Leo Mugabe arrested for fraud


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President Robert Mugabe’s nephew Leo Mugabe was arrested on 20 October 2005 on charges of illegally exporting 30 tonnes of flour worth US$8.3 million at the official rate to Mozambique.

His lawyer Eric Matinenga said Mugabe faced three charges: fraud, smuggling, and violating Grain Marketing Board regulations.

Matinenga said the state alleged that Mugabe and his wife, through their company Fresh Breeze Ltd, defrauded the GMB out of 30 tonnes of grain.

On the second charge of smuggling, the state was claiming that the Mugabes sold the flour to businessman Passmore Chigwanda who was also arrested – who in turn exported it to Mozambique.

Matinenga dismissed the third charge, violating GMB regulations, as a nonstarter.

Mugabe joined the list of party insiders who had been arrested on various anti-corruption charges. The others were Chris Kuruneri, James Makamba and Phillip Chiyangwa.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 05HARARE1536, LEO MUGABE,S EXCESS PROMPTS GOVERNMENT REBUKE

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

05HARARE1536

2005-11-10 11:46

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 001536

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR B. NEULING

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE

AFR/SA FOR E. LOKEN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/09/2015

TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL ECON EAGR ZI

SUBJECT: LEO MUGABE,S EXCESS PROMPTS GOVERNMENT REBUKE

 

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell for reasons 1.5 b/d

 

——-

Summary

——-

 

1. (C) Robert Mugabe,s nephew Leo Mugabe on October 20 was

arrested on charges of illegally exporting 30 tons of flour.

Leo Mugabe and his wife face charges of fraud, smuggling, and

violating handling procedures of a controlled commodity —

grain. Mugabe,s lawyer told poloff the third charge was

likely to be dropped, but added that prison time for

smuggling convictions was not uncommon. Mugabe maintained

his innocence to poloff on November 8, stating that an

unconnected businessman illegally exported the grain without

his knowledge. Meanwhile, a week after the arrest the GOZ

seized a farm that Mugabe had owned for more than a decade,

charging that the agricultural land was lying idle. End

Summary.

 

—————–

A Mugabe on Trial

—————–

 

2. (SBU) Zimbabwean police on October 20 arrested Leo Mugabe

and his wife, Veronica, for allegedly exporting 30 tons of

flour, reportedly worth more than US$8.3 million at the

official rate, to Mozambique earlier this year. The couple

spent one night in jail and then posted bail the next day.

According to an article in the independent press, this marked

the first time that Leo Mugabe (or for that matter any member

of Robert Mugabe,s family) has been arrested despite

numerous allegations of corruption and fraud against the

nephew. (N.B. More distant relatives, such as flamboyant

businessman and ex-Mashonaland West Chairman Philip

Chiyangwa, have been arrested before.)

 

3. (C) Eric Matinenga, Mugabe,s lawyer, on November 3 told

poloff that his client faces three charges: fraud, smuggling,

and violating Grain Marketing Board (GMB) regulations.

Matinenga said the state alleged that Mugabe and his wife,

through their company Fresh Breeze Ltd, defrauded the GMB out

of 30 tons of grain. Matinenga, however, contended that

Fresh Breeze regularly sourced grain for a bakery the company

had an interest in and that this instance was not unusual.

On the second charge of smuggling, the state was claiming

that the Mugabes sold the flour to businessman Passmore

Chigwanda ) who was also arrested – who in turn exported it

to Mozambique. The Mugabes had not known of the export,

however. The state alleged further that the Mugabes worked

in conjunction with Chigwanda. Matinenga dismissed the third

charge, violating GMB regulations, as a nonstarter. The GOZ

classifies grain as a strategic commodity, and requires that

all producers sell their grain to the parastatal GMB.

According to Matinenga, this regulation only applied to

farmers, not middlemen like the Mugabes.

