A Zimbabwean court has instructed President Robert Mugabe’s wife to return three properties she seized from a local businessman in a messy dispute over a $1.35-million diamond ring, a lawyer said Thursday.
Grace Mugabe was taken to court by Jamal Ahmed after she took over three of his properties, demanding that he repay the $1.35 million (1.3 million euros) she had paid for a diamond ring that she then decided she did not want.
On Wednesday, Zimbabwe’s High Court ordered Grace to vacate the properties she seized, Ahmed’s lawyer Beatrice Mtwetwa said in a statement.
According to court documents seen by AFP, Ahmed said Grace had made an order for the $1.35 million diamond ring in Dubai.
She “placed an order for a diamond with my daughter in Dubai which she indicated her husband wanted to buy her for their anniversary,” he said.
The first lady “then refused to take delivery of the diamond and instead demanded a full refund.”
Ahmed, who is not currently in Zimbabwe, said he has received threats from officials from Zimbabwe’s spy agency — the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).
“I have been threatened with harm if I return and it is necessary that I get some form of protection,” court documents quoted him as saying.
“If the respondents have a genuine cause of action against me, they have a right to take me to court … without taking the law into their own hands.”
– ‘Reign of terror’ –
Ahmed said the first lady was aware that his business had already incurred the costs of preparing the diamond for its sale.
To avoid trouble the businessman offered to repay the money in instalments and has paid back $150,000 already, he said in court documents.
He also claimed that Grace, together with her son, initiated “a reign of terror and harassment where I was verbally threatened, harassed, insulted and told that I could not do anything to them as they are in fact ‘Zimbabwe’”.
“Threats of taking over my properties in Zimbabwe were also made,” he added.
This is not the first time Grace Mugabe has been involved in a controversial business deal.
In 2011 she was caught in a spat over a $1-million truck deal with South African businessman Ping Sung Hsieh.
Grace, 51, married Mugabe in 1996.
She now heads the ruling ZANU-PF party women’s wing. She has said that she has the right to rule the country, like any other Zimbabwean, and is now among those angling to replace her husband.