Sunday, June 12, 2016

Zimbabwe Diamond Looting Probe Extends to London

Investigations into alleged looting of proceeds from the Chiadzwa diamond fields have extended to London following revelations by a British parliamentarian that some of the money was stashed in the United Kingdom.

The Auditor-General’s Office has already invited local and international auditors to investigate firms that mined diamonds in Chiadzwa over the past decade until Government took over all operations there early this year.

A senior Government official told The Sunday Mail that the probe went beyond Zimbabwe’s borders, and there have been reports that money illicitly flowed through banks in Botswana, Mozambique, the DRC, China and the United Arab Emirates.

And recently, Liberal Democrat British legislator Lord David Chidgey told the House of Lords that proceeds from Zimbabwe’s diamonds were being kept illegally in London banks.

Contributing to a debate on money laundering, Lord Chidgey described London as a “destination of choice” for proceeds from Zimbabwe’s diamonds fields.

Said Lord Chidgey: “The (British) government has announced a new anti-corruption strategy and support for a wide range of international institutions and initiatives.

However, what we now need to hear is the plan of action to end. There has been the misuse of companies, other legal entities and legal arrangements, including trusts, to hide the proceeds of corruption.

“How can we be taken seriously when the City of London is considered by many to be the money laundering capital of the world? London is the destination of choice, for example, for billions of dollars whisked out of The Crimea and the proceeds of the diamond fields of Zimbabwe and the bauxite mines of Guinea.”

Efforts to get further clarification from the British legislator over the last two weeks have been fruitless.

Secretary for Mines and Mining Development Professor Francis Gudyanga told The Sunday Mail that Zimbabwe was taking Lord Chidgey’s claims seriously.

“Government will look into the claims … At this moment we are discounting nothing, we know that some of the money is hidden away in foreign banks and hopefully the audit will flush that out into the open.

“As you, know the Auditor-General has already flighted a tender inviting experienced auditors to undertake the probe and from what I have gathered there has been generally a lot of interest. We are now at very advanced stage in terms of preparations for the audit to take off the ground.

“Tendering will be closed by June 29 and I understand the Auditor-General will, without delay, appoint qualified chartered accountants.”

At least three chartered accounting firms will be contracted to probe Mbada Diamonds, Anjin, Marange Resources, Diamond Mining Company, Kusena Diamonds, Jinan and Gye Nyame, who all operated in the Chiadzwa diamond fields via 50-50 joint ventures with the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation.

Government has said that where criminal prejudice is discovered, those responsible will be prosecuted.

According to the tender’s terms of reference, the auditors will look into how the companies managed their finances, receipts of payments and receipts from all diamond sales.

Auditor-General Ms Mildred Chiri told this publication, “Bidding for the tender is ongoing and we will be in a position to know all the firms that are interested to carry out the audit by the end of this month. The winning bid will be announced soon after the deadline for submission.

“We normally give the companies a period of about two months to complete the audit but it all depends with the type of work that they have to do and the length of time they need.”

In February 2016, the Mines and Mining Development Ministry ordered all diamond miners to cease operations in Chiadzwa, paving way for their merger into the State-run Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company.

Figures from the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme show that the country earned US$2,5 billion in 10 years of private operations in Chiadzwa – a figure Government believes falls significantly short of what was due.

The KPCS says Zimbabwe was the world’s eighth-largest diamond producer in 2014, with 4,7 million carats.

To derive greater benefit from its resources, Government set up the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company – a model successfully deployed in Botswana to improve earnings from mining by centralising operations.

No comments: