Pandora’s Papers: Rushwaya caught up in offshore shaddy deals

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HARARE – Zimbabwe’s deputy chief secretary to the president and cabinet set up an offshore shell company in the Seychelles while serving as defence secretary, leaked financial documents show.

Martin Rushwaya, a relative of then defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, now president, created Greatgem Corp. in the Seychelles in 2010, with the help of a law firm based in Moscow, Russia.

Greatgem’s sole director was Grey Mashava, then a Zimbabwean army colonel who was promoted by Mnangagwa in 2018 to the rank of major general and made a senior principal director in the office of Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, as well as the ministry of defence. The company had a bank account in Latvia.

Details of Rushwaya’s shell company are contained in a massive leak of financial documents published by several major news organisations on Sunday, that allegedly tie world leaders to secret stores of wealth, including King Abdullah of Jordan, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The dump of more than 11.9 million records, amounting to about 2.94 terabytes of data, came five years after the leak known as the “Panama Papers” exposed how money was hidden by the wealthy in ways that law enforcement agencies could not detect.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a Washington, D.C.-based network of reporters and media organisations, said the files are linked to about 35 current and former national leaders, and more than 330 politicians and public officials in 91 countries and territories. It did not say how the files were obtained.

Rushwaya appears to have set up the company around the time the Zimbabwe Defence Forces entered into a partnership with China’s Anjin diamond company to mine diamonds in Marange. The name of the company – Greatgem  – points to an interest in diamonds.

2012 report by Global Witness accused diamond companies of funding a parallel securocrat government in Zimbabwe, with diamond revenues funnelled to the partisan security services instead of schools, hospitals and roads.

In 2012, the offshore provider Alpha Consulting Ltd., which set up Greatgem, reported the company to the Seychelles’ Financial Intelligence Unit. Alpha Consulting noted that media reports identified Rushwaya as the director of a diamond-mining company that allegedly “camouflaged the involvement of security forces” and was involved in “off budget” financing.

Alpha declared in its report: “We express a great deal of concern that the above described situation might be linked to the corruption of the state high officials.”

Rushwaya declined to comment.

Rushwaya served as secretary for defence for 10 years, beginning in 2009. Mnangagwa then promoted him to deputy chief secretary to the president and cabinet.

He would have been instrumental in a 2017 military coup that ousted the late former president Robert Mugabe, who once said the country had lost US$15 billion in diamond revenues to illicit trades.

Journalist Nick Donovan who reported on the off-budget financing of Zimbabwe’s security services for Global Witness said: “During Zimbabwe’s coalition government from 2009 to 2013, there were fears that Zanu PF was using diamond companies to fund a parallel deep state.

“This was confirmed by later parliamentary hearings where the Central Intelligence Organisation admitted that they set up Kusena diamonds as they weren’t getting enough funding from treasury controlled by the MDC finance minister Tendai Biti. The same logic applied to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.

“It looks like the offshore world helped anti-democratic forces in Zimbabwe, by likely funnelling diamond money to an abusive and partisan security sector.” – ZimLive

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