 

4. (C) Zimbabwean law does not stipulate penalties for fraud

and smuggling charges, but Matinenga noted that prison time

for smuggling convictions was not uncommon. He added that

judges normally had a great deal of independence in

determining sentences, which were required to be made in

&the interests of society.8 As testament to the decay of

Zimbabwe,s judicial system, Matinenga noted that the trial,

if this case got that far, could go on forever.

 

—————————

Mugabe Claims He,s Innocent

—————————

 

5. (C) Mugabe defended himself against the smuggling charges

in a November 7 conversation with poloff. Mugabe asserted

that he and his wife routinely purchased grain from the GMB

on behalf of the bakery. This time, however, they had

purchased too much grain, so they sold the remainder to Blue

Ribbon, one of Zimbabwe,s milling companies. Mugabe claimed

that Blue Ribbon in turn sold it to Chigwanda, who then

attempted to smuggle it to Mozambique. Mugabe claimed he was

not involved in the attempted smuggling and questioned why

the police would charge him with this crime without also

arresting officials at Blue Ribbon, who were more closely

associated with Chigwanda. He vowed to fight the charges,

saying that it was important to defend the family name.

————————————

Mugabe Forced To Give Up Second Farm

————————————

 

6. (C) In a related move that suggests Leo Mugabe,s star is

waning, the state recently confiscated his Journey,s End

farm in Mashonaland West, ostensibly due to the lack of

farming activity on the property. Reportedly purchased by

Mugabe in 1993, the seizure of his farm was oddly reminiscent

of the evictions of many white farmers, albeit without the

violence and coercion. According to press accounts, his farm

was listed for acquisition in the local paper nullifying his

title to the land. He was then given only a few days to

vacate the property, during which time he was reportedly busy

tabulating the value of improvements made on the farm for

future compensation. The seizure of the Journey,s End farm

came only months after Mugabe acquired another farm in

Mashonaland West under the GOZ,s fast track land reform

program in April; to date, the state has not targeted this

farm. Mugabe dismissed the impact of the seizure when

speaking with poloff, saying that he had actually offered to

sell the land to the state several years ago to ease

overcrowding in an adjoining communal area.

 

——–

Bio Note

——–

 

7. (C) Leo Mugabe appeared at ease during the nearly two

hour, introductory meeting with poloff at his timber company,

Stuarts and Lloyds. Although Mugabe openly discussed such

topics as the upcoming Senatorial race and related MDC

divide, he was tight-lipped regarding internal ZANU-PF

politics and his relationship with President Mugabe.

Referring to allegations of corruption while he was chairman

of the Zimbabwe Football Association, he claimed that the

attacks were personal and that he actually poured much of his

own money into the Association out of love for the sport.

Widely viewed as the family,s black sheep, he has had a hand

in several high profile schemes that smack of corruption,

such as the inflated tender in 1999 to build a new airport in

Harare. Mugabe has three children; two boys who appeared to

be in their early 20s and a daughter who is studying in South

Africa.

 

——-

Comment

——-

 

8. (C) Leo Mugabe,s recent tribulations both reflect and

will further fuel fear and loathing in the ruling party. His

arrest and squelched attempt to acquire multiple farms were

likely in large part intended as warnings to the junior

Mugabe and other political insiders in their pursuit of

excess. Much like those brought against former party

insiders Chris Kuruneri, James Makamba, and Phillip

Chiyangwa, the charges brought against Mugabe underscore the

cynical nature of anticorruption in Zimbabwe and reinforce

how uncertain the operating environment is for even the most

privileged Zimbabweans. While it is unclear who was

principally behind the measures against Mugabe, their moves

certainly had the approval of the senior Mugabe, who

regularly warns publicly that self-seeking business elites –

including unnamed relatives – within the party would not be

spared retribution for economic crimes. Interestingly, Leo

Mugabe,s sizable industrial empire appears not to have been

touched, further suggesting that this attack was meant as a

warning, not as a crippling blow. MDC contacts have noted

the back-bencher’s relative political independence in the

parliament; certainly, his agreement to meet an embassy

officer during a period of particularly acute bilateral

tensions is curious.

 

DELL

(50 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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