HomeLocal NewsHow Ghanaian tycoon’s US$10m was looted

How Ghanaian tycoon’s US$10m was looted

THE US$6 million bribery scandal centred on former Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) chairperson Godwills Masimirembwa could claim the scalps of Zanu PF bigwigs linked to associated dodgy deals as it emerged this week more than US$10 million of shareholders’ funds in Gye Nyame Resources was abused by the diamond venture’s indigenous partners.

Chris Muronzi

Informed sources said capital outlays for the diamond project were siphoned through hefty salaries unrelated to market trends, a bloated staff complement and deliberate inflation of prices of mining equipment and other supplies.

Gye Nyame Resources is now owned by ZMDC which has a 50% stake, Zimbabwe Republic Police Trust (20%), Essien (24%), and Dantor (6%), a company representing the interests of local shareholders Itai Munyeza and Blessmore Chanakira.

Well-placed sources this week said Ghanaian tycoon William Ato Essien had committed and lost more than US$10 million in Gye Nyame operations to his indigenous partners — Munyeza and Chanakira — in an elaborate financial scam in which the duo allegedly awarded themselves hefty salaries and introduced directors’ fees as high as US$6 000-US$8 000 a month. Itai is the young brother to African Sun CEO Shingi Munyeza, while Blessmore is related to Kingdom Bank founder Nigel Chanakira.

Blue chip companies such as Meikles pay their directors US$35 000 a year, which translates to just less than US$3 000 a month.

Other non-managerial employees at Gye Nyame were taking home more than US$5 000 per month, the sources said.

“These guys deliberately looted the company through financial mismanagement in the form of hefty salaries paid out to themselves and workers. For instance, the lowest paid worker was getting US$1 500 a month. In the period when Essien was barred from coming into the country, the local partners plundered over US$10 million of his money,” a source said.

Investigations show the Ghanaians discovered mining equipment invoiced at US$3 million had been acquired for as little as US$100 000, meaning the difference had been converted to personal use.

The equipment, a 50-tonne dense media separation (DMS) machine was acquired from a reputed South African company.

According to the sources, Essien had in total brought in over US$20 million into the country in investment. He is said to have invested US$4 million in First Capital Zimbabwe, a micro finance institution, US$10 million in working capital for Gye Nyame, and the US$6 million which was allegedly taken by Masimirembwa, according to President Robert Mugabe.

However, Munyeza denies the charges against him, saying the Ghanaians never invested such large sums of money. He also disputes that the machinery the company acquired could be sourced any cheaper.

“Let them show you evidence that they invested US$10 million,” he said. “There is no DMS for a million rand, even if it is second hand. You cannot inflate the price of a DMS because the banks deal directly with the supplier.”

The Zimbabwe Independent this week saw records of a seires of deposits by Essein.

Besides, Essien, Munyeza and Chanakira, other directors of Gye Nyame are Charles Mufandaidza, Justice Chengeta, Mekia Tanyanyiwa, Grace Nomsa Ndebele — a senior assistant police commissioner, Thompson Mensah Isaac Osah, Archibald Tadiwa Muradzika, Tafadzwa Musarara and Manson Mnaba, according to the company’s CR14 records. Former ZMDC CEO and general manager Samson Siziba resigned.

A source said when Essien eventually regained control of the company after bruising boardroom battles, Munyeza and Chanakira had tried to muscle out the Ghanaians by providing working capital through their company Dantor which held a 6% stake, in a move insiders said was meant to consolidate their position. A source said there was a lot of infighting at Gye Nyame after Munyeza tried to seize it.

“He wanted to push everyone out, but the police and (company chairperson Manson) Mnaba proved to be a problem for them,” said a source. “Police hold a 20% equity in Gye Nyame and were the ones who stopped him.”

The Independent’s investigations show all had been unwell in Gye Nyame long before Mugabe railed against Masimirembwa at a luncheon hosted for MPs last week, accusing him of soliciting and receiving a US$6 million bribe, a charge he denies.

Sources said police received a court order in July to collect financial information from banks such as Ecobank that had dealings with the company, an indication of lingering suspicions of shady dealings before Mugabe’s public outburst.

Mugabe was alerted to the scandal by former South African president Thabo Mbeki who was approached by Essien’s associate as the battle for the control of Gye Nyame and the siphoning of funds reached fever-pitch, investigations show.

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