By NYASHA DUBE
SOUTH African immigrant Brent Johan Lunt, who was arrested back in Zimbabwe in 2019 for allegedly attempting to smuggle US$240 000 worth of rhino horns has been set free after High Court judge, Justice Samuel Deme, yesterday granted his application for discharge at the close of the State’s case.
According to court documents, Lunt, together with a local man Nyasha Matendawafa, were arrested for allegedly violating the provisions of the Parks and Wildlife Act.
The duo was nabbed after detectives from the CID Minerals, Flora and Fauna division were tipped off that they were in possession of rhino horns that they intended to sell in Msasa, Harare.
The detectives placed them under arrest after they failed to produce the relevant documents that authorised them to be in possession of the trophies.
Their trial commenced before Harare magistrate Barbara Mateko who threw out the duo’s application for discharge despite the State having failed to prove the elements of the offence.
But Lunt approached the High Court challenging magistrate Mateko’s decision to put him to his defence, arguing that the lower court had “wrongfully exercised a discretion which does not exist”.
In his judgment delivered yesterday, Justice Deme argued that the lower court should have discharged Lunt as the State had indeed failed to prove that the trophies recovered were from a protected species of rhinoceros.
“If the State failed to prove that the horns were that of the rhinoceros, one wonders what could be the 1st respondent (Mateko)’s basis for believing that 2nd respondent had established a prima facie case warranting to put the applicant to his defence.
“Once satisfied that the State had failed to prove essential elements of the offence, the first respondent ought to have proceeded to discharge the applicant at the close of the State.”
Justice Deme also noted that Lunt should be discharged as there was no evidence to suggest that he had smuggled the rhino horns.
“Having been satisfied that there is no evidence incriminating the applicant, it is appropriate that an order for the discharge be made as this is in the interest of justice.
‘‘Consequently it is ordered as follows; applicant be and is hereby discharged at the close of the State case.”- Daily News