Zanu financier earns $75m in three weeks

Billy Rautenbach, the mega-rich mogul and long-time Zanu (PF) financier, made about $75 million in three weeks through shady deals facilitated by President Robert Mugabe’s government in 2008, says an investigative report.

Billy Rautenbach
Billy Rautenbach

According to a document penned in December 2013 following investigations by a group of volunteer whistleblowers, Rautenbach benefited from a complex process whereby mining assets were stripped from a legitimate investor and transferred to a shell company before being sold to another company for super profits.

The document has been sent to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) head office as evidence that the government’s shady deals contravene its rules and regulations.

While the murky mining deal has been reported in the media before, the document breaks new ground by naming Rautenbach as the owner of the company that benefited from the string of clandestine transactions involving offshore companies with nameless proprietors.

Quick buck

According to the private investigators, whose research spanned at least 10 countries, a London-listed company, Central African Mining & Exploration Company Plc (Camec), purchased a 60 percent mining interest in Todal from the Anglo American multinational on April 10 2008.

Todal, located some 80km from Gweru and 350km south of Harare, is a platinum mining venture jointly owned with the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC). Camec reportedly purchased the shares from a company called Meryweather Investments Limited and trades as Lefever in the joint ownership with ZMDC, which has 40 percent while Lefever has 60 percent shareholding.

Meryweather had held the shares that it sold to Camec through Lefever for only three weeks and received about $75 million after the purchase, earning the mega-buck businessman a fortune in a short space of time. “Meryweather received $5 million in cash, plus 215 million shares of CAMEC, which it eventually sold for approximately $70 million,” says the report.

At the time, the British Virgin Islands-domiciled Camec refused to divulge the ownership of Meryweather. But the investigators say Rautenbach is the major shareholder, even though other co-owners – who could be government officials – remain a mystery.

$100 million loan

Earlier, the government had received a $100 million loan from Camec that would be serviced through the ZMDC shares in Todal. The loan was made as Mugabe’s government was holding onto the results of the first round of the 2008 presidential elections. It is believed to have funded the subsequent run-off that was marked by widespread violence.

The then US Ambassador, James McGee, expressed concern over the deal in a cable: “The GoZ (Government of Zimbabwe) appears troublingly willing to sell the family silver or in this case platinum in shadowy deals for short-term benefit to questionable investors with no experience in platinum and absent public tender or public scrutiny of the terms.

“Desperate for forex, the GoZ has opted for a quick return that will provide some short term support but will most likely line the pockets of a select few and ultimately leave Zimbabwe all the poorer.”

Rautenbach is also the owner of the controversial ethanol project in Chisumbanje. His links to Zanu (PF), which he has admitted to fund, date back to the early 2000s when he was revealed by the United Nations to be working closely with Mugabe’s henchmen in illegally exploiting minerals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

At one time, he was fugitive from justice in South Africa where he was wanted for tax evasion and embezzlement. He is under US and European Union travel and business restrictions for his close ties with Zanu (PF) and Mugabe. Rautenbach could not be traced for a comment.

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