A HARARE man accused of defrauding Prophetic Healing and Deliverance (PHD) Ministries leader Walter Magaya of $116 000 in a botched vehicle import deal last week accused the charismatic church leader of making threatening phone calls to him while he was in police custody.

Cosmas Mashaninga told the court through his lawyer Dumisani Mthombeni that Magaya and his wife Tendai attempted to coerce him to falsely implicate his co-accused as the brains behind the alleged fraud.

Mashaninga is being charged alongside Upenyu Mashangwa, Kudzakwashe Larry Mapfumo and Clifford Tinashe Gonde.

"We will implore the court to direct investigations into the conduct of Walter Magaya and his wife Tendai where they threatened me and coerced me to implicate my co-accused," Mthombeni said.

He added: "My client will challenge his statement to the police since it was given under duress and that he received two phone calls from Magaya while in police custody that he should falsely incriminate Mashangwa and accused (Mashaninga) will produce an audio statement of the threats."

Mashaninga and his co-accused are also facing alternative charges of smuggling the vehicle in question — a Land Rover Discovery 4 — into the country and failing to pay duty to revenue authorities.

Mashaninga denied the charges saying he played an innocent role of accompanying his friend Mashangwa to South Africa and helped in the identification of the vehicle that was to be used as a "spiritual seed" for the fulfilment of a prophecy.

The State has so far led evidence from Admire Mango, the church’s senior overseer, who told magistrate Noel Mupeiwa that that he personally gave Mushangwe $80 000 to buy the vehicle and his return from South Africa gave him an additional $36 000 for import duty charges.

However, Mashangwa insisted that he never received money from Mango, but seeded the vehicle for fulfillment of a prophecy that he would become a partner in an international airline.

The trial continues on Thursday.

Tafadzwa Hungwe represented the suspects while Liberty Gono prosecuted.

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