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U.S. authorities are investigating whether a multi-billion-dollar American firm knew that part of its $150 million investment in a small African miner would wind up in the hands of President Robert Mugabe’s government.
Global alternative asset management firm, Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC, invested $150 million in Central African Mining & Exploration Company, or Camec, in 2008.
$100 million of the cash was then handed to the Mugabe regime through Billy Rautenbach, a Zimbabwean businessman with close ties to the Harare administration.
The transaction was completed at the height of the country’s economic crisis with the Harare regime desperately short of cash.
The local currency was in free fall, losing value by the minute with inflation estimated at 79.6 billion percent by mid-November 2008.
Rights groups say Mugabe, who was precipitously close to being forced out by a collapsed economy, used the money to fund a terror campaign that helped him retain power after a shock electoral set-back.
Mugabe lost the first round of the 2008 presidential elections to long-time rival Morgan Tsvangirai who however, failed to win by a wide enough margin to avoid a run-off.
The official results of the vote were not announced for more than a month as the Harare regime, according to observers, strategized on how to deal with the crisis.
A run-off was eventually called, but Tsvangirai pulled out and fled to Botswana, accusing Mugabe of unleashing a terror campaign against his supporters.
Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party said Mugabe turned the country into a “war zone” while Human Rights Watch said Zanu PF members set up “torture camps to systematically target, beat, and torture people suspected of having voted for the MDC”.
Och-Ziff last year disclosed that a broader Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission investigation is examining the $47 billion New York hedge fund’s business in Zimbabwe and other African countries under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The act bars firms doing business in the U.S. from giving money or items of value to foreign officials for business, either directly or through intermediaries.
In Zimbabwe, U.S. authorities are examining Och-Ziff’s connection to the $100 million payment to Mugabe’s government in early 2008, officials said. source-newzimbabwe