Gono’s Russian contact shot dead

CENTRAL bank governor Gideon Gono’s associate at the central bank of Russia, Andrei Kozlov, died yesterday after he was shot on Wednesday evening in Moscow in a suspected assassination.

Kozlov, who was deputy chairman of the Russian central bank, was Gono’s key

contact during his trips to Russia to negotiate lines of credit for Zimbabwe.

Gono yesterday confirmed his relationship with Kozlov whom he described as “a professional acquaintance full of energy and determination … and a source of inspiration to any central bank governor to get things right”.

Gono however declined to spell out the nature of the business discussions he had with Kozlov. This year alone Gono has visited Russia three times while officials from the central bank have visited the East European country six times. There have also been visits by delegations from the local business community.

Gono said the death of Kozlov was an occupational hazard linked to fighting corruption. Recent press reports said there had been a threat to Gono’s life after the introduction of new bearer cheques amid a 21-day period to harvest old notes.

The reports said strangers had visited Gono’s horticulture plot in the Enterprise area while fire had allegedly destroyed a maize crop at his farm in Norton. Since then security has been stepped up around the governor.

Agency reports yesterday said Kozlov (41) was attacked near the capital’s Spartak football arena at around 9 pm on Wednesday. His driver was also killed.

CNN yesterday reported that authorities were looking at the possibility of criminals involved in money laundering being behind the killing.

Russian deputy prime minister Alexander Zhukov told Associated Press the assassination was likely linked to Kozlov’s duties, and suggested the possibility of a connection with the central bank’s revocation of licences of unreliable commercial banks.

Kozlov had been responsible for banking supervision and had overseen an ambitious scheme to reduce criminality and money laundering in the banking system.

Gono yesterday said the deal between Zimbabwe and Russia would however continue although he refused to disclose the nature of the investment deal under negotiation.

He however revealed that a “very large” Russian business delegation would be visiting Zimbabwe very soon to explore investment opportunities in mining, power generation, manufacturing, horticulture, telecommunications and infrastructure development. — CNN/AP/Staff Writer.