‘Cops hijacked my brand-new Rolls-Royce’

2013-06-30 10:00

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Zimbabwean property mogul Frank Buyanga bought a R4 million Rolls-Royce Ghost three years ago, but still hasn’t had a chance to drive it.

The luxury car has been locked up at the Sunnyside Police Station in Pretoria since it was impounded in December 2010 on its way to Zimbabwe.

Buyanga says his car was “hijacked” by police. Police at the time claimed the car was part of an ongoing investigation. They suspected it was stolen.

Police in Hampshire in the UK, where Buyanga bought it, say the vehicle was never part of any of their investigations, nor was it suspected to be stolen. They didn’t say whether their South African counterparts had asked them about the car.

“I have investigated your query and can confirm that the vehicle you mention is not, and has not, been of any interest to Hampshire Constabulary,” said Inspector Patrick Holdaway, executive officer to the Police and Crime Commissioner in Hampshire.

The Rolls was seized by police on the N1 North near the Pumulani toll plaza while being transported by a trucking company to Zimbabwe.

At the time, police Captain Solly Ngobeni said it was suspected that the vehicle was part of a stolen-car haul by a syndicate led by Buyanga. Ngobeni claimed the syndicate would bring vehicles into South Africa through Durban harbour, take them to Zimbabwe for registration and then bring them back to the country.

In February, the North Gauteng High Court turned down Buyanga’s application to have the vehicle returned. The court relied on an affidavit signed by Ngobeni’s colleague, Nhlane Mashabela, stating that they couldn’t get hold of him.

Mashabela told the court that after the vehicle was impounded, Buyanga failed to give police the Rolls’ ownership papers.

He said Buyanga disappeared on Christmas Eve in 2010 and they couldn’t get close to him because he was under heavy guard before he left South Africa.

It is a claim Buyanga denies. “I met with Ngobeni about seven times during that period and he even took me to the police station to show me the vehicle,” he says. “It’s an absolute lie that I didn’t give them the papers.”

Video footage obtained by City Press shows Ngobeni driving around with Buyanga on several occasions before December 23 2010 in and around Sunnyside. In one of the videos, Buyanga is seen handing over a set of documents to Ngobeni and his superior at their offices.

In one of the videos Ngobeni can be heard asking Buyanga’s driver what type of person he is before taking him to see the Rolls at the police station.

When asked this week if they had misled the court about Buyanga’s failure to hand over documents, police failed to respond, but said they were conducting further investigations.

Meanwhile, police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said police had arrested and charged a suspect with corruption in relation to the vehicle, and he would appear in court on July 10.

The battle for his Rolls-Royce isn’t Buyanga’s only problem. He’s currently fighting an Interpol warrant of arrest issued at the behest of the Zimbabwean government.

Buyanga left Zimbabwe in 2010 and moved to South Africa following charges of fraud, forgery and money laundering. He has hired top Israeli lawyer Nick Kaufman, who has represented Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saadi in his extradition case from Niger, to fight the case.

Kaufman has been quoted as saying the warrant of arrest is political because Buyanga instituted legal action against a government minister in Zimbabwe.

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