Monday, December 31, 2007

(NEW ZIMBABWE) Zimbabwean police hunt financial crimes cover-up MP

Zimbabwean police hunt financial crimes cover-up MP
PURSUIT: RBZ governor Gideon Gono has been investigating abuse of a loan facility by MP
By Lebo Nkatazo
Last updated: 12/28/2007 15:25:48

A ZIMBABWEAN MP who blocked the central bank governor’s request to go before a parliamentary committee and publicly name senior government officials involved in economic crimes is now being hunted by police probing violations of exchange control regulations. Guruve North MP David Butau, seen as a front for Vice President Joice Mujuru’s vast business empire, has refused to heed a police appeal since Monday to turn himself in for questioning.

"It is now apparent that Butau is wilfully evading the police,” police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena said.

Butau, who chairs the parliamentary portfolio committee on budget and finance, had sent some text messages to investigating officers, but Bvudzijena would not disclose the contents of the texts.

Butau is a director of Dande Holdings, a company linked to Mujuru. Dande Holdings -- which runs a poultry project -- took a $122 billion loan from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) under the Agriculture Sector Productivity Enhancement Facility -- money which authorities now believe was traded on the thriving black market to buy scarce foreign currency.

It remains unclear if the loan is connected to the latest police enquiry.

Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono recently fingered some senior Zanu PF party and government officials as "cash barons" holding onto large sums of the local currency, precipitating nationwide cash shortages.

Thousands of people queued up for days outside Zimbabwe’s banks leading up to Christmas trying to make withdrawals. Gono said the central bank released Z$67 trillion at the start of the year, but some Z$65 trillion of that money could not be accounted for.

When Gono threw a challenge to Butau’s committee to invite him so that he could publicly name corrupt officials, Butau said his committee was “in no hurry” to invite him.

Butau’s intervention put him on a collision course with other members of the committee, notably Glen Norah MP Priscilla Misihairabwi (MDC), who said in a letter to a local weekly paper that “the parliamentary committee on finance and budget, with all the immunity and privileges granted to its witnesses, is indeed the rightful platform for such disclosures to be made”.

She added: “The MDC parliamentary caucus calls on the finance and budget committee to urgently convene a meeting and invite the governor to name these cash barons. It is criminal that those who are in the employ of the state, charged with the duty to service the people, can be so cruel to inflict such intense suffering on the very people they were entrusted to service.

“We specifically call upon the chairperson of the parliamentary finance and budget committee, Hon David Butau MP to immediately convene the committee and invite the governor.”

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