Ex-River Ranch managers had UNDP permits 17 months after expiry of contract


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Three people seconded to River Ranch Diamond Mine by a South African-based company had valid United Nations Development Programme permits five to 17 months after their contracts had been terminated.

The three were the finance officer Pradipta Susari, the chief executive officer George Kantsouris and the security chief Lloyd Das.

They were seconded to River Ranch by African Management Services Company, AMSCO, a company jointly owned by the UNDP and the International Finance Corporation, the commercial arm of the World Bank.

AMSCO and River Ranch entered into an agreement in which AMSCO seconded five managers to the mining company owned by Saudi Arabian billionaire Adel Aujan in November 2004.

Former army commander Solomon Mujuru, husband of the country’s vice President Joyce, had a 20 percent stake in the company through his investment arm Kupukile Resources.

The diamond mining company has been mired in controversy following allegations that it smuggled diamonds to South Africa through AMSCO personnel who had UNDP permits and therefore were not subject to search at the border posts.

River Ranch could not sell its diamonds through official channels because of an ownership dispute with a Bulawayo based company Bubye Minerals which also claimed rights to the mine.

Two vehicles which had civilian number plates but were registered in the name of the UNDP are at the centre of the controversy.

The UNDP claims the vehicles were fraudulently registered in its name but it says it does not know who did that. It says it is up to the Zimbabwean authorities to investigate who committed the fraud.

There is also confusion as to whether the River Ranch- AMSCO contract was terminated or it expired.

The UNDP says it was terminated in July 2007 but AMSCO regional manager for Southern Africa Abraham Lanor said the “contract ended as scheduled”.

The contract ended just a few months after the diamond smuggling allegations and the purported use of UNDP registered vehicles were raised.

The permit of Susari which was issued on 19 May 2005 expired on 31 December 2007 five months after the contract between River Ranch and AMSCO had ended.

The contract of Kantsouris, who was at one time Aujan’s special assistant but was absorbed by AMSCO despite his poor qualifications, expired on 30 June 2008, while that of Das expired on 31 December 2008.

The permits give the employees “the status of UN experts, with the associated benefits of tax exemptions, automatic work permits, duty free importation of household goods and participation in UN security systems in cases of emergencies”.

It is not clear why the UNDP allowed the three to enjoy these benefits long after AMSCO had terminated its contract with River Ranch.

AMSCO chief executive Paul Malherbe had promised to respond to questions from The Insider but had not done so more than a month after confirming he had received them.

The head of the UNDP communications department Stephane Dujarric said the resident permits which the three had should have been surrendered to the government of Zimbabwe at the end of the assignment or on the termination of the contract.

“There is, therefore, an onus on each individual expert to surrender a permit. The government of Zimbabwe was notified of the cancellation of the relationship between River Ranch and AMSCO,” he said.

It is not clear why the UNDP did not ensure that the three had surrendered their permits especially in view of the fact that there had already been a major breach of trust when vehicles belonging to River Ranch were fraudulently registered in the name of the UNDP. 

(61 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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