Chinese businessman denies bankrolling Mugabe's secret police

HARARE - Sam Pa, a shadowy Chinese businessman, has denied bankrolling President Robert Mugabe’s feared secret police, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), claiming the money was for taxes and licence fees to the Zimbabwe government, Global Witness said in its latest report published yesterday.

A July 2012 Global Witness report titled, Financing a Parallel Government?, had claimed the CIO had received $100 million in off-budget financing from the Hong Kong tycoon.

Pa claims to be merely an advisor to a company that jointly owns Sino Zimbabwe Development (Pvt) Ltd’s diamond concession worth some $1 billion in the vast Marange diamond fields in partnership with the CIO.

Through his China International Fund (CIF) representatives, Pa denied providing funding and materials to the spy agency in return for access to Zimbabwe’s diamonds, cotton and property sectors as alleged.
“China International Fund has not been involved in sending money to the secret police,” said a letter from the representatives to Global Witness.

“While China International Fund has provided money to the government of Zimbabwe it has done so for legitimate business reasons such as the payment of taxes, licence fees etc.

“It is a commercial enterprise and governments are free to deploy monies they receive as they deem appropriate.”

Global Witness had claimed that Pa’s secret funding to the CIO has been allocated towards Operation Spiderweb, an alleged covert operation designed to discredit Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

The international organisation has pulled out of diamond industry regulator, the Kimberley Process (KP),  branding the scheme “an accomplice to diamond laundering”.

The mysterious Hong Kong-based magnate admitted providing the $100 million but said it was for taxes and other fees, adding the 200 pick-up trucks were given to the Zimbabwe government not the CIO.

“It is true that 200 Nissan trucks were imported on behalf of China International Fund into Zimbabwe,” the letter says.

“Hundred of those trucks were used for company purposes and 100 were provided to the government of Zimbabwe without specifying the vehicles’ usage.

“The report seeks to create the impression that China International Fund or Pa were, by virtue of the provision of the trucks in question, in some way contributing to the “alleged human rights violations” allegedly carried out by (CIO) agents using these vehicles.”

Pa’s representatives said such insinuations were “damaging and untrue”.

“It is not correct to say that Sino Zimbabwe Development (Pvt) Ltd was “granted opportunities in the diamond, cotton and property sectors” ‘in return for the provision of vehicles to the Zimbabwe government,” Pa’s representatives said.

“This claim creates the impression that our clients have been given undue commercial advantage in their business activities in these sectors in Zimbabwe in exchange for these vehicles.
“This is not true.”

While Sino Zimbabwe Development (Pvt) Ltd is active in the cotton sector in Zimbabwe, “it has not acted in an unfair manner,” the letter says.

Pa, a prominent member of the Queensway Syndicate — a network of companies with a track record of negotiating opaque resource for infrastructure deals across the African continent — denied he was the major channel of funds to the CIO.

Pa’s emergence as an alleged secret funder of the CIO exploded at a particularly sensitive time as national attention focused on the role of diamonds in bankrolling Zimbabwe’s $4 billion cash budget.

Diamonds are fast becoming Zimbabwe’s biggest source of export earnings but twice the amount earned is smuggled out illegally through porous borders by corrupt officials and criminal networks, according to Global Witness, an allegation strenuously denied by Pa’s representatives.

“The activities of Sino Zimbabwe Development (Pvt) Ltd in the diamond sector in Zimbabwe have not resulted in the removal of any diamonds from Zimbabwe,” Pa’s letter says.

“In fact, not a single carat was ever exported by Sino Zimbabwe Development (Pvt) Ltd.”

The international NGO has taken a lead in efforts to stop trade in diamonds from conflict zones in Sierra Leone, Angola, Congo and Zimbabwe.

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