July 6, 2023 (Washington, DC and Cape Town) — A joint investigative report by The Sentry and Open Secrets exposes how Zimbabwean presidential advisor and business tycoon Kudakwashe Tagwirei, the subject of numerous corruption allegations, was able to move suspect funds from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to the City of London using a combination of fronts, apparently false invoices, and offshore financial façades.
The report, “Fronts, Fakes, and Façades: How South African and Mauritian Enablers Helped Move Millions from Zimbabwe to Britain,” focuses on three payments that secured Tagwirei’s purchase of two Zimbabwean mines—Bindura Nickel and Freda Rebecca Gold Mine. Tagwirei, already surrounded by corruption allegations at the time of the deal, sought to create an offshore empire built on Zimbabwean mining.
Tagwirei’s deal may not have been possible without enablers—South African company directors, a Mauritian management company agent, a Cayman Islands investment fund, banks in numerous jurisdictions, and the company administrators in the United Kingdom—that, wittingly or unwittingly, facilitated Tagwirei’s purchase of the two mines. Many of these actors knew that Tagwirei was behind the deal. Some designed structures that had the effect of obscuring his involvement. Others had enough information that they should have suspected he was involved and asked appropriate questions.
Nick Donovan, Senior Investigator at The Sentry, said: “By the time of these transactions, Tagwirei had been embroiled in two alleged corruption scandals in Zimbabwe. Stopping potentially illicit financial flows depends upon professionals asking the right questions. This report shows that many don’t.”
Michael Marchant, Head of Investigations at Open Secrets, said: “The role of professionals around the globe in facilitating dubious money flows, whether knowingly or unknowingly, is a key contributor to the outflow of resources from poor countries like Zimbabwe to rich ones like the United Kingdom. It is essential that we see swift and effective action by regulators to hold these enablers to account.”
Estimates suggest that Zimbabwe loses between $500 million and $1 billion every year to illicit cross-border transactions. The documents reviewed in connection with this investigation suggest that the transactions to buy the mines are a textbook example of how money moves from some of the poorest countries on earth into some of the richest via enablers and a lax legal framework in the offshore world.
The investigative report reveals how Tagwirei used Sotic International, a Mauritian company that documents suggest was his front, to buy the mines for $29.5 million (R431 million, £23 million) from ASA Resource Group (ASA), a bankrupt firm that was being run by British company administrators Duff & Phelps (now known as Kroll). These purchases were made in three payments with each stage involving behavior that raises questions: