Solanki ‘tormentor’ in bribery storm


HARARE – Former England cricketer Phil Edmonds and his business partner Andrew Groves,  whose local agents are involved in a bitter wrangle over ownership of a Harare hospital, have been accused of running  a “corrupt” business empire in Africa where they paid bribes to secure deals.

Edmonds stepped down as chairman of Sable Mining Plc in 2014. He also owns Sable Mining Zimbabwe.

The former cricketer was named in a latest report on corruption by United States-based anti-corruption watchdog, Global Witness, which spent a year investigating Edmonds’ dealings in West Africa where he is alleged to have paid hundreds of thousands of pounds in Liberia and Guinea to secure contracts.

The Global Witness corruption report on Edmonds and Sable Mining coincided with the holding of the Global Anti-Corruption conference in England last week.

Edmonds and Groves are embroiled in a bitter wrangle with prominent Zimbabwean doctor, Vivek Solanki, over the ownership of Trauma Centre.

Edmonds’ local agent, his former chief executive officer at Sable Mining Zimbabwe, Jeremy Sanford, was involved in the “forced” takeover of Trauma Centre in Belgravia in Harare in 2010.

The matter is before the High Court of Zimbabwe, where Solanki wants the court to declare him the rightful owner of the upmarket hospital which he was forced to vacate following a court eviction.

Solanki is fighting with Africa Medical Investments (AMI) over who owns the Trauma Centre, Lanark, and the land it was operating on before the 2014 Supreme Court eviction order which forced him to relocate to Borrowdale.

Sanford, representing Edmonds’ and AMI’s sister company, fired Solanki’s management and “pushed out” the Harare doctor over corporate governance-related issues.

Edmonds played in 51 Test matches for England but in recent years has carved out a reputation as a buccaneering City deal-maker alongside Groves, with whom he has raised millions of pounds by floating companies on the London Stock Exchange.

In Liberia, at the pair’s business Sable Mining Africa, Global Witness calculates that there were “bribes and highly questionable payments” totalling around $250 000 during a four-month period in 2010.

The evidence includes an email sent in August 2010 by Sable’s lawyer Varney Sherman and entitled: “Confidential — Sable Mining’s Account with Sherman”. It lists a series of transactions, including:

• Payments that appear to have been made to several well-placed Liberian officials — some as high as $50 000.

• A transfer for $75 000 that is labelled: “Payment (facilitation) revised PPCC Act” –—seemingly a reference to the country’s Public Procurement and Concession Commission Act, which impacted on mining rights.

• Funds being donated to a football club connected with a high-ranking government mandarin.

Sable confirmed to the Guardian that it funded the account and that the email had been received by Groves and Heine van Niekerk, who it described as “the de facto chief operating officer for Sable in West Africa”.

Van Niekerk was dismissed from the Liberia division in 2012 for “theft of intellectual property”, just a month before he took Sable to court over a dispute involving him selling Sable a different Liberia mining business.

His dismissal was ruled unfair in 2013 by South Africa’s Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration. Sherman did not respond to requests for comment.

Daniel Balint-Kurti, head of special investigations at Global Witness, said: “Sable was able to bribe many of Liberia’s top politicians, which is trying to turn the page on 14 years of civil war, corruption and most recently Ebola.

This kind of corruption deprives a long-suffering population of the benefits of their resources.

The case needs to be investigated and punished if the Liberia government wants its anti-corruption fight to be taken seriously – its people deserve better.” — with UK guardian

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