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Tsvangirai’s lawyer exposes Ben Menashe’s unfulfilled government contracts

George Bizos, the lead lawyer for Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, trashed Ari Ben Menashe’s credibility when he exposed that he had signed a number of contracts with governments for which he was paid but never delivered.

Ben Menashe was the key state witness in the treason trial of Tsvangirai, MDC secretary general Welshman Ncube and legislator Renson Gasela who were facing treason charges for allegedly plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe.

Bizos showed that Ben Menashe had been paid US$7 million to deliver maize to Zambia but no corn was delivered.

He was also paid US$300 000 to deliver wheat to Belorussia but he did not deliver.

He was paid US$262 000 to deliver rice to Ghana but the deal reportedly went sour and he did not deliver.

The contracts were signed with Ben Menashe’s company called CSC. He was also a director of Dickens and Madson which was allegedly hired to arrange the assassination of Mugabe.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 03HARARE313, TSVANGIRAI TRIAL: BEN-MENASHE CROSS-EXAMINATION

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE313

2003-02-12 14:12

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000313

 

SIPDIS

 

LONDON FOR CGURNEY

PARIS FOR CNEARY

NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JENDAYI FRAZER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/12/2013

TAGS: PGOV PHUM ZI

SUBJECT: TSVANGIRAI TRIAL: BEN-MENASHE CROSS-EXAMINATION

 

REF: HARARE 259

 

Classified By: political section chief Matt Harrington. Reasons: 1.5 (

B) and (D).

 

Summary

——–

 

1. (C) The treason trial of Movement for Democratic Change

(MDC) officials Morgan Tsvangirai, Welshman Ncube, and Renson

Gasela entered its eighth day on February 12. Since February

6, defense counsel has subjected the state’s star witness,

Ari Ben-Menashe, to an intensive cross-examination, a process

which has not yet concluded.   Lead defense attorney George

Bizos has questioned Ben-Menashe about a number of contracts

with foreign governments which he apparently did not fulfill

but for which he nonetheless received payments. Presiding

judge Paddington Garwe has ruled that Ben-Menashe must answer

questions — in camera — regarding the contract he signed

with the Government of Zimbabwe, specifically what payments

he received for what activities. Ben-Menashe has engaged in

outrageous behavior in court, dismissing questions he did not

want to answer and using inappropriate language, but the

histrionics have played into Bizos’s successful attempts to

portray the witness as an unscrupulous conman.

 

Ben-Menashe’s contract with Government of Zimbabwe

——————————————— —–

 

2. (U) As reported reftel, Ben-Menashe had acknowledged

signing a contract with the Government of Zimbawe for

provision of public relations services on January 10, 2002,

shortly after the infamous videotape of MDC leader Morgan

Tsvangirai was made public, and that he had received

 

SIPDIS

U.S.$400,000 for services rendered. On February 7, defense

counsel George Bizos asked Ben-Menashe to clarify what

services he had provided. Ben-Menashe declined to answer,

citing confidentiality, sparking two days of arguments by

both sides as to whether he could be compelled to answer that

question. On February 10, the prosecutor produced a letter

from Minister of State for National Security Nicholas Goche

stating that forcing Ben-Menashe to discuss the contract

details would compromise Zimbabwe’s national security. Bizos

countered with an argument that excluding such testimony

would violate his clients’ constitutional right to a fair

trial. On the morning of February 12, Judge Garwe finally

ruled that Ben-Menashe would have to testify regarding this

contract but that, given the potential damage to national

security, cross-examination would take place in camera.   The

courtroom was immediately cleared of outside observers and,

as of midday on February 12, the trial was proceeding in

camera.

 

Unfulfilled contracts with governments

————————————–

 

3. (U) Bizos has successfully used much of his

cross-examination to impugn Ben-Menashe’s credibility. One

particular focus has been contracts signed between CSC, a

company led by Ben-Menashe, and a number of foreign

governments for provision of grains. Ben-Menashe admitted,

for instance, signing a contract with Zambia to provide corn.

He insisted, however, that no corn was ever delivered

because the contract was terminated by the Government of

Zambia, and that the U.S.$7 million he received from the

Government of Zambia was for provision of other services —

which he refused to specify.   Asked to comment on a

significant judgment issued against him in the London court

of arbitration for failing to fulfill that contract,

Ben-Menashe merely repeated several times that “that was

because we had no legal counsel present.” Asked whether he

had signed a contract to provide wheat to Belorussia,

Ben-Menashe said “no,” but did acknowledge, after being

pressed, that that topic had been discussed. Bizos asked

whether CSC had been paid U.S.$300,000 from the government of

Belorussia, Ben-Menashe answered in the affirmative but

insisted the payment was for other services provided. What

services had he provided for that payment, Bizos asked. He

was not at liberty to say, Ben-Menashe replied. Asked why

not if it had been for legitimate purposes, Ben-Menashe said

“sometimes governments don’t want such information to become

public.”

