British tycoon van Hoogstraaten in mass pornography charges

( dpa )- Prosecutors Tuesday implicated British rack-renting tycoon Nicholas van Hoogstraaten in pornography charges involving scores of young Zimbabwean women and gave evidence of how he had been trapped in illegal black-market currency dealing.

Papers in the Harare magistrate's court said a police raid on his home in an exclusive Harare suburb had uncovered 150 photographs "of young local Zimbabwean women photographed in nude and semi-nude states in the accused's bedroom" and some in compromising sexy positions.

Attempts to keep the convicted gangster in custody without bail failed because fraud police in Harare had detained him illegally for four of the six days after his arrest on Thursday.

He and three co-accused were allowed to go free late Tuesday on his lawyers won an order from the Harare high court for his immediate release.

Van Hoogstraaten , 63, made his first millions renting slum tenements in London and Brighton in the 60s, was jailed for four years for ordering a firebomb attack on a rabbi who owed him money and in 1999 was convicted of manslaughter after two of his henchmen murdered Mahommed Raja, a London business opponent.

The murder conviction was quashed on appeal. The property magnate moved his money offshore in the 1990s after British tax officials began invetigating his earnings. His holdings include major investments in Zimbabwe in banking, property, agriculture, tourism and mining.

Van Hoogstraaten professes to be a friend of President Robert Mugabe whome he describes as "100 percent decent and incorruptible."

Court papers the fraud detectives had lured him into a trap last week where he demanded and accepted 4,600 US dollars from a state agent agent for rent. He was also trapped into buying 2,000 dollars from a state agent around the same time in an illegal black-market currency deal.

Zimbabwean law forbids payment for goods and services inside the country in any currency but the Zimbabwe dollar.

Van Hoogstraaten said in a statement on Monday that he was the victim of "a deliberate and malicious entrapment" and denied the charges. Police said they also found large sums of hard currency at his home and 600 South African rands in fake notes.

Nude photographs of his secretary, Nyasha Gora , 22, in the dock with him were found at his home, the court papers said, and she was to face pornography charges because she had "posed in a nude position."

Two other employees faced charges of illegal possession of "unauthorized" large sums of Zimbabwe dollars found in their car parked at van Hoogstraaten's home.

Prosecutors were appealing to the magistrate to have him detained without bail because he was "a foreigner with big investments" in Britain, the Bahamas, South Africa, Zambia and Kenya, and could flee.

But magistrate Mirshrod Guvamombe overruled detention without bail because police were hours late in releasing the four, in violation of the high court's order for "immediate" release.

"They had all the time to bring the accused to court. They chose not to bring them to court," he said. "I have no jurisdiction. All the four accused are not properly before the court."

Van Hoogstraaten emerged soon after from the cells in the basement of the building with a jacket over his head, pushed past a crowd of waiting photographers, was bundled into a silver Mercedes Benz convertible coupe and sped away.

His lawyer, George Chikumuburike , said police now would only be able to summons him to court to face the charges.

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