Businessman guilty of defrauding US$1 mln from Rudland

By Agencies

A Harare businessman Luka Ignatius Fabris has been convicted of defrauding a colleague US$1 million in a botched business deal.

Fabris, a co-director of Spartan Security (Pvt) Ltd was convicted alongside his company and is out of custody awaiting sentencing.

The State alleged he defrauded Leigh Ann Patricia Rudland who had invested in Spartan Security.

Fabris was the second accused, charged in his capacity as one of the directors at Spartan Security.

Harare magistrate Feresi Chakanyuka said the State’s evidence cannot be faulted.

“The quality of single witness evidence plays a critical role especially if the evidence is clear and satisfactory.

“The court finds no reason for the complainant to lie against the accused,” she said.

The magistrate said there is no paper trail of the money paid back to the complainant proving that Fabris was guilty.

During cross-examination by defence lawyer Joseph Nemaisa Rudland agreed that she deposited ZW$ and also agreed that the currency was susceptible to inflation.

Rudland however insisted on compensation because the agreement stated that she would be paid in USD.

During trial, no evidence was submitted by the State to prove that she only received the US$540 000.

However, evidence of the US$4,8 million deposited into Spartan account was tendered.

In his defence, Fabris said they had an arrangement to change a bank transfer into cash and that the cash lost value because of inflation.

It was the State’s case that in 2019, Fabris, acting on behalf of his company approached Rudland and told her that the company was involved in very profitable cattle ranching.

He lured her to invest in the business and promised her that she would get two percent of her total investment every month.

Rudland, who had her money banked with her lawyers, instructed her lawyers to transfer some money into Fabris’ bank account so on March 21, 2019, Rudland’s lawyers transferred ZW$4 800 000.

The two agreed that the money was equivalent to US$1 000 000 at the prevailing bank rate at that time.

However, after Rudland made her investment she only received US$540 000 in total returns and thereafter Fabris stopped giving her her dues.

Fabris in his defence agreed that the two had an arrangement to change a bank transfer into cash and that the value of the cash fell because of inflation. He denied the fraud charge arguing that he paid Rudland all her money and was no longer indebted to her.

He contended that the deal had nothing to do with any investment and was simply an arrangement with Spartan for Rudland to convert a $4,8 million electronic transfer into $4,8 million in local currency cash with a one percent deduction by Spartan.

Fabris said Rudland had to collect her cash in batches per her instructions and by the time she collected the last batch of cash, her money had lost value due to inflation and the complainant started to demand compensation for the inflation-inflicted loss, which directors of the company declined as it would amount to the unjust enrichment of the complainant.

Fabris contended that the matter was civil but she chose to seek recourse in the criminal justice system.

Anesu Chirenje prosecuted.

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