Ben Menashe dodges defence lawyer’s questions


Ari Ben Menashe, the key state witness in the treason trial of Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, continued to dodge questions from Tsvangirai’s lead lawyer George Bizos who also appeared to be playing to the gallery.

Ben Menashe said he had no contact with the government of Zimbabwe before signing the contract with them on 10 January 2002.

He could not provide financial account statements between his company, Dickens and Madson, and the government of Zimbabwe because of pending lawsuits against the company by the MDC and an Australian company.

Ben Menashe could not provide certificates of registration of his company claiming they were available in the public domain.

According to the United States embassy Bizos was also playing to the court.

“He frequently turns towards the journalists when Ben-Menashe goes off on a tangent and he has turned towards his clients and smiled when Ben-Menashe gets unnerved. Garwe cautioned Bizos against unnecessarily provoking Ben-Menashe,” the embassy said.


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Reference ID






2003-02-21 10:31

2011-08-30 01:44


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 02 HARARE 000360









E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/20/2013









ND (D).


Summary. 1. (C) The treason trial of Movement for

Democratic Change (MDC) officials Morgan Tsvangirai, Welshman

Ncube, and Renson Gasela entered its fourteenth day on

February 20. Since February 12, defense counsel has

continued its intensive cross-examination of the state’s star

witness, Ari Ben-Menashe. Lead defense attorney George Bizos

tried to discredit Ben-Menashe by highlighting the

inconsistencies in his testimony about his U.S. contacts,

financial transactions between Dickens & Madson (DM) and the

Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ), details of the second and third

meetings with the defendants, and the legitimacy of DM.

Presiding Judge Paddington Garwe has tried to assert his

authority more by cutting short Ben-Menashe,s tirades and

ordering him to listen to and answer Bizos,s questions

succinctly. Nonetheless, Ben-Menashe has continued to engage

in outrageous behavior in court, dismissing questions he did

not want to answer and using inappropriate language. End



Financial Transactions



2. (U) Bizos resumed his cross-examination on the afternoon

of February 12, after the issue of the contract with the

Government of Zimbabwe was resolved that same morning (see

reftel). Bizos began by asking Ben-Menashe whether he had

received payment for the videotape of the third meeting, a

charge Ben-Menashe vehemently denied, claiming he never

received money “personally”. Ben-Menashe maintained that he

passed on the money to the people who were in charge of

creating the videotape. Bizos also asked if Ben-Menashe had

received money from the GOZ before signing the January 10,

2002 contract. Ben-Menashe maintained that he had had no

contact with the GOZ prior to the contract.


3. (U) On February 19, Bizos revisited the issue of payment

when he asked Ben-Menashe about several documents (financial

account statements, contracts, and certificate of

registration) the defense asked him to produce for the court.

Ben-Menashe had none of the documents, claiming that some of

the finacial account information, which might have shown

financial transactions between DM and the GOZ, had been

destroyed. He also claimed he could not get some of the

requested bank information because of pending lawsuits

against DM by the MDC and an Australian company.


Discrediting Ben-Menashe and Dickens & Madson



4. (U) Throughout the week, Bizos chipped away at

Ben-Menashe,s credibility. On February 13, Bizos attempted

to introduce evidence that would attest to Ben-Menashe,s

soiled reputation and lack of credibility. The evidence was

a list of documents from press sources and a former employee.

The prosecutor tried to get the court to limit challenges to

Ben-Menashe,s credibility. The judge entertained arguments

from both sides as to the various pieces of evidence

submitted by the defense and called for a recess about one

hour into the hearing. Court reconvened after lunch and the

documents were not entered into evidence.


