Diamond firm official arrested for fraud

obert_mpofuHARARE Zimbabwean police on Friday said they had arrested a top official of London-based diamond mining firm African Consolidated Resources (ARC) over fraud allegations. (Pictured: Obert Mpofu)

Dismissing reports claiming ACR finance officer Ian Harris was on Thursday abducted from his companys offices, police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said the diamond mining firm’s official was in police custody. He was expected in court yesterday.

“He will appear at the Mutare magistrate court on Monday to answer five counts of fraud,” Bvudzijena said.

ACR chief executive officer Andrew Cranswick was earlier quoted in various news reports as having said that Harris was abducted from his offices by what the ACR chief allegedly claimed were members of Mines Minister Obert Mpofu’s private police, the CID Mineral Squad.

It is pure abduction and charges of corruption and fraud are mere harassment, the reports quoted Cranswick as saying.

But Bvudzijena said the charges against Harris arise from his activities in 2006 when he fraudulently acquired diamond claims yet the companies he claimed to be representing were non-existent.

“Between April and July 2006 he approached Mutare mines offices seeking diamond claims and he got 240 claims. Yet the three companies he claimed to be representing then had not been registered.

He was not a director of the three different companies he purported to represent. The companies were only registered after he had approached the mines offices,” Bvudzijena said.

Mutare mines commissioner Isaac Ruswa was also expected in court yesterday in connection with the same matter. “He’ll face charges of abuse of office,” said Bvudzijena.

ACR, which holds right of title to claims on the Chiadzwa diamond field, that is also known as Marange, in Zimbabwe’s eastern districts, is locked in an ownership wrangle of the rich diamond field with the government-owned Zimbabwe Mining Development (ZMDC).

Mpofu last March declared that the London-based mining firm controlled by one white man would never mine diamonds at Marange as long as he was in charge of the ministry.

Mpofu accuses Cranswick of leading a campaign to block Zimbabwes bid to officially sell diamonds from Chiadzwa.

Chiadzwa is one of the worlds most controversial diamond fields with reports that soldiers sent to guard the claims after the government took over the field in October 2006 from ACR committed gross human rights abuses against illegal miners who had descended on the field.

International rights groups have been pushing for a ban on Zimbabwean diamonds but in November, the country escaped a Kimberley Process ban with the global body giving Harare a June 2010 deadline to make reforms to comply with its regulations.

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