Zimbabwe Tycoon Used State Ties to Hide Assets, Report Says

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Zimbabwean tycoon Kudakwashe Tagwirei used connections with government leaders and central bank officials to gain access to hard currency and shield assets from the U.S. Treasury, according to a report by a private anti-corruption group.

Tagwirei, who was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2020 for corruption, “appears to have the ability to contact senior civilian officials in Zimbabwe at short notice, particularly at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe,” said the report by The Sentry, the Washington, D.C.-based organization co-founded by the actor and director George Clooney.

Such access “raises the possibility of state capture, when the public realm -- particularly regulatory, legal, and public policy decision-making -- has been influenced to benefit private interests,” it said. With its sanctions, the U.S. said Tagwirei had “favored access to hard currency” and linked him to the disappearance of $3 billion from a farm-subsidy program.

The Sentry report said the businessmen was at the center of a web of transactions that led to the establishment of Kuvimba Mining House Ltd., a public-private operation that claims some of Zimbabwe’s most valuable gold, platinum, chrome and nickel mines. The assets were moved from Sotic International Ltd., a Mauritius-based holding company that has been part owned by Tagwirei.

Bloomberg in May reported that Kuvimba’s core mining assets were until recently owned by or tied to Tagwirei. The Zimbabwean government won’t say where it got the funds to cover its purchase of the mines, smelters and platinum concessions the Kuvimba venture says it now owns.

Clive Mphambela, spokesman for ministry of finance said he wouldn’t immediately comment when contacted by Bloomberg but could later. Calls to Tagwirei didn’t connect and he didn’t immediately reply to text messages.

The governor of the central bank John Mangudya said its a misconception that the bank handles commercial transactions.

“We are not aware of preferential treatment in the allocation of foreign currency given to him,” Mangudya said in a text message. “The reserve bank is a banker to the state and banker to commercial banks and therefore does not process commercial transactions for individuals and private entities other than for government and banks.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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