 

4. (U) Ben-Menashe acknowledged being paid U.S.$262,000 by

the Merchant Bank in Scotland for delivery of rice to Ghana.

Asked whether that rice had ever been delivered, Ben-Menashe

claimed that it was immediately returned when the deal “went

sour.”   Asked how long he had kept that money before

returning it, Ben-Menashe claimed not to remember. Bizos

inquired whether the bank in Scotland had instituted legal

proceedings against CSC to reclaim its money. Yes,

Ben-Menashe replied, but that had been “a mistake.”

MDC-Dickens & Madson contract

—————————–

5. (U) Bizos also focused on the contract signed between

Ben-Menashe, on behalf of Dickens and Madson, and the MDC, in

which Dickens and Madson undertook to strengthen the MDC’s

international linkages and improve the party’s international

image.   Ben-Menashe insisted that Rupert Johnson — who

introduced him to the defendants — was not a director of

Dickens and Madson, as indicated on the contract, and said

the contract had been drawn up by Johnson and presented to

him. Why then, Bizos asked, had Ben-Menashe signed a

contract in which Johnson was listed as a company director?

Ben-Menashe replied that he hadn’t read the contract

carefully. Did Ben-Menashe normally sign contracts involving

large sums of money without reading them? “Sometimes” was

the reply. If Johnson were not an employee of Dickens and

Madson, Bizos continued, why would he draw up a contract

promising to put U.S.$20,000 in Dickens and Madson’s bank

acount as an advance payment? “Why don’t you go ask him?”

Ben-Menashe retorted.   Bizos asked whether Ben-Menashe had

claimed to Rupert Johnson that he was “loyal” to the GOZ and

said that Mugabe was his friend. ABM acknowledged saying

only that he knew Mugabe, that he sympathized with the GOZ’s

land reform program, and that he knew a number of senior GOZ

officials from his previous work in Zimbabwe. If Ben-Menashe

was so open about his close relationship to the GOZ, Bizos

asked, why would the MDC have trusted him to carry out an

assassination plan against Mugabe?   Ben-Menashe, not

surprisingly, had no convincing reply.

 

Garwe’s conduct

—————

 

6. (C) Ben-Menashe continues to put on quite a show in the

witness box, screaming at Bizos when asked questions he

doesn’t want to answer, interrupting Garwe, and using

inappropriate language, including calling Tsvangirai a

“scumbag.” Garwe appears to be treating him with kid gloves,

reminding him often — but meekly — that he is in a

courtroom and needs to act appropriately. Garwe seems

uncomfortable and unsure of how to proceed on some points —

for instance, it was unclear to most observers why he had to

ajourn for 45 minutes on the first day to determine whether

diplomats, journalists, members of the general public, and

MDC officials should be permitted inside.   Bizos asked the

judge to order Ben-Menashe to answer the question regarding

what services he had provided to the GOZ for the U.S.$400,000

payment. Garwe said he could order Ben-Menashe to do so but

threw up his hands and asked what he could he do if the

witness refused to comply, an appalling answer for a judge

who is supposed to have absolute authority in the courtroom.

On the positive side, Ben-Menashe was not permitted to depart

as he had hoped the evening of February 7 and it seems as

though the defense will not be preempted from conducting a

comprehensive cross-examination.

 

Access

———–

 

7. (U) It appears as though most interested parties are

being admitted to the courtroom to witness the trial.

Diplomats and independent journalists are present for every

session, and members of the general public are now being

granted access. A number of seats continue to be filled by

members of the security services.

 

Comment

————–

 

8. (C) Ben-Menashe has been the state’s worst enemy, and no

informed observers — particularly those privileged enough to

witness his behavior in court — believe that Tsvangirai and

his co-defendants approached him to arrange Mugabe’s

assassination. Now that the state’s case seems to be falling

apart, it will be interesting to see whether other prominent

names on the state’s witness list — including Air Force

Commander Perence Shiri — will be willing to sully their

names by appearing on the stand in support of these obviously

manufactured charges. Given that the defense has not yet

completed its cross-examination of the state’s first witness,

this trial could continue for many more weeks.

 

 

 

SULLIVAN

 

(25 VIEWS)

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