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Tagwirei probe indicts top government officials

An independent investigation raises more questions about the businessman's ties to President Mnangagwa, his Deputy and the Reserve Bank governor

Behind the opaque corporate structures set up by local mogul Kudakwashe Tagwirei, there is evidence that officials have used state resources to sponsor his network of over 40 companies in oil, mining, banking, logistics, transport and trade. A new report by The Sentry, a United States-based anti-corruption lobby, has unearthed more details about the close ties between Tagwirei and senior officers in Zimbabwe's army, the Reserve Bank and the President's office (AC Vol 62 No 13, Mogul shuffles his interests).

Tagwirei, under US sanctions for grand corruption, is still an economic advisor to President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The losses to Zimbabwe's treasury – through several over-procurement deals for fuel and fertilisers, preferential access to foreign exchange when the country was trying to relaunch its national currency and hidden financing tax holidays for mining deals – amount to several billion dollars, according to multiple sources (AC Vol 61 No 17, Inside the state capture project).

The Sentry investigation covers Tagwirei's companies and associates in Mauritius, South Africa and the Cayman Islands. It reproduces secret communications with the companies showing his hands-on involvement and concern about the effects of US sanctions on his operations. It also raises the possibility of prosecution of his associate companies in South Africa and Mauritius, both of which are under pressure to clean up their corporate sectors.

The US sanctions on Tagwirei may be a reason President Mnangagwa has distanced himself from the businessman in recent months. Although Zimbabwe's government is under wider US sanctions, Mnangagwa has hired lobbyists in Washington to try to get these lifted. He has also been trying to promote Zimbabwe's army as a force to fight the Islamist insurgents in Mozambique but the composition of a regional intervention force there is still in dispute.

Mnangagwa may also be concerned about Tagwirei's sprawling connections across the civilian and military arms of government. He has been particularly close to Deputy President General Constantino Chiwenga, who had been linked last year to a plot to oust Mnangagwa.

The latest evidence suggests that Mnangagwa, said to have extensive interests in banking, gold-mining and farming, and Tagwirei are independently restructuring their business interests. That, according to The Sentry report, could prove a lengthy and complex undertaking against the backdrop of Zimbabwe's precarious economy.

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