11 March 2011

Zimbabwe: Mugabe, Gaddafi Tight Business Pals

opinion

Muammar Gaddafi forces are making susbstantial gains against rebels in town of Ras Lanuf, reports Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley reports. ( Resource: Gaddafi Forces Mount Onslaught

ONE of embattled Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi's sons, Saadi, was in the country last August to seek business opportunities.

According to reports, he was taken to the Tokwe-Mukosi Dam in Masvingo where he promised to make a sizeable investment in the dam's construction.

While governments worldwide have extended a blanket freeze on Gaddafi and Libya's assets, Harare has been quiet on developments unfolding in the North African nation let alone an asset freeze.

Gaddafi and President Robert Mugabe are largely seen as pals. However, the Arab strongman's investments in Zimbabwe are paltry.

Even trade between the two countries is negligible. According to Zimtrade export figures, Zimbabwe exported only US$390 000 worth of goods to Libya from 2005 and 2009.

A Zimbabwe Independent investigation revealed that the Libyan Foreign Bank owns 96,6 million shares which is, around 14,12% of CBZ Holdings Ltd's total issued share capital while Government of Zimbabwe holds 110 million translating to 16,08% of the banking group.

Libya also owned around 14% of Rainbow Tourism Group's total issued share capital but disposed off the holding sometime back.

The latest top 20 shareholder register obtained from RTG's transfer secretary confirms the Libyans exited the group and do not appear on the top shareholders list.

But in 2002, Zimbabwe received oil from Libya under a US$360 million loan facility that was to be repaid partly by the supply of farm produce to Tripoli. The deal collapsed after Zimbabwe failed to meet its side of the bargain.

The oil deal, which covered 70% of Zimbabwe's fuel needs at the time, had run for less than a year at the time it was ended.

Desperate to salvage the facility, in 2003, Zimbabwe attempted but later abandoned a plan to export US$100 million worth of agricultural commodities to Libya.

The deal had involved the Libyan Arab Foreign Bank, the Libyan Arab Investment Company and Libya's state oil company, Tamoil. After the deal collapsed, government handed over the CBZH stake to the Libyan Foreign Bank.

The shareholding is worth around US$15,2 million at CBZH's current market worth.

Apart from public-held investments, Gaddaffi is also believed to have vast business interests in Zimbabwe.

A court case in August last year, where a former ZBC employee was accused of defrauding the Libyan government of US$4 million, also helped give a glimpse into the Gaddafis other private businesses in Zimbabwe's real estate and transport sectors.

The former ZBC staff - Stanley Masendo - was accused of siphoning the money from a company known as Crieff Investments, which later changed its name to Aldawlia Investments.

The company, according to reports bought 12 haulage trucks and properties, which included 10 flats in Harare, which were left under Masendo's management.

In 2002 there were unconfirmed reports that President Mugabe's wife, Grace, had sold her mansion in Harare's Borrowdale to Gaddafi.

While these could be about Libya's known or suspected holdings in Zimbabwe, across the border to the South, the Libyan government's investment arm co-owns a slice of Sandton - Africa's most expensive real estate - in Johannesburg as well as a large chunk of property at the V&A Waterfront.

The Libyan government's investment arm, the Libyan Investment Authority, was established to plough Libya's vast oil earnings into an array of investments worldwide.

Through the Libya Africa Investment Portfolio, the authority owns the Libya Arab African Investment Company (Laaico), which has a stake in South Africa's tourism, leisure and real estate sectors through its 100% shareholding in Ensemble Hotel Holdings.

Ensemble owns the Five-star Michelangelo Hotel in the heart of Sandton and has a minority stake in Legacy Hotel Holdings, which owns the adjacent and equally imposing Michelangelo Towers, and Raphael Penthouse Suites, Da Vinci Hotel, another opulent properties.

Through various financial institutions, Libya has spread its wealth across at least 35 nations on four continents. The country owns a bizarre mix of investments, ranging from luxury real estate and publishing companies in Britain, to hotels in the Middle East and a small stake in Italy's Juventus football franchise.

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