ALLEGED serial fraudster Austin Duwa Muli can easily make the list of Zimbabwe’s most hard-hearted people.
More than 50 cases of fraud have been opened against him at police stations across the capital, according to police sources. He has a trail of victims whose lives have been altered because of his alleged shenanigans.
So great is the number of his victims they had to create chat groups on WhatsApp and Facebook to support each other in an endeavour to bring him to justice.
And it appears, he deliberately targets women.
“He has multiple cases before the courts to the extent that he had to appear in court with four different cases in one day,” said one of Muli’s alleged victims Mrs Melody Mazonde.
Posing as a car dealer, Muli is alleged to have swindled scores of people of their cash, vehicles and other properties.
He is slippery and known for evading justice, purportedly through payment of bribes to some officials.
Mrs Mazonde, who lost two commuter omnibuses in one of Muli’s alleged scams, said she has tried everything legal to recover her vehicles to no avail.
She suspects Muli was getting protection from the police, especially from named officers at Southerton and Mabelreign police stations.
“I had two commuter omnibuses, a Mazda Bongo and a Toyota Quantum which I used at a preschool that I run in Tynwald North where I also stay,” said Mrs Mazonde.
“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the national lockdown, I could not utilise these vehicles and as such were grounded at the school.
“Around June, Muli, who was my tenant at that time, then offered to hire out the Mazda Bongo to the Covid-19 taskforce for a fee of US$500 per month. He said he would help me sell the Toyota Quantum since it had started developing some faults.”
According to Mrs Mazonde, Muli then took the Mazda Bongo and its registration book the following day “for vetting” so that it could be hired by the Covid-19 taskforce.
“He came back with an agreement form and US$500 and I signed the deal not suspecting any foul play,” said Mrs Mazonde.
“So we agreed that by 11 August the vehicle should be coming back in preparation for the opening of schools. After taking the Mazda Bongo, Muli offered to buy the Toyota Quantum for resale at his car sale.
“I agreed to sell the Toyota Quantum to Muli and since the vehicle had some faults he sent a driver who took it for ‘repairs’.”
Mrs Mazonde told The Sunday Mail that Muli also asked for the registration book claiming that he wanted to buy a third number plate for the vehicle.
“I asked him to return the registration books for both vehicles but he never did and from then on he was making excuses,” said Mrs Mazonde.
Subsequently, Muli was reported to the police by another victim and got arrested for car theft. Mrs Mazonde said this is when she realised that she may have been scammed.
“After making inquiries I realised that Muli had 36 cases of fraud at Dzivaresekwa Police Station,” she said.
“I realised that there were social groups on Facebook and WhatsApp of people who were scammed by Muli. Eventually, I got hold of him and again asked him to return the registration books but he kept on giving excuses.”
Upon making police reports at Southerton and Mabelreign Police Stations Mrs Mazonde was informed by police officers that Muli had many cases at Dzivaresekwa, Mabelreign and Harare Central Police Stations.
“Police officers at Southerton told me they had many dockets for Muli. Muli was then arrested and transferred to Mabelreign Police Station where our statements were taken,” she said.
“But while we were there it became evident that he would never face justice because of the treatment he was being given by police officers and he even refused to reveal where the vehicles were.”
Muli was eventually taken to court under case RRB 448 4354 and was remanded in custody to November 4 but was released a few days later. Up to date, Mrs Mazonde has not recovered her vehicles. Another victim Daphney Ndlela claimed she lost US$1 100 to Muli.
“Sometime in July last year Muli advertised a car, model Toyota Mark II Grand, saying he wanted to raise US$1 300 to repair his other car,” said Ms Ndlela.
“After seeing the car, I paid US$1 100 on the agreement that I would pay the balance within a week. I took the car but he would not let me have the vehicle registration book saying I had to pay in full first.
“An hour later the car broke down and when I called Muli to tell him he apologised and said he didn’t know the car had a problem.”
The next morning Muli called to tell Daphney that he was sending someone to fix the car.
“The mechanic told me that the car had been stripped and advised me to claim my money back.
“I then met with Muli, he apologised again and offered to give me another car within two days.
“Since then I never managed to get hold of him until the day he was arrested after I made a police report under case number CR361/07/19.
“He was remanded in custody but to my surprise he was released a few days later. I never recovered my money.”
Thelma Sadondo who is another of Muli’s victims lost her Mercedes Benz C180.
“I was selling my Mercedes C180 and Austin took my car sometime in January claiming he had found a buyer from South Africa,” she said.
“On that day I was busy at work and he suggested to take the car so that the buyer could assess it.
“Since I knew Austin and was friends with his wife I agreed to give him the car but that was the last time I saw my car.
“After work, I tried calling him but he was giving excuses and eventually went unavailable and I think he blocked my numbers.”
Another alleged victim Tavaraidzwa Mpunga said she lost US$1 500 to Muli.
“Muli told me he was a Zimra (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority) employee and that he could buy a car for me at an auction in Beitbridge,” narrated Mpunga.
“I gave him US$1 500 and we had an agreement that if he fails to bring back the car I would take his car as compensation. The following day I called him and he said I should follow him to Beitbridge to collect my car.
“On arrival, he started giving excuses saying he was in a meeting. I spent the whole day waiting for him in Beitbridge only for him to say he will release the car to us the following day.”
The following day Muli told Mpunga that he would release the car after an ongoing audit was finished.
“I stayed in Beitbridge for four days while Austin was giving excuses the whole time. I came back to Harare, made a police report and nothing was done.
“He even said I would get my money from the police. All efforts of trying to reach him were in vain because each time I would call he would block my number and even threaten me.”
However, Muli denies all the charges saying he bought all the vehicles in question adding that what was left was to make
full payments as stated by agreements of sale.
“All of these things are not true, we had agreements with these people and, of course, there were times I failed to pay as agreed but I have since told them that I will pay when I am in a position to do so,” he said.
“For the Mazda Bongo I paid $2 700 for it in full but she took the agreement of sale to destroy the evidence. As for the Quantum we had a rent to buy agreement.
“Those other girls are my ex-girlfriends and they are just trying to get back at me. The cases are before the courts and it will be decided there if I’m guilty. I have never been convicted in my life.”
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the police were looking into the allegations.
“We are looking into the matter and we are working with the Central Investigation Department (CID) to get the facts. This may take some time but we will definitely work on it.”