to axe Finance Minister
Kuruneri was nabbed by the Criminal Investigations Department’s Serious Fraud Squad and is being charged under the Exchange Control Act for allegedly illegally externalising foreign currency between 2002 and 2004.
He is also being investigated for allegedly holding two passports, one Zimbabwean and another Canadian. Under Zimbabwean law, it is an offence to hold dual citizenship.
Quoting a 'highly-placed source', the Mirror said Kuruneri's arrest came at a time pressure was mounting within cabinet and the ruling Zanu PF’s Politburo for him to resign, particularly after it emerged that he had built a posh mansion worth about R30 million in South Africa, paid for in foreign currency.
“With or without the arrest of Kuruneri, it had been planned that he would face the chop some time this coming week. The decision to investigate Kuruneri came from high above and the CIO was involved in compiling evidence against the minister, with the report having been finalised last week,” said the source.
Chief police spokesman, Wayne Bvudzijena confirmed the arrest of Kuruneri. “He (Kuruneri) has been arrested and is in police custody. We are charging him under the Exchange Control Act for the externalisation of foreign currency. He will appear in court as soon as possible,” Bvudzijena told the Sunday Mirror.
Bvudzijena would not available details on how the externalisation of forex occurred, saying the police were still trying to gather more details about the alleged offence. A high-powered team of detectives has since been dispatched to South Africa to dig out the minister’s financial transactions.
The police spokesman said Kuruneri had externalised US$1 million, 300 000 pound sterling and R300 000 rand—all amounting to Z$7.513 billion— and confirmed that the minister was being investigated for allegedly possessing two passports.
Kuruneri spent the better part of yesterday at the CID headquarters at Morris Depot, where he was being interrogated. He was arrested by a team of detectives headed by one Chief Superintendent Mangoma, but operatives from the President’s Office were also involved.
Four state of the art four-wheel drive vehicles, which a constable said had accompanied Kuruneri there, were parked inside the HQ’s gate while another fleet was parked in the car park adjacent to the Forensics building when the Sunday Mirror crew visited Morris Depot yesterday morning.
Two CIO officers, ostensibly providing security for Kuruneri, kept guard outside the building where the interrogation was taking place, while a number of police Mazda pick-ups were lined up outside the gate to the HQ.
Kuruneri was recently reported to have built a mansion in upmarket Llandudno in Cape Town through cash transactions in the greenback. This evoked anger among Zimbabweans, who argued that it was improper for a cabinet minister to do so when forex was scarce at home.
There were subsequent media reports that he had another high-profile property in South Africa which he was letting, outside the one under construction.
A senior police officer said Kuruneri faced a long time in remand prison before being brought before the courts for a fully-fledged trial. “A warrant of arrest was speedily prepared to ensure that there would be no hiccups as happened in the case of (James) Makamba, even though it is possible that he could appear in court soon for initial remand. “It has been ensured that there would be no grounds for his