Plot to frame Biti is exposed as Raid went ahead before evidence was planted

tendai_biti_speaksHARARE - The military top brass, working in cahoots with Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono, have attempted to frame Finance Minister Tendai Biti (Pictured) for treason, authoritative MDC, government and intelligence sources have confirmed.


The plot is widely seen as either a stalling tactic or retaliation for Bitis probe into US$45m missing from the central bank,

Biti’s investigation uncovered scandal at the RBZ, including the revelation that, between December and August, Gono siphoned off US$45m from the RBZ. The money had been a statutory reserve meant to provide financial cover to banks in trouble.

Gono claims the money was used to bankroll the troubled airline, Air Zimbabwe, to pay presidential scholarships and to finance diplomatic missions. This was at a time, however, when the RBZ had failed to provide funding for salaries for the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, pensions, communications and courier services.

Biti presented a full report on this plunder to Mugabe last week. Another report has been sent to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.

Biti confirmed to ****The Zimbabwean on Tuesday**** that US$45m had indeed been stolen from the RBZ.

Its economic kleptocracy, he said.

An investigation by an International Monetary Fund (IMF) technical team also corroborated Bitis findings, and said Gono had stolen US$45.5m from the RBZ.

The RBZ has used foreign reserve assets to fund its operating expenses, withdrawals of foreign currency amounts and debt service, as well as payments on behalf of the government, the damning IMF report stated. The total value of fund outflows is reported to have been US$45.5 million between end-December 2008 and end-August. The RBZ also accumulated US$40.3 million in arrears on operating expenses during the first nine months of 2009.

Guns blazing

Gono came out guns blazing, and co-ordinated a response to what he saw as Bitis continued effort to embarrass him.

In a desperate bid to forestall the exposure, there was a contrived plot, hatched by the Joint Operations Command, which continues to meet illegally, and Gono, to frame Biti, our source said.

The Zimbabwean on Tuesday heard that the plot against Biti involved 20 AK-47 rifles, reportedly missing from the highly-secured Pomona army barracks in Borrowdale.

Authoritative sources said this week the operation was botched after armed police hurriedly raided Bitis Chisipite home two weeks ago, before the weapons had been planted. The search uncovered nothing.

There was now a manhunt for the 12 soldiers who have disappeared with the weapons without planting them at Biti’s home.

It was believed some low-key MDC officials received cash inducements in exchange for information on Bitis properties.

The long history of Zanu (PF) planting weapons and pressing charges of treason are age-old, tired tactics of the Zanu (PF) dictatorship, but they must know that this is a serious attack on our movement and we will not back down, Biti said then.

Now MDC Transport Manager, Pascal Gwezere, has been abducted and jailed in connection with the missing weapons.

Sources, however, say it is close to impossible to steal anything from the high-security One Engineers Support Regiment Armoury, from where the 20 Ak-47 rifles are said to have been stolen.

Tensions

Biti vowed that no amount of harassment or threats would make him back down.

The real loss that this country has suffered is 10 years of economic mismanagement, economic chicanery and economic kleptocracy, he said. It will take us 10 years to achieve the GDP that we had in 1996 and this is at a cost of anything between US$15bn and US$45bn.

Over the past few years, Biti has been jailed and beaten by President Mugabes security forces. But despite still trying to deal with the trauma of those experiences, he has resolutely effected central bank reforms and has been credited with ending hyperinflation and reining in Gono, accused of wrecking the economy through quasi-fiscal activities.

The latest spat comes amid heightened tensions between Gono and Biti. The central bank chief has claimed his boss was stalling the distribution of US$510m received from the International Monetary Fund in August.

Gono has tried to claim credit for winning the funds, which form part of a global scheme that the IMF offered to all of its members, but the IMF has said the funds are under the control of the Finance Ministry.

Biti is insisting that the funds will only be distributed once the national budget, expected to be presented this month, has been approved by parliament.

The MDC insists it wants the RBZ governor, a close ally of President Mugabe, replaced by an impartial candidate. This was one of the issues central to the ongoing talks that saw the MDC disengaging from government on October 16.

And Biti has consistently rebutted attacks by Gono, including accusations earlier this year that Honey and Blankenberg, the leading Harare legal firm in which the Minister of Finance, is a senior partner, had externalised more than US$1m in foreign currency, allegedly in contravention of exchange control regulations.

Many of Gonos critics in the banking sector were hounded out of the country after similar allegations were levelled against them by Gono. Biti and his law firm rubbished the allegations and challenged Gono to prove it.

Gonos office last week requested written questions, which had been e-mailed but had not been responded to.

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