Essien comes to Harare

GHANAIAN tycoon, William Ato Essien, who is at the centre of US$6 million diamond mining bribery allegations, will soon be on his way to Zimbabwe to make an official report on the scandal as police investigations intensify.

In a telephone interview from Ghana last week, Essien told the Zimbabwe Independent he is coming to Harare during the first week of October to officially report former Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) chairman Godwills Masimirembwa for allegedly swindling him.

Masimirembwa denies the charges and has vowed to give his side of the story.

“I am coming sometime (in the) first week of October,” said Essien, after disclosing he had given President Robert Mugabe all the documentation and evidence showing his US$5,9 million was taken by Masimirembwa.

Sources said Essien and his aide brought US$5 million into the country via Kenya.

The other US$975 000 was allegedly paid to Masimirembwa to facilitate the release of Essien’s business partner Kingsley Ghansah who was arrested in Harare on illegal possession of 7kgs of gold, which has now gone missing.

Police, who are already probing the matter, have said they are waiting for Essien to come and make an official report and statement to facilitate the investigation. However, a source Ghana close to Essien said yesterday the Ghanaian businessman now fears for his life as the case continues to draw in powerful politicians and dangerous dealers into its vortex.

“Essien is a God-fearing businessman who has told President Mugabe the truth and nothing else but the truth,” said a source from Accra.

“The ordeal Essien has been through from people in influential positions, including Masimirembwa, while trying to do business in Zimbabwe is harrowing. He couldn’t stomach it anymore; that’s why he had to break his silence.”

Masimirembwa’s camp says Essien failed to deliver on his investment promises and was involved in shady deals, mainly in gold as shown by the arrest of his business associate.

However, Mugabe has publicly accused Masimirembwa of demanding and receiving a US$6 million bribe.

The Accra source said: “Essien now fears for his life since his case may just be the tip of the iceberg and feels he may be caught up in the cross-fire amid efforts to cover up for the ‘big fish’ involved in other diamond deals.

“Other quarters seem keen to bury him alive and hence connecting dots that don’t connect to this particular case to divert attention.”

Essien told the Independent last week he brought in US$5,9 million in 2011 in cash and gave it to Masimirembwa. However, Masimirembwa has denied the allegations, saying the money received by the diamond company, Gye Nyame, a public/private partnership initially between state-owned ZMDC and Bill Minerals of Ghana, was a “commitment fee”, not a bribe.

However, Essien insisted: “A commitment fee will always bear some sort of receipt but this doesn’t. So it’s not a commitment fee because I did not get access to it to use for the project. It cannot be referred to as commitment fee.”