New Zimbabwe (London)

28 July 2014

Zimbabwe: Boastful Mpofu Denies Seeking $10 Million Bribe

FORMER Mines Minister Obert Mpofu on Monday denied claims he solicited for a $10 million bribe from embattled Core Mining and Mineral Resources director Lovemore Kurotwi who is being tried for an alleged $2 billion diamond mining fraud.

The wealthy minister bragged about his riches, telling his accusers he was doing so well he could even afford to employ them.

Mpofu, now transport minister, was testifying in the drawn-out fraud trial involving Kurotwi and former Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation chief executive Dominic Mubaiwa.

As minister, Mpofu was empowered to approve the diamond mining deal from the Benn Steinmeitz Group Resources (BSGR), a South African diamond mining company which was being fronted by Kurotwi.

On Monday, Mpofu, a rich government minister who owns buildings in Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, went overboard in denying allegations he demanded a bribe from the businessman.

"It is a serious joke that he (Kurotwi) would make this allegation, which he did not make before the President," he said.

"It is drama by (defence lawyer) Mai (Beatrice) Mtetwa and her team and it is just the nonsense that people say when they are in a tight corner.

"It was just some drama meant for the consumption of the media and the whole thing is nonsensical."

To drive his point home, the minister then bragged: "I am a businessman who has been operating for a long, long time. I can even employ these guys (pointing at Kurotwi and Mubaiwa).

"I know Kurotwi, and considering my status, I would not even ask for a bottle of water from him let alone the US$10 million."

Kurotwi is accused of having misrepresented to the government that Core Mining was a special purpose investment vehicle of an internationally recognised mining giant BSGR.

This resulted in the Government partnering an undeserving company to form Canadile Miners to mine diamonds in Chiadzwa.

It later turned out that BSGR had nothing to do with Core Mining and that the firm had no capacity to bankroll the massive project as promised.

To that end, the Government claims it suffered prejudice to the tune of US$2 billion.

The court heard that Minister Mpofu, on two occasions, asked for money from Kurotwi after the finalisation of the joint venture agreement.

"After signing the MoU, the minister said these words (to my recollection) 'vakomana ini ndapedza rangu basa. Chindipai mari yangu'.

"Loosely interpreted, he said 'gentlemen I have done my part, can you now pay me?"

During trial on Monday, prosecutor Chris Mutangadura produced an affidavit signed by Mubaiwa validating his involvement in the negotiations to explore diamonds in Marange district.

The affidavit reads in part: "I confirm that I was in involved in the negotiations, due diligence exercise and the signature of various Memoranda of Agreement that resulted in the joint venture between Core Minerals and Resources and Marange Resources for the exploration and extraction of diamonds."

However, lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa representing Kurotwi argued that the document did not meet the admissibility criteria hence should not be used as evidence.

Trial continues Tuesday when presiding judge Chinembiri Bhunu is expected to rule on whether the affidavit can be used to further the interests of justice in the matter.

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