Saturday, April 10, 2010

(ZIMBABWE GUARDIAN) Mpofu sues The Standard newspaper

Mpofu sues The Standard newspaper
Posted: Sunday, April 11, 2010 12:20 am

MINES and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu is suing The Standard newspaper for defamation over a story they published claiming that he was looting Marange diamonds to enrich himself. Mpofu says the source of his wealth is legitimate and he has not in any way abused his office to acquire it.

Recent newspaper and online publication reports queried the minister's financial dealings and the source of his riches after he reportedly bought properties in Victoria Falls. Minister Mpofu said he could account for everything he owns.

He said he purchased the houses in question after securing a US$1 million loan from CBZ Bank while the other funds came from his safari business.

The Standard newspaper and other online publications, like SW Radio Africa claimed that the minister was looting diamonds at Chiadzwa.

The newspaper reported that an “alleged property-buying spree by Minister Mpofu had attracted the interest of a parliamentary committee investigating the plunder of the controversial Chiadzwa diamond fields”.

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The newspaper further reported that Mpofu had splashed thousands of dollars on high-value properties in Victoria Falls and Bulawayo.

“Information gleaned from various sources indicates that the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy is sweating to establish how the minister allegedly acquired at least 27 properties in Victoria Falls alone over the last few months,” read part of The Standard article.

Mpofu’s lawyer, Advocate Farai Mutamangira, however, refuted the report, saying his client was a “reputable business person presiding over profitable businesses dating back to the first decade of Zimbabwe’s independence”.

“Our client runs a successful tourism and safari business called Khanondo Safaris and Tours (Private) Limited, which holds hunting concessions and tour operations worth millions of United States dollars.

“Khanondo purchased five pieces of immovable property situated in Mkhosana, a high-density suburb in Victoria Falls.

“The purpose of the acquisition of the aforementioned immovable property is to provide housing for Khanondo’s employees. It is not unusual in Victoria Falls for safari operators to purchase immovable property for the purposes of providing housing for their employees,” said Advocate Mutamangira.

“He is also the majority shareholder in the company called Trebo and Khays (Private) Limited, which also owns York House in Bulawayo purchased several years ago from Old Mutual.

“In any event, Zimbabwe is predominantly a cash economy and there is nothing unusual about persons effecting payment through cash,” explained Mr Mutamangira.

Documents reveal that Minister Mpofu’s company, Trebo and Khays (Private) Limited, in October last year was granted a US$1 million loan by CBZ Bank Limited.

It is this loan that Minister Mpofu says he used to acquire houses for his employees in Mkhosana, Victoria Falls.
“I have not even exhausted the facility,” said Minister Mpofu.

“The purpose of the loan facility was to purely finance capital expenditure requirements.’’
In a letter to the minister advising him of his successful loan application, CBZ stated:

“Funds should be used strictly for the purpose of financing capital expenditure requirements and the bank reserves the right to call up the entire facilities where it is ascertained that the funds are not being used in line with the stated purpose.’’

Security for the loan was supported by a mortgage bond for US$1,3 million over Stand 12265A Bulawayo Township in the name of Trebo and Khays.

Minister Mpofu said: “It only takes a corrupt person to see that another person is corrupt.

“I have been in business for years and I am a very successful businessperson in my own right. What is unusual about me buying houses for my employees?

“Most companies in the safari business do that.

“I will not be moved by such allegations and I will ensure that The Standard retracts its allegations.”

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