A mystery tycoon, diamonds, deals and ‘$100m for Mugabe’

A mysterious Chinese businessman based in Hong Kong is quietly providing financing to Zimbabwe’s ruling forces in return for access to its diamond mines and opportunities in property development.

Sam Pa
Sam Pa

Sam Pa has allegedly provided private donations to Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation to fund covert activities against the Opposition. The CIO is said to have allocated $100 million from Mr Pa in a secret operation code named Spiderweb to discredit President Mugabe’s political opponents, including Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangarai.

A new report from the international campaign group Global Witness documents Mr Pa’s activities in Zimbabwe and argues that Mugabe’s security forces are using his money to finance operations to retain power for the President and his Zanu (PF) party in elections due by 2013.

Parallel government

Its report reveals that Mr Pa has ploughed money into buying vehicles for the CIO, providing the intelligence service with 200 Nissan pickup trucks to boost its operational capability against the regime’s opponents. In return, Global Witness says, he received diamonds and business opportunities in cotton and property.

The report sheds light on remarks by MDC Finance Minister Tendai Biti who has complained that his treasury had received almost no diamond-based revenue and that “there might be a parallel government somewhere in respect of where these revenues are going”.

Mr Pa, a former arms dealer who uses many aliases, runs an opaque network of more than 60 companies known as the Queensway syndicate. He has been dealing in sub-Saharan Africa for a number of years. Companies he represents are alleged to have used closed-door negotiations to secure a large stake in strategic mineral resources, most notably in oil-rich Angola, a major source of China’s oil.

No paper trail

In 2009, a US congressional commission published a scathing report about Queensway. It said that its lack of transparency was a “major concern” as it acquired assets globally by stealth. It said that one of its companies, China International Fund, could be falsely representing itself as a private business when it was actually an arm of the intelligence and public security services eager to increase China’s influence and guarantee the supply of oil and raw materials from Africa. The researchers said they found no paper trail for Mr Pa.

Zimbabwe is home to one of the world’s richest diamond deposits at Marange, but millions of dollars worth of diamonds remain unaccounted for. Anjin Investments, a Chinese-Zimbabwean venture, is one of the world’s biggest producers. Global Witness has concluded that it is part-owned by Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Defence, the military and police.

The Global Witness investigation cites sources and CIO documents to reveal Mr Pa’s involvement in buying high-quality diamonds. “He would arrive at monthly intervals at Harare airport in a white Airbus A319CJ private jet and depart with diamonds,” it said.

It said that the $100 million Mr Pa gave to the CIO compares with the budget of the spy agency’s parent department, the Office of the President and Cabinet, that is scarcely higher at $121 million in 2011. “Such a sum would give the CIO considerable freedom to set its own agenda”.

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