Riaz Jakhura of Speedy’s Car Sales Limited, who had allegedly fled the country when the police wanted him to answer criminal charges, finally appeared before the Blantyre Principal Resident Magistrate Court on Tuesday, November 22, 2022 and took plea.
Jakhura pleaded not guilty to four counts of criminal trespass, intimidation, assault occasioning bodily harm, and theft of motor vehicle. His co-accused are Bashir Osman Adams, who is Director at Adams Car Hire Limited, the General Manager for Speedy’s Limited, Jayaraj Gopalani, and Financial Controller, Priyal Chaninda Fernando.
Since the filing of the charge sheet in court early this year, only the three accused persons had appeared before court and took plea. The three pleaded not guilty to all the charges on September 5, 2022 before Principal Resident Magistrate Godfrey Balaka.
On that date, Jakhura was nowhere to be seen and his lawyer, Lusungu Gondwe of Ritz Associates, informed the court that he had failed to communicate to his client on the date of plea taking because his client was feeling unwell. It later transpired that Jakhura had travelled abroad allegedly to seek medical attention. Jakhura left the county on September 2, 2022 despite having full knowledge that he was required to enter plea.
The State applied for a Warrant of Arrest in respect of the first accused, Jakhura, arguing that he was deliberately evading his trial by bringing excuses whenever the date is set for the case. In his ruling on the State’s application on October 24, 2022, the magistrate denied the application, saying, “We have also considered the arguments made for and against in this application. It is the considered view of this court that we give the defence a benefit of doubt by not issuing a warrant of arrest against the first accused person. However, the same should be a warning to him that if the summons are again disobeyed, a warrant of his arrest shall be issued”.
On Tuesday, the State, represented by Regional Prosecution Officer, Superintendent Damian Kaputa, paraded one witness out of the five that will testify in court against the four accused persons. Since courts will soon going on recess following the upcoming festive season, the magistrate adjourned the matter until February next year.
On December 24, 2021, Riaz Jakhura, in the company of the three, allegedly stormed into a private residence of businessman Mahmood Chaudhry at Mount Pleasant in Blantyre where they demanded a Mercedes Benz vehicle that he (Jakhura) had imported from the United Kingdom on behalf of Chaudhry.
The vehicle was worth over K60 million and Chaudhry claims he paid the price and attendant payments to Jakhura. Chaudhry alleges that later, Jakhura brought up extra bills and when Chaudhry demanded a valid explanation, Jakhura threatened to confiscate the car from him although the car had already been registered in the client’s name.
When Chaudhry refused to surrender the car, Jakhura and his friends sped away with the vehicle using a duplicate key. Blantyre Police arrested the three other suspects and kept them at Chilomoni Police Station before they were released on bail by the Mbulumbuzi Magistrate’s Court on January 9, 2022 on condition that each accused person be bonded at K500, 000; each to produce one surety bonded at K500, 000 not cash; they surrender their travel documents; should not interfere with State investigations; and they should not visit the complainant’s house.