5. (U) On February 19, Bizos began his attack of DM by asking

for copies of the certificates of registration and

questioning Ben-Menashe about the principal officers in the

company. Ben-Menashe told Bizos that he would not provide

documents that are available in the public domain. Bizos

informed Ben-Menashe that the defense could not find the

certificates. Bizos said he had reason to believe DM was not

registered. Bizos asked the judge to invoke a section of the

Crimanl Procedure and Evidence Act that gives the judge power

to commit a witness to prison for failing to answer questions

or failing/refusing to produce documents without a just

excuse. Bizos has said that if the certificate of

registration, financial account statements, and a list of

employees were not produced, then the defense would oppose

Ben-Menashe’s requests to leave the country prior to

completion of his testimony.


6. (U) Bizos,s next line of questioning concerned the

principal officers in DM. According to Ben-Menashe, there

are only four high-level people in the company: Alexander

Legault as shareholder and financial officer, David Sullivan

as accountant, Ben-Menashe as shareholder, and Francis Lang

as director. When asked to explain the day-to-day activities

of the person in the directorship position, Ben-Menashe could

not provide an answer.

U.S. Contacts


7. (U) During the afternoon session on February 13, Bizos

began to question Ben-Menashe about his contacts in the US

Government and about the various meetings with the MDC.

Ben-Menashe first claimed to know a high-level person in the

State Department but refused to name the person. Later he

denied knowing anyone in the State Department, claiming he

only knew a high-level U.S. government official. Bizos

resumed this line of questioning during the February 14

afternoon session but Ben-Menashe avoided answering the

questions. Ben-Menashe maintained that Tsvangirai claimed to

have contacted and won the support of the U.S. Government and

the CIA in the coup plot. Bizos asked Ben Menashe that if

Tsvangirai had already contacted the U.S. and taken other



preparatory steps, then contracting DM was unnecessary.

Ben-Menashe had no comment.



The Second and Third Meetings


8. (U) On February 18, Bizos focused on a fifteen-page typed

transcript of the audio recording of the second meeting

between Tsvangirai and Ben-Menashe in London, prepared by DM

employee Tara Thomas, who was in attendance. To 90 percent

of Bizos,s questions, Ben-Menashe responded that he did not

remember if the cited text was said. Perhaps embarrassed by

the fact that Tsvangirai not once discussed Mugabe’s

assassination in the transcript, Ben-Menashe discredited

Thomas,s transcript, saying she picked out words here and

there but that the tape was inaudible and the transcript did

not reflect the totality of the meeting. (NOTE: On February

13, Ben-Menashe claimed he could not remember whom in the GOZ

he had given the audiotape to nor could he remember who had

transcribed the tape. END NOTE.)


9. (U) On February 20, Bizos again asked Ben-Menashe

questions about the third, infamous meeting in Montreal. In

response to Bizos’s questions, Ben-Menashe’s standard answer

was that he did not remember. When asked if the purpose of

the third meeting was to furnish evidence of a planned coup

d’etat, Ben-Menashe responded in the affirmative. On

February 13, Ben-Menashe maintained that he was never

interested in having the MDC as a client and that he only met

with them because he wanted to report the plot to the

appropriate authorities in the U.S., Canada, and Zimbabwe.


Ben-Menashe, Garwe, and Bizos’s Conduct



10. (C) Ben-Menashe continues to act outrageously in the

witness box, regularly denigrating Bizos when asked questions

he doesn’t want to answer, interrupting Garwe and Bizos, and

demonstrating a short fuse. Garwe appears to be getting tired

of Ben-Menashe,s antics and has begun directing him to

answer questions directly and precisely. Garwe even shook

his head after he had to stop Ben-Menashe in the middle of a

tirade to ask him to answer the question, to which

Ben-Menashe asked, “What was the question?”


11. (C) Bizos is also playing to the court. He frequently

turns towards the journalists when Ben-Menashe goes off on a

tangent and he has turned towards his clients and smiled when

Ben-Menashe gets unnerved. Garwe cautioned Bizos against

unnecessarily provoking Ben-Menashe.




12. (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 still being

granted access. The standing room only crowds have dwindled

somewhat, and there are a few empty seats at each session.




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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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