Australian gold mine owner in Zimbabwe forcibly deported

lee_johnsLee Johns an Australian businessman who used to own the Globe Phoenix Mine in Kwekwe was forcibly deported from the country on Tuesday. This follows reports he was locked in a fierce dispute with the Reserve Bank, who through their subsidiary Carslone (Private) Limited had taken over his mine. (Pictured: Lee Johns)Our

correspondent Lionel Saungweme reports that Johns was suing the central bank over several as yet undisclosed issues. But before he could get his day in court four men in a metallic brown car abducted him some nine days ago in Harare. Johns was thrown into detention at an undisclosed location for a period of seven days before being conducted through a hurried court process, resulting in the revocation of his residency permit sometime on Monday. On Tuesday 4 plain-clothed policemen in a car driven by a Mr. Chimungu escorted him to the airport and got him on a plane to South Africa. It is not clear whether he managed to get any legal representation during the process. The manner of the hurried deportation has been likened to that of journalist Andrew Meldrum who in May 2003 was illegally expelled after more than 23 years of working in the country.

Newsreel sought comment from the Australian Embassy in Harare who however refused to comment citing, confidentiality issues. Saungweme says the whole affair looks like an attempt to get rid of someone who was suing the Reserve Bank, and is now probably owed lots of money which the bank has realised they are not able to pay. One resident in Kwekwe told us the whole town was abuzz with the story that Johns had fallen out with the Reserve Bank this week, but he was not able to give the exact nature of the dispute. The history of the mine has pretty much mirrored Zimbabwes decline. Around the 1900s it was reputed as one of the biggest gold mines in the world. An economic crisis that affected many other gold mines in the country saw the mine shutting down in 2004. The Reserve Bank as part of the much-condemned quasi-fiscal activities made moves to take over the mine in 2006. In March 2007 government announced it was closing down the mine over environmental concerns. Newsreel was not able to establish exactly when the RBZ took over the mine and what sort of agreement was thrashed out with Johns.
SWRadio Africa

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