Tsvangirai Under Investigation for US$1.5m Alleged Fraud

Zimbabwean police are investigating Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in a high-profile case of alleged fraud involving US$1,5 million in public funds released two years ago by government to buy a mansion for him in the posh Harare suburb of Highlands.

Impeccable high-level sources drawn from top government circles, police and the banking sector said this week the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) have opened a criminal docket and are intensifying their probe in a case of alleged fraud which involves PM Tsvangirai and a close relative, Hebson Makuvise, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Germany.

Allegations are that PM Tsvangirai and Makuvise misappropriated US$1,5 million which came from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) in 2009 to purchase the house located at No 49 Kew Drive in Highlands. The house, a two storey mansion, is currently under renovation to ensure it meets standards of quarters for a premier.

Sources say police are also investigating if PM Tsvangirai had engaged in double-dipping by taking money from the RBZ and Treasury for the same project.

They also say besides the US$1,5 million, close to US$1 million could also have been released from state coffers for the purchase and development of the same property.

CID chief superintendent Alison Nyamupaguma is leading the investigation team.

The detectives have been to RBZ, several banks and the courts and trawled documents. Nyamupaguma wrote to the RBZ on July 18 asking for help to gather more information.

Police recently obtained a warrant of seizure from the courts in terms of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act to facilitate their investigations, particularly to confiscate documents from the banks.

The case is so high-profile that Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri is also personally involved.

Commissioner-General Chihuri and his detectives have written letters to relevant banking authorities asking for information.

Police also want to find out if Finance Minister Tendai Biti was aware of how the money was secured and used by PM Tsvangirai.

Details show that letters have been flying between top police offices, including that of Commissioner-General Chihuri, and the banks as part of the investigations.

The RBZ and four commercial banks, CBZ Bank, ZB Bank, BancABC and Interfin are involved in the case.

A warrant of seizure dated July 7 targeted at Interfin, one of the banks involved in handling the US$1,5 million during its various transfers through the banking system, says the police were looking for “documents and records which are required as exhibits in a criminal docket”. It says the information is “necessary for the purpose of investigating or detecting a case of fraud”.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena yesterday said he was “not aware” of the ongoing investigations.

Tsvangirai’s spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka said: “The Prime Minister remains unshaken about these allegations. If police are investigating the case we wish them good luck!”

Documents released to local media shows beyond reasonable doubt police were investigating a case of fraud and have opened a criminal docket.

After the formation of the inclusive Government in February 2009, there was a legitimate expectation on Tsvangirai’s part and the general public that the new prime minister would move into Zimbabwe House where President Mugabe used to live as premier between 1980 and 1987 and later as president in State House.

Since President Mugabe had moved out of Zimbabwe House to his own privately-owned home in Borrowdale, PM Tsvangirai had the option to move into State House or Zimbabwe House.

He, however, did not do so for reasons not disclosed by the MDC-T.

PM Tsvangirai requested funding from President Mugabe to buy a house to live in. Although PM Tsvangirai wanted a bigger sum, President Mugabe in November 2009 cleared US$1,5 million for the project.

This came a few days after the MDC-T ended its boycott of Cabinet and government following the Sadc Troika summit in Maputo, Mozambique, to deal with the problem.

RBZ governor Gideon Gono played a major role in negotiating with President Mugabe before the funds were released to PM Tsvangirai.

The paper trail of the movement of the $1,5 million through banks shows the money was transferred from the RBZ in November 2009 into a holding CBZ Bank account.

After the US$1,5 million was deposited into a CBZ account, Makuvise, who is close to PM Tsvangirai, moved the money to a ZB Bank account.

While in a ZB account, US$140 000 was withdrawn and used to buy a residential stand allegedly for Makuvise.

From ZB Bank, the funds – then US$1,349 million – were transferred again to BancABC into Makuvise’s personal account. While there US$99 000 was withdrawn for unspecified purposes.

Later the money — reduced to US$1,250 million — was further transferred from BancABC to Interfin into an account of a prominent Harare law firm whose attorneys have represented Tsvangirai.

Police battled with Interfin to secure documents and records. Some of the international banks involved in the transferring and clearing of the money included Standard Chartered Bank, New York, and National Westminster Bank, London.

Documents further show a series of withdrawals were made by Makuvise who gave his address as 3 Everette Close, Avondale, Harare.

The withdrawals ranged from tens of thousands to a few thousands. For instance in a blitz of withdrawals, Makuvise last year on February 5 withdrew $10 000, another $10 000 on February 9, $8 000 on February 17, $7 000 two days later on February 19 and $11 000 on February 22. The original sum was drawn down to negligible levels.