Tagwirei firm proposed move after sanctions, documents show
- Those assets now fall under state-controlled venture Kuvimba
Zimbabwe’s government is pressing ahead with a plan to combine its mining assets under a massive private-public enterprise, even as evidence mounts that the project could be linked to a tycoon sanctioned by the U.S. and U.K.
Previously unreported documents, including correspondence among executives and shareholders, show that weeks after Kudakwashe Tagwirei was sanctioned by the U.S., his Mauritius-based Sotic International Ltd. began planning to shift its assets to a newly created Zimbabwean holding company — Ziwa Resources Ltd. Ziwa is the only private shareholder in the partnership, called Kuvimba Mining House Ltd.
Zimbabwe government officials have repeatedly denied that Tagwirei has any connection to Kuvimba. But Bloomberg in May reported that Kuvimba holds assets that were until at least late last year part-owned by Tagwirei, citing company documents, emails and transcripts of Whatsapp conversations between executives. The government has as recently as last month declined to say how Kuvimba came to possess the assets, which include choice mineral deposits and mines that it says are worth $2 billion.
Tagwirei, an adviser to Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa, was sanctioned by the U.S. on Aug. 5 last year on allegations that he used political influence to gain access to scarce foreign currency and win lucrative deals. The U.S. linked him to the disappearance of $3 billion from a farm-subsidy program, and the U.K. sanctioned him last month for similar reasons.
Under the U.S. sanctions, Tagwirei is effectively cut off from international financial markets. The ruling prohibits U.S. citizens from doing business with him, and his assets in the U.S. are frozen and must be reported to the U.S. Treasury.
Tagwirei didn’t answer calls made to his mobile phone for this story.
Known locally as “Queen Bee,” Tagwirei’s influence over the Zimbabwean economy is so deep that U.S. and U.K. officials have said payments made to him helped trigger a collapse in Zimbabwe’s currency and contributed to runaway inflation, including drastic increases in the price of food. Zimbabwe last year called the U.S. sanctions racist and intended to undermine the government.