Wednesday 25 April 2018

Diamond mine 'war chest' fears

Peta Thornycroft and Aislinn Laing in Johannesburg

A Zimbabwean diamond field, said to be the largest in the world, is being mined by companies staffed by Robert Mugabe's police and military chiefs who may use the proceeds as a "war chest" to crack down on opponents, according to an anti-corruption watchdog.

A study by Global Witness marks the first comprehensive attempt to pin down ownership of two companies awarded the rights to mine at Marange, in eastern Zimbabwe, since concessions were awarded by the mining ministry -- run by Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party -- four years ago.

It reveals that one company has among its directors members of Mr Mugabe's security services who have previously been implicated in vote-rigging and political violence in the run-up to elections.

The other is part-owned by companies registered in tax havens such as Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands, making its beneficiaries virtually impossible to identify.

Tendai Biti, the finance minister and a member of the Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe's fractious coalition government, has repeatedly complained about the disappearance of diamond revenues which, it was hoped, might help to revive the shattered economy.

Global Witness claims that instead, the security forces could be channelling the profits into a "war chest" that could be used to act against dissenting voices in elections.

"Control by the military and police over a major diamond miner creates opportunities for off-budget funding of the security sector," the report later concluded. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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