Missing RBZ billions keep Gono in trouble

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by Staff Reporter

FORMER Hurungwe West legislator Temba Mliswa is understood to be fighting to avoid paying the US$12,5 million his company, Saltlakes Holdings, reportedly got as a loan from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) because the so-called loan was part of a wider self-enriching scheme masterminded by the apex bank’s former governor Gideon Gono.

Gideon Gono

Zimbabwe central bank governor Gideon Gono speaks at a press conference to discuss the dismissal of the entire board of a local bank, CFX Holdings after it was leaked that the bank had off-loaded 260 billion Zimbabwe dollars of the new currency to buy foreign exchange one day before the notes were legal tender on December 4, 2008 in Harare. Once described as a model economy and a regional breadbasket, Zimbabwe’s economy has collapsed over the past decade and there are now shortages of basic foodstuffs like sugar and cooking oil.

Sources close to the massive fraud and corruption case say Mliswa is unhappy that he is being personally accused of not paying back the huge loan, which money was part of the loot that was shared with Gono and several other high-ranking government and ruling ZANU-PF officials.

“He is very upset that he is being accused of being one of RBZ’s debtors when not all the money that was released to Saltlakes, purportedly to help it buy tobacco for export, was never spent by the company after those that had released it followed up and took most of it, “ a source said.

“There could be truth in his claims because there are some things that do not add up in this case. Where on earth can a bank allow someone to borrow such a huge amount without any collateral? It shows that there could be an element of truth in what he (Mliswa) is saying which is why he is insisting that he can only pay the money back in Zimbabwean dollars,” the source added.

Last year Mliswa acknowledged owing the RBZ some money, but said the amount was way below the $12,5 that his company is alleged to have borrowed. He went on to insist that he can only pay back the amount in Zim dollars, saying even though the amount was given to him in 2008 in US dollars, there was a clause that allowed him to repay the loan in Zim dollars.

CBZ Bank is also trying to sell Mliswa assets at his farm in Karoi after he failed to repay another US$2,7 million loan his company got from the bank—which Gono headed before he was moved to RBZ—also without any collateral.

Munyaradzi Kereke, former advisor to Gono during part of his tenure at the RBZ is fighting to get Gono prosecuted for fraud and corruption that he alleges the former governor committed during his time at RBZ.

Three weeks ago, Kereke sent an affidavit to the Prosecutor General’s exonerating RBZ employees who are currently standing accused of committing a $2,6 million fraud at Fidelity Printer and Refiners, a gold-buying and money-printing division of the RBZ.

Kereke has a pending case in the Constitutional Court in which he is pushing for the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) to investigate corruption and fraud allegations against Gono which crimes he allegedly committed while still at the RBZ.

Kereke wants the Constitutional Court to issue a declaration that the refusal by ZACC to investigate the allegations was a breach of its constitutional mandate.

In the affidavit, which Kereke attached to his letter to the Prosecutor General, was done by Fidelity chief executive, Alan Marimbe, accuses Gono of not following procedures in handling cash at the RBZ.

Marimbe, together with two colleagues, are facing criminal charges at the Harare magistrates’ court for allegedly defrauding Fidelity Printers of more than $2,6 million.

Kereke says Marimbe’s affidavit was evidence enough that Gono did not handle issues at the RBZ in a professional manner.

“I write in my own name as a citizen of Zimbabwe in pursuit of Sections 258, 259(11) and 260(1)(b) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe to report that Dr Gideon Gono, former governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe was directly part and parcel of the fraud at Fidelity Printers and Refiners which is currently before the courts,” the State-owned Herald newspaper quoted Kereke’s affidavit.

“Please note that I am also at the Constitutional Court where I am seeking the intervention of the honourable court to cause an investigation on Dr Gono for other various acts of fraud and corruption, including the selling of Fidelity gold bullion at discounts of 34 percent to a Saudi Arabian private company.

“Attached under Annex 1 hereto, please find explicit evidence being a sworn affidavit by Mr Allen Marimbe the co-accused CEO of Fidelity Printers and Refiners who is confirming that all he did at Fidelity was at the explicit directions of Dr Gono .”

In the letter which he copied to the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Kereke said he stood ready to bear testimony as a State witness should the need arise.

In his affidavit dated July 30, 2015, Marimbe said during his time at the RBZ as division head for Banking and Currency, at the RBZ, transactions were being done verbally.

“During my period of service as division chief responsible for banking and currency as well as during my service as chief executive officer of the company (Fidelity Printers), cash was released through Dr Gideon Gono’s office on verbal requests as was the norm for undisclosed national strategic purposes and I never made him sign,” he said.

“Whenever such funds were requested, they were released either to the governor Dr Gideon Gono directly or through his secretaries or handled as directed. On such matters where highly sensitive matters were involved insistence on signatures or paper work was seen in very dim light and minimal documentation was maintained.”

As a result of this, Marimbe said he couldn’t not be held responsible in the event that the funds he released on verbal instructions were not used for the stated purposes.

Sources said money was dished out to many ruling party and government big wigs, most of whom have—together with Gono—since taken a low profile, especially the several ex-army officials that were deployed to various government departments and ministries. These included such as Retired Colonel Samuel Muvhuti who was at the Grain Marketing Board, Brigadier General Douglas Nyikayaramba who claimed to be running “Operation Maguta”, the now late Retired Air Commodore Mike Karakadzai who was at the National Railways of Zimbabwe, former ZANU-PF legislator Edward Raradza who was an influential figure at the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union and Jonathan Kadzura who was the chairman of the Air Zimbabwe board, among others.

Sources say all the money would be followed and Gono would collect a bigger chunk of the loot with the simple explanation that it was going towards sanctions-busting activities among other sensitive payments.

This way, the sources say, a good part of the $1,4 billion debt that the RBZ ended up being saddled with—which debt has since been taken over by the State—accrued.

Efforts by the opposition to have the full list of RBZ’s debtors made public are being violently resisted by both the RBZ and President Robert Mugabe’s government.