Mugabe was not a saint after all


Former President Robert Mugabe looked almost untouchable and above corruption during his 37 year at the helm of the country but he was implicated in corruption way back in the 1990s and even prior to independence.

His name together with that of former Vice-President Joshua Nkomo and former Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith came up in a special report on the collapsed Bank of Credit and Commerce International which established a branch in Zimbabwe under the name of Bank of Credit and Commerce Zimbabwe which later changed its name to the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe, now the country’s largest commercial bank.

Their names were in a special report by the United States congress which looked into BCCI scandal which led to the collapse of the bank in July 1991.

Below is what the subcommittee said about Zimbabwe:

Several BCCI officials interviewed by the Subcommittee referred to bribes paid to Zimbabwe's prime minister, and the political chief opposition figure in Zimbabwe, by BCCI at the time it opened a joint venture with Zimbabwe.

By the account of Nazir Chinoy:

I accompanied Mr. Abedi and Mr. Sheikh to the opening of a joint venture with Zimbabwe. I think to get permission for establishing a bank in Zimbabwe that money was paid to President Mugabe and to Nkomo. The basis I am making this statement was that when I went there with Mr. Sheikh I was acting as Mr. Abedi's personal assistant or secretary. Mr. Sheikh went off on his own to see Nkomo who was the chief opposition at that time, and then he went off to see President Mugabe, and when they talked they wanted me out of the room. Many of us were there for the opening. But only Alauddin Sheikh and [BCCI CEO] Abedi were left in the room with these two political figures. Otherwise I was accompanying him and acting with him.

Mr. Sheikh carried a bag with him. At the time I had a suspicion that you don't get permission as a foreign bank so easily without a payment. Without favors, it wouldn't be so easy to get a bank that fast, especially given the opposition of the British banks who were already established there.

By the account of Akbar Bilgrami:

We paid Mugabe and Nkomo. I was at the Parklane Branch. BCC was approached to look after the expenses of the delegates, which were paid. In addition, we paid 500,000 pounds from the Parklane Branch. Someone from Mr. Naqvi's office came to Parklane and picked up the money. I don't think that Ian Smith was getting paid by us. I think that the Rhodesian government was taking care of him. That was in 1980-1981.

By the account of Abdur Sakhia:

I drove one of my colleagues in London to a hotel, and he went with a briefcase and he came back without a briefcase, and I asked him: What happened to your briefcase? And he smiled at me and he said: This was for those people. I said: What, did you carry gold bars? He said: No, some cash. . . So this was prior to independence of Zimbabwe, when they were negotiating for independence. Some officials, some politicians from Zimbabwe were staying at a hotel in London.


Ed: Please note that The Insider first published the story on Mugabe being implicated in this scandal in November 1992 when it was still a printed but confidential publication only available to subscribers.

To read the full report on who got what from BCCI worldwide click here.





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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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