US urged to probe ‘sanctions busting’ loan that propped up Mugabe

The US is under pressure to launch an official investigation into an American assets management firm, which has been accused of directly funding the Robert Mugabe regime.

The Och Ziff Company was last year revealed as the ‘silent’ financer of a $100 million loan that was used to help ZANU PF cling to power in 2008. According to the Mail & Guardian newspaper, the Och Ziff group paid out the money as part of a share purchase in a shadowy mining firm with ZANU PF connections.

That mining firm, the Central African Mining and Exploration Company (Camec), used this share payment as a ‘loan’ to the ZANU PF government, through the state run Zimbabwe Mining and Development Corporation (ZMDC). The whole deal was done ‘legitimately’ as a business arrangement, with Camec buying out a ZMDC partner that together held the rights to platinum concessions in Zimbabwe.

This deal was being organised as Zimbabwe headed to the 2008 elections, which saw Mugabe losing to the MDC-T’s Morgan Tsvangirai. What followed those elections was an exercise in systematic murder, torture, brutality, intimidation and harassment by ZANU PF, ahead of an election run off, which eventually went ahead with Mugabe as the single participant after Tsvangirai had no choice but to pull out of the vote.

A British nongovernmental organisation has now called for an investigation into Och Ziff, showing in a report released last month that the company may have broken US sanctions rules by making the share payment. It has called on the US treasury, which monitors the targeted sanctions, to investigate.

The NGO, Rights and Accountability in Development (Raid), said in its report that “there is evidence that finance originating from Och Ziff went to the government of Zimbabwe; and that the government of Zimbabwe is synonymous with the Mugabe/ZANU PF regime – comprising sanctions targets – who used the finance to undermine democracy, commit human rights abuses and retain power for their own benefit.”

Raid said it had written to the US treasury to ask that it investigate whether US sanctions were broken, and to Och Ziff, to clarify questions including the nature of the due diligence it had done before the transaction, the purpose and timing of its investment; and “the extent to which it knew, or should have known, that it was providing funds whose ultimate beneficiary was the Mugabe regime and SDNs”.

The MDC-T’s Roy Bennett, who was one of the first people to raise the alarm about the loan in 2008, said on Wednesday that the situation should have been a lesson ahead of the elections two weeks ago. He said such “rotten arrangements” have helped ZANU PF remain in power, and will continue to do so.

“Zimbabwe is full of absolutely corrupt and rotten business people who have front companies and have mechanisms in place, dealing with people in the west to be able to launder this kind of money,” Bennett told SW Radio Africa.

He said that this kind of money has been used for years to help legitimise the Mugabe regime.

“I was informed before these elections by a top PR firm in London that they’d been approached by someone in the House of Lords to clean up Mugabe’s image and that money wasn’t a problem,” Bennett explained.

He continued: “From that day on, you have seen sustained and continuous barrage of trying to sanitise Mugabe regime. The perception has been created that they’ve (ZANU PF) reclaimed popular support. Academics have been endorsing the land reform programme. Analysts have been saying Mugabe has support. And this is all because of money.”

He added that there is “no way at all” that the election result can be considered legitimate “when these kinds of dealings are happening.”

“Until there is some decency and honesty, there will never be a free and fair election in Zimbabwe,” Bennett said. – SW Radio Africa

Post published in: News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *