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Tagwirei’s vast business empire unmasked

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SET well back from the public road at the end of a long driveway lined with palm trees is an extravagant new mansion being built by Kudakwashe Tagwirei, a Zimbabwean businessman and presidential advisor accused of corruption.

Much like this Harare residence, Tagwirei’s business empire of more than 40 companies has mostly been hidden from the public eye.

By analysing hundreds of company documents, court filings, and communications, The Sentry’s investigation shows how Tagwirei used complex corporate structures to build and hide his wealth, potentially benefiting from preferential government treatment along the way.

Tagwirei has invested in gold, nickel, platinum, and chrome mines by hiding behind South African businesspeople and offshore structures in Mauritius and the Cayman Islands and by using lawyers and financiers who are seemingly happy to turn a blind eye to accusations of cronyism and corruption.

New documents uncovered by The Sentry also show how Tagwirei has used similar networks to hide his financial interests in Zimbabwe’s new public-private partnership mining company, Kuvimba Mining House, with Zimbabwe’s Finance ministry reportedly collaborating to deflect public scrutiny from these arrangements.

In 2019, Tagwirei paid millions of dollars to a Zimbabwean military-owned company so that Landela Mining Ventures, a company he controlled, could purchase 50% of Great Dyke Investments (GDI), a platinum mine worth hundreds of millions and run as a joint venture with a Russian firm.

The payment raises fears about off-budget financing of Zimbabwe’s abusive and partisan military. An examination of Tagwirei’s business track record reveals a pattern of accusations of privileged access and special treatment, some of which may warrant further investigation by regulators and law enforcement.

On January 27, 2021, over a year after Landela Mining Ventures had bought half of the platinum mine, Zimbabwe granted GDI a five-year corporate income tax holiday and exempted its shareholders resident in Zimbabwe from resident shareholders’ taxes on GDI dividends—retroactively applied to January 1, 2020.

Auditors investigating corruption red flags in a 2016 US$630 million diesel generating plant contract found that the Office of the President had improperly interfered with the procurement process, ordering officials to evaluate Tagwirei’s sole bid outside the standard process.

Other decisions worthy of further investigation include allegations of preferential access to hard currency and the appointment of Tagwirei’s oil trading company, without a tendering process, to run a US$1 billion dollar agriculture project.

In addition to alleged business dealings with the Zimbabwean military, Tagwirei appears to have the ability to contact senior civilian officials in Zimbabwe at short notice, particularly at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

Such high-level access, together with the pattern of previous decisions, raises the possibility of state capture, when the public realm—particularly regulatory, legal, and public policy decision-making—has been influenced to benefit private interests. Senior officials at Tagwirei’s companies have denied state capture.

The operations of Tagwirei’s network are emblematic of larger structural problems in Zimbabwe.

A select group of politicians, the military, and businesspeople dominate government decision-making with little oversight or scrutiny. Key information about public finances remains shrouded in secrecy.

An environment of impunity prevails. Left unaddressed, these dynamics will likely become further entrenched.
— STAFF WRITER

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