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Implicated smuggler gets new gold buying licence

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FIDELITY Printers and Refiners — an arm of the central bank with a monopoly on buying, refining and exporting Zimbabwe’s gold — has renewed Ali Japan786’s gold buying licence despite its local representative being implicated in Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) president Henrietta Rushwaya’s gold smuggling saga which is before the courts.

MARY MUNDEYA

Ali Japan786 is represented locally by Rushwaya’s business associate Ali Mohammed, a Pakistani national.
ZMF in October last year signed three strategic partnerships with Ali Japan786, Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe (CBZ), and the Central Mechanical and Equipment Department (CMED) ostensibly to capacitate small-scale miners in their quest to ramp up production in line with the government’s vision of growing mining to a US$12 billion industry by 2023.

Ali Japan786 pledged to provide small-scale miners with motor vehicles and mobile mining machinery on flexible payment terms, while CBZ came on board as a banking partner.

CMED committed to ensuring the provision of fuel on flexible terms to see to it that miners produce with minimum disruptions.

Two weeks after the deal was signed, Rushwaya was however arrested while attempting to smuggle 6.09kg of gold to Dubai through the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport. She was assisted in the smuggling bid by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s security aide, Stephen Chenjerai Tserayi and Central Intelligence Organisation operative Raphios Mufandauya.

Rushwaya’s ZMF associate, Gift Karanda – who also assisted in the gold smuggling operation – claimed the mineral belonged to First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa and her son Collins.

Rushwaya however denied the gold belonged to the first family and implicated Ali Mohamad, leading to his arrest. Mohamad denies links to Rushwaya.

While the matter is still pending in court, Fidelity Printers has however renewed Ali Japan’s gold buying licence, resulting in criticism from players in the industry, including the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development.

A Fidelity Printers and Refiners delegation led by the head of gold operations, Mehlule Dube, appeared before the committee on Monday but failed to provide satisfactory information on measures being put in place to deal with gold leakages that have been hounding the country for years.

The International Crisis Group estimates that the smuggling of gold, Zimbabwe’s top foreign currency earner, costs the country US$1.5 billion in lost revenue per year.

The Edmond Mukaratirwa-led committee also wanted information on the number of gold buyers whose licences were revoked for being involved in smuggling. They also wanted to know why Fidelity Printers was giving licences to companies with gold smuggling cases pending in the courts, including Ali Japan.

“Honourable chair, if these people are to be accused of being involved in gold leaking they mustn’t refuse because they are here lying under oath and failing to answer simple questions that we are asking them. Honestly do they have to deliberate first in order to give us an answer on why they renewed gold buying licences of people like Ali Japan who was implicated in Henrietta Rushwaya’s gold smuggling case? Why is he even number one on their May-June gold buyers’ list?” asked Zhombe legislator Edmore Samambwa.

In response, Fidelity Printers and Refiners’ acting general manager Peter Magaramombe said they could not comment on issues before the courts.

Samambwa and other legislators suggested that Fidelity Printers had a hand in gold leakages.

Bikita East legislator Johnson Madhuku and Bulawayo proportional representative member Jasmine Toffa rejected a list of gold buyers presented in parliament by Fidelity Printers, arguing some prominent buyers had been left out.

“The five gentlemen from Fidelity should be charged with contempt of parliament since they lied under oath, there are names of people that we are expecting to see on the gold buyers’ list that we know have got gold licences,” Toffa charged.

Committee chairperson Mukaratirwa expressed disappointment in the way Fidelity Printers and Refiners is operating.

“We are representing national interests here and, to say the least, we are actually disappointed by the gold smuggling that we continue to witness everyday. In our oversight role, that actually amounts to derelection of duty if we don’t interrogate it and if we don’t act in a manner that puts to an end to such happenings,” he said.

“We want to see performance. We want to see responsible performance from your institution. As a portfolio committee representing Parliament, we are saying it’s not acceptable for someone who is involved in smuggling to have his licence willy-nilly extended. It is an insult to the US$12 billion target initiative by 2023.”

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