’s account.
Prosecutor Idah Maromo proved that the offence was committed during the period between April 5 2016 and July 2017.
“Machokoto unlawfully and in violation of a trust agreement which required him to hold trust funds $57 000 held in ZB Bank account and transfer it into Scanlen and Holderness Barclays Bank account upon demand or instruction, instead converted $57 000 to own use and failed to account for it upon demand,” said Maromo.