THE military seized various properties belonging to mega rich Omani businessman Thamer al Shanfari as a result of a fallout emanating from a diamond mining operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) when Zimbabwe participated in the Great Lakes War in 1998, the Zimbabwe Independent can report.
The properties at the centre of the court battle are stand numbers 98, 99, 100 and 101 Glen Lorne Township 8 of Lot 40A Glen Lorne Township 8 of Lot 40A Glen Lorne.
Shanfari, who was the former chairperson of Oryx Natural Resources, a joint venture firm set up by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) and investors from Qatar and Oman to finance the military’s operations in the DRC through proceeds from diamond mining operations, this month filed a High court application seeking an order for placement of a caveat over his four immovable properties which the Defence ministry was in the process of grabbing.
The Omani national is being represented by Atherstone and Cook Legal Practioners.Officials told the Independent the conflict dates back to August 1998 when the Zimbabwean army participated in the DRC war to save the Joseph Kabila administration, which was under siege from rebel forces.
During that time, Kabila sought the alliance of Zimbabwe in the war, but could not finance Harare’s military operation.He then parcelled out lucrative diamond reserves in Mbujumai to the Zimbabwean army to mine and use the proceeds to support its military activities.
The army, officials said, however did not have capacity, experience or expertise to mine diamonds resulting in it looking for partners to form a joint venture.
The army then formed a JV company called Oryx, that was 30% owned by a military mining company Osleg — which was the Operation Sovereign Legacy and 70% owned by Omani and Qatar investors.
Oryx appointed Shanfari the chair of the company but he ended up operating like an executive chairperson.“During the entity’s operations in DRC, Shanfari would withdraw huge sums of money ranging between US$100 000 and US$1 million from Oryx Natural Resources. He would convert the US dollars to Congolese francs in Kinshasa before flying to Kigali, Rwanda where he would offload the francs to the Rwandan army,” a senior security official said.
“The Rwandan army needed Congolese francs to pay soldiers fighting in the DRC. Rwanda was literally at war with Zimbabwe as they were backing different sides.
“Shanfari made a lot of money through arbitrage because of exchange rate variations. He did not care about loyalties as he was chasing money, never mind the fact that the two sides were fighting.”
The officials revealed Shanfari woud visit European capitals, Dubai and Oman frequently to spend money without giving shareholders any dividends.
His double-dealings were exposed after he fell out with two former MI6 agents who were part of his security after a fallout over payment. The army then declared him a security threat.
Filing the High court application, Shanfari said he was compelled to approach the courts, given the enormous power of the millitary.“I (Shanfari) am also the primary beneficiary in the above mentioned properties in terms of the notarial deed of donation and trust (Ref 339) … in this instance I do have a clear caveatable interest, and this application is motivated by my reasonable apprehension that the respondents (Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri and others) are about to completely dispossess me of my properties and given the political and state power that is wielded by some of the respondents, the prejudice I stand to suffer if I do not act now, could be irreversible and the respondents have failed or refused to resolve my dispute with them amicably,” Shanfari said in his founding affidavit this month.
“I financed the construction of the main structure which was custom-made to suit my peculiar tastes and an entertainment area. After completion of the construction project, I resided at the subject property for intermittent periods, but have generally lived outside Zimbabwe for many years.”
According to Shanfari, all the documentation pertaining to the acquisition and ownership of the properties are presently in the custody of the Defence ministry’s lawyers.