finance chief holds Canadian passport
Police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena said Chris Kuruneri had been picked up early on Saturday and would be charged with corruption, after accusations that he had illegally dealt in foreign currency worth over six billion Zimbabwe dollars (US$1,38 million).
New Zimbabwe.com understands that Kuruneri is also under arrest for holding a Canadian passport.
Official sources say there are also claims that Kuruneri owns properties in Mission, British Columbia, a small town outside Vancouver, Canada, which are registered in the name of his sister, who is married to somebody known as Bob Bish.
Kuruneri - who lived in Canada for 11 years - is thought to be in possession of two passports, one Zimbabwean and another Canadian, which is illegal under a Zimbabwean law that prohibits dual citizenship.
When asked about the foreign passport on March 19 he flatly denied it, saying he had never held a Canadian passport because he was only a "permanent resident" there.
He said his son Tichaona junior - who lives in Toronto - was the one who held a Canadian passport.
"The minister was arrested this morning and investigations are going on. It's to do with charges relating to foreign currency dealing," Bvudzijena told Reuters.
He did not say when Kuruneri, a member of the central committee of Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party, would appear in court, but tough anti-corruption laws enacted this year allow the police to detain suspects for up to 21-days.
Mugabe launched an anti-corruption drive in January as the country battles its worst economic crisis since 1980, blamed on his government and marked by stagflation and acute shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency.
Mugabe denies charges he has mismanaged the country and accuses local and foreign opponents of sabotaging the economy because of his seizure of white-owned farms for landless blacks.
Kuruneri, a former deputy finance minister, was promoted in January. His arrest follows an investigation prompted by a South African newspaper report he was building a mansion in Cape Town.
He has previously denied any wrong doing and said the money was legitimately earned from consultancy work done outside Zimbabwe.
Analysts said they did not expect Kuruneri's arrest to affect the government's efforts to revive the ailing economy as he was seen as a technocrat.
Efforts to turnaround the economy are being driven by the new central bank governor. Although the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe falls under the finance ministry, in practise the governor reports directly to Mugabe.
Analysts are also sceptical about the government's commitment to fight corruption.
"The effect of the corruption crackdown on economic transformation is still to be felt. There will remain some kind of divided opinion on whether Mugabe's government is serious on corruption," Heneri Dzinotyiwei, a political analyst.
Scores of businessmen have fled the country.
Kuruneri, was arrested Saturday on corruption charges following a sensational exposé by the South African Sunday Times newspaper of his multimillion rand mansion in Cape Town.
Zimbabwe police spokesman Bvudzijena said that Kuruneri, who was appointed finance minister in February, was being held in jail this weekend on charges of violating Zimbabwe's foreign exchange control act.
"He was picked up this morning here in Harare and he is still in police custody," Bvudzijena said yesterday morning.
"We will take him to court as soon as we finish our investigations."
Bvudzijena said the bombshell dropped by the Sunday Times last month, with the revelation that Kuruneri had spent up to R30-million building an eight-bedroom mansion in the expensive seaside suburb of Llandudno, could form part of the charges.
Yesterday, a former business associate of Kuruneri's in Cape Town said the news of the minister's arrest had come as no surprise.
Following the Sunday Times's reports last month on Kuruneri's property empire in South Africa, investigators from the Scorpions, the South African Revenue Service and the South African Police Service's Criminal Investigation Department had taken statements from the Zimbabwean's business associates and contractors in Cape Town.
Those interviewed are understood to have included Lorenzo Bruttomesso, Kuruneri's attorney in Cape Town, and Chris Hayman, owner of the company that is building the property in Sunset Avenue, Llandudno.
Neither Bruttomesso nor Hayman returned calls seeking confirmation that they had been interviewed.In the Zimbabwean media, Kuruneri denied that the money used to construct the Llandudno house had been improperly obtained.
He said the money had been earned from consultancy work he had done abroad.
He claimed that he had raised a lot of foreign currency while working for Mobile Systems International of Britain and Felipe Solano of Spain.
Kuruneri also said he knew the Foreign Exchange Control Act provisions very well since he was a lawyer and could not be found on the wrong side of the law.
Mugabe has lashed out at corrupt politicians recently in a desperate bid to save Zimbabwe's collapsing economy - and to ensure his own political survival.
At last week's Independence Day celebrations, he declared: "Our economy has been badly bruised by some in our midst given to greed and corrupt practices.
"Millions [of dollars in] foreign currency have been externalised through a variety of fraudulent activities practised by highly placed people we had trusted to manage our economy.
"We are now very clear that far from deserving our trust, these fraudulent and thoroughly dishonest people are the real enemies of our country... their permanent home is the prison," Mugabe said.
Sources say police were also investigating circumstances under which Kuruneri got money from Unibank, a bank that collapsed, to buy a company called Quality Packaging Products.
He got the money through his current deputy minister, David Chapfika, who was a director at the bank.
"There are allegations that his company could have also been involved in externalising funds and this is something I understand police are interested in," a source said.
want to know how he bought his properties in South Africa and allegedly
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