Man linked to Gono faces 5 year jail for cocaine in Australia

MELBOURNE, Australia – Prosecutors have recommended up to five years jail for a privileged member of Zimbabwean society over his involvement in cocaine importation to Melbourne.\r\n

A court heard Mandivamba Batsiari Rukuni’s early life in Zimbabwe partly comprised a private education, not having to work, playing golf and chasing girls.

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After he arrived in Australia seven years ago as an 18-year-old, the “gifted” Rukuni “had the world at his feet” with a university degree and accommodation with the children of the governor of Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank.

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But Rukuni’s lawyer today told the County Court that this arrangement caused tension between him and the governor’s children with people in Australia and Zimbabwe.

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Sam Norton said some blamed the governor for Zimbabwe’s once-22,000 per cent inflation rate while others criticised Rukuni through Facebook and the internet for living with his children.

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Mr Norton said it was intimated to Rukuni by those in Zimbabwe that “we are all doing it very tough while you continue to live it up”.

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“The pressure of this led him to go out on his own,” said Mr Norton, a lifestyle change he submitted led to 18 months of binge drinking and heavy marijuana use, which included taking ice and cocaine.

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Rukuni, he said, had “nagged” his parents, including his father, who is a professor, to allow him to visit Australia after an “almost sheltered lifestyle” in Zimbabwe and being “naive how the world at large operates”.

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But after completing a bachelor of commerce degree in 2009 and jobs in hardware and telemarketing he took to smoking seven grams of marijuana a day.

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Mr Norton said it was the man who supplied Rukuni the marijuana, and to whom he owed a debt, who involved him in the cocaine importation.

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Prosecutor Elli Lewis told the court that a package sent from Argentina was selected in Sydney for a routine examination on November 1 last year by customs.

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Ms Lewis said the package tested positive to cocaine before its contents were checked and found to contain 241 grams of cocaine with a purity of 172 grams.

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Rukuni was arrested by Australian Federal Police at a Pakenham post office on November 8 when he called to collect the package.

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She said the estimated street value of the cocaine was between $68,000 and $84,000.

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Mr Norton said a psychologist reported that at the time of his arrest Rukuni’s perception, judgment and reasoning were compromised.

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Told that Rukuni had travelled around Australia and had “not sought to laze about Melbourne”, Judge Howard Mason responded: “He’s not been sitting around feeling depressed and sorry for himself, he’s been enjoying himself.”

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But Mr Norton replied that Rukuni had also been “living on peoples’ lounges” from Greensbrough to Frankston and that it was not “a simple situation of him living it up, so to speak”.

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He argued that it was open for Judge Mason to jail Rukuni, formerly of Burwood, who pleaded guilty to attempting to possess a marketable quantity of cocaine, to the six months served since his arrest.

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But Ms Lewis offered a sentencing range of between three to five years with a non-parole term of between two and three years.

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He will be sentenced on May 31. – The Sunday Observer