Sino-Zim off-shore deals rob taxman

A shadowy company owned by a Chinese businessman and members of the Zanu (PF) elite has been accused of evading tax and externalising millions of dollars.

Sam Pa, centre, visiting a mine in Mozambique.
Sam Pa, centre, visiting a mine in Mozambique.

Sino-Zimbabwe Development Ltd is a multi-layered partnership between a number of politically well-connected fatcats, fronted by the CIO, and Sam Pa, whose name has been mentioned in numerous illicit deals in diamonds, oil and gold in various African countries. He has vast business interests in Africa, Russia, China, Singapore, North and South Korea. His fellow investor is Madam Lo Fong Hung, the daughter of Chinese army general and wife of a well-connected Chinese banker.

Pa holds British and Angolan passports and travels around the world in an executive Airbus A319 jetliner, registration number VP-BEX. He is known to use numerous aliases, including Xu Jinghua, Tsui King Wah, Ghiu Ka Leung, Sam King, and Antonio Famtosonghiu Sampo Menezes. He, together with Sino-Zim, is on the US restrictive measures list because of his close links with Zanu (PF).

This revelation by trusted sources comes as the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe battles to persuade locally registered companies that have clandestinely set up offshore accounts to regularise them.

There is widespread suspicion that, for more than a decade, big companies have evaded paying tax by setting up these accounts, where millions of dollars have been repatriated in violation of the law.

Sister firm

The sources named Sino-Zimbabwe as one of those companies. It has a sister firm in Singapore called Sino-Zim Diamonds, where some of the money has gone. Some has reportedly been transferred to Hong Kong, where Pa’s headquarters are located on the 10th floor of 2 Pacific Place, 88 Queensway. A 2012 Global Witness report “Financing a Parallel Government?” says the company is jointly owned by the Central Intelligence Organisation.

“There is a lot of connivance between well-placed government officials and their Chinese partners. The local elite are getting lots of money, which they are being used to externalise. In the case of Sino-Zim, it is believed hundreds of millions has been moved out over the years. The offshore accounts are difficult to detect because those running the company have their own people wherever it matters – in the security sector, the financial system, immigration and customs and other key government posts,” said one of the sources.

Information gleaners have traced one financial transfer between the Singaporean and Zimbabwean Sino companies so far. The 2009 accounts of Sino-Zimbabwe Development dated November 16 indicates that $50 million was deposited into the Zimbabwean bank account of the Singaporean company to be held in trust of the mother firm. However, the transaction is not mentioned in the 2010 accounts.

Cleverly cooked

“If you were to look at Sino-Zim’s accounts in Zimbabwe, you would never find any anomalies because the books are being cleverly cooked. All the gaps are being filled in an intricate manner because highly skilled people are involved,” said the source.

In efforts to verify the allegations The Zimbabwean tried to call all Sino-Zim’s subsidiaries but only managed to get through to a Gweru-based cement firm.

Sino Cement’s Nqobile Hlope from the marketing department referred all questions to the general manager (administration), Dereck Moyo, who did not answer his phone despite several attempts.

Sino-Zim is heavily involved in cement, cotton, diamonds and property as it reportedly owns Livingstone House in Harare where it has one office. Sources said the CIO occupied a whole floor of the building. It also has a major stake in Anjin diamond mines.

Reports say Pa was introduced to the head of the CIO, Happyton Bonyongwe, by a top Tanzanian government official in 2008. Bonyongwe then introduced him to President Robert Mugabe. A report by Global Witness in 2012 named Pa as having contributed $100 million to the 2013 Zanu (PF) election campaign in contravention of Zimbabwe’s electoral laws.

Sino-Zim also has 20 percent shareholding in Sino-Zim Diamond Ltd, domiciled in Hong Kong. The directors of the Singaporean company are Masimba Ignatius Kamba, a Zimbabwean, Madam Lo Fong Hung and one Alain Fanaie.

Kamba gives his address as 7th Floor, Chester House, Harare and, according to Global Witness, could be a CIO agent.

Post published in: Economy

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