HARARE – The $6 million diamond scandal has deepened after it emerged a Belgian national could have funded the two Ghanaians’ operations in the country, with sources claiming Zimbabwean authorities are battling to protect his involvement in the deal.
Belgian national Eugene Van Bourme is reportedly claiming that he owns Gye-Nyame, the firm at the centre of the bribery storm.
Van Bourme is said to be considering legal action to recover more than $6 million he reportedly claims to have invested in the company in partnership with the Ghanaians.
President Robert Mugabe who sparked the bribery saga recently, is said to be unaware of the involvement of the Belgian.
Questions have been raised as to how Ghanaians William Ato Essien and Kingsley Ghansah — now believed to be the Belgian’s frontmen — managed to export more than $6 million cash out of their native country against statutory limitations of $10 000 and where they secured the huge sums of money they splashed on the Chiadzwa mining venture.
There are growing fears within the country’s security structures that the huge amount of cash taken into the country by the Ghanaians, if it is true, could have opened floodgates for massive money laundering.
Huge sums of cash are also associated with terrorism and drug peddling around the world that is why most countries do not allow amounts exceeding $10 000 to pass their borders whether coming in or going out.
It also emerges that the Ghanaians deposited cash into investment vehicle, Bill Minerals instead of Gye-Nyame, the joint venture with government. The investors only started depositing money with Gye-Nyame this year after a new board had come in and exposed the anomalies.
The Ghanaians ventured into a micro-financing institution and illegal gold dealings before venturing into mining.
Under the deal, the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) had strategically partnered with the Ghanaians’ Bill Minerals, whose majority shareholder was First Capital Plus.
In the joint venture, ZMDC owned a 50 percent stake, while the Zimbabwe Republic Police had a 20 percent stake, and First Capital had 20 percent.
The group formed a special purpose vehicle named Bill Minerals which partnered with ZMDC and became known as Gye-Nyame.
Strangley, Gye-Nyame is registered as a private South African company, using Sino Steel Plaza 159 Rivonia Road Sandton 2191, as its official address.
The coming in of Bourme into the picture has created more controversy, with claims that the businessman funded the company’s operations in the country.
According to a First Capital Due Diligence report of October 24, 2011, the $15 million investment capital was supposed to be transferred to Zimbabwe.
“In item 6.4 of the business plan, management indicated that the fund of $15 million which has been set up in Ghana will be transferred to Zimbabwe, upon clearance from regulatory authorities in Ghana and Zimbabwe,” reads the report.
However, the Ghanaian investors claimed that they bribed Masimirembwa with $6 million, but the losing Zanu PF candidate for Mabvuku-Tafara Constituency strenuously denies the allegations, with senior government and security officials sympathetic to him saying the investors failed to raise the initial $15 million investment capital required to mine diamonds in Chiadzwa.
Further investigations by the Daily News in the past week have revealed that the Ghanaians —Essien and Ghansah — only brought in $5 million which was a commitment investment, prompting local investors in the joint venture Blessmore Chanakira and Itai Munyeza to put their properties on the block and borrow $10 million, which was used to purchase plant equipment to mine diamonds from Block G Concession in Marange area.
However, eyebrows have been raised over how the two Ghanaians managed to export the alleged large sums of foreign currency, considering that Ghana’s Customs Law does not allow an individual whether local or foreign to carry money in excess of $10 000.
According to Ghana’s Revenue Authority website, “Where the amount exceeds the limit of $10 000, customs shall seize the entire amount whether declared or not.”
“Where the amount does not exceed the $10 000 limit or its equivalent in any other currency, the traveller is required to declare the amount to Customs and proceed to fill the BOG Foreign Exchange Declaration Form at the port of entry or departure.”
The official website states that residents and non-residents are only permitted to carry up to $10 000 only.
Ghansah is now a fugitive from justice after Zimbabwean officials issued an arrest warrant against the businessman.
He, who was convicted and sentenced to prison for five years by Harare magistrate Don Ndirowei in 2012 for illegally trading in gold, vanished from the country while on bail pending appeal.
Ghansah was found in illegal possession of 7kgs of gold bars and 7 smelted gold buttons.
President Robert Mugabe in September 2011, together with ex-ZMDC boss Godwills Masimirembwa, former minister of Mines Obert Mpofu, Essien and local investor Munyeza met the two Ghanaians who promised to pour millions into diamonds extraction.
At a luncheon recently held for new MPs, Mugabe declared zero tolerance on corruption and pressed the police to investigate anyone regardless of political standing — making sensational claims that the two Ghanaians had bribed Masimirembwa.