WITH less than eight weeks to go before the European Union reviews its targeted sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and his officials, investigators in Britain and the U
nited States are working flat out to track assets held by those under review.
The Zimbabwe Independent heard this week that the Jersey Financial Services Commission, in conjunction with the Joint Financial Crimes Unit, has intensified its search for funds that could be held in offshore accounts by Mugabe and his cronies in the Channel Island.
Financial investigators believe members of Zanu PF have used proceeds from 25 years’ access to the national treasury to buy houses and other real estate in the UK, the US and elsewhere.
While the investigators have revealed that proof of ownership has probably been hidden several layers deep beneath “shell corporations” and intermediaries, the investigators think the expertise and records exist to make tracking possible.
The commission on its website has listed Mugabe, his wife Grace, and 95 ministers and advisers as “politically exposed persons” who require scrutiny by banks to ensure there was no “reputational risk” to the institutions.
“Politically exposed persons” are identified with what the commission calls “potentate risk”, a term given to the risk associated with providing financial and business services to officials of countries tainted by “corruption, bribery, scandals and scams”.
“President Mugabe and his associates clearly fit the definition of a ‘politically exposed person’ as defined in the commission’s guidance issued in the Anti-Money Laundering Guidance Update,” the commission said.
The Independent understands that as yet, no-one has been able to quantify the scale of the assets in question, and some may be a great deal more difficult to locate than others.
The commission, which regulates Jersey’s 250 trust companies, 150 investment firms, 70 banks and 30 fund administrators, said financial institutions should “review files” to determine whether any links existed with the listed individuals.
Jersey is a self-governing British dependency, which has grown to become prosperous because of “offshore” bank accounts held there.
EU and US officials have of late been intensifying the trawling of financial institutions for possible holdings by political and military leaders of the Zimbabwean regime.
But the commission seems doubtful.
“We have no reason to suppose Jersey is being used for this.”
But it also said: “Nevertheless, regulated institutions should review their files to determine whether or not they have any connection with any of the named individuals. They will then wish to satisfy themselves that they know the customers concerned and have taken any appropriate action to address any reputational risks that may arise.”