HARARE - Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe has denied seizing three properties from a Lebanese businessman who she claims duped her in a messy $1.35 million diamond ring deal.
President Robert Mugabe's wife was taken to court by Zimbabwe-based Jamal Ahmed who says she allegedly seized three of his properties late last year, demanding he pay back the money for a ring she later decided she did not want.
In court papers seen by AFP on Wednesday, Grace Mugabe stated that Ahmed's properties were being guarded by police officers who were investigating him for alleged crimes.
"I therefore deny forcibly taking over the said properties," she stated.
"The police are not my agents. They are state officers who enforce the law and investigate unbecoming behaviour. This is why they are protecting these properties."
Grace Mugabe said she bought the ring from family business proceeds and that it was a gift from her husband for their 20th wedding anniversary on August 20 last year.
Ahmed alleged that Grace Mugabe, who is known for her love of jewellery and extravagant shopping trips abroad, placed an order for the ring in April 2016 through his wife who lives in Dubai.
Grace Mugabe says she was sent pictures of several stones to make a choice but never had the ring delivered.
"I smelt a rat," she said, according to court papers. The first lady "then refused to take delivery of the diamond and instead demanded a full refund."
Ahmed said he had offered to repay the money in instalments, just to avoid trouble, but in court papers Grace disputed his claim that he had so far paid back $150,000. She said he has paid $120,000.
Ahmed who is not currently in Zimbabwe, claims to have received threats from officials from Zimbabwe's spy agency -- the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) as well from Grace and her son Russell Goreraza from her first marriage.
She has denied the allegation.
This is not the first time Grace Mugabe has been involved in controversy. In 2011 she was caught in a spat over a $1-million truck deal with South African businessman Ping Sung Hsieh.
Grace married Mugabe in 1996. She now heads the ruling ZANU-PF party women's wing.
She has said that she has the right to rule the country like any other Zimbabwean and is now seen to be among those angling to replace her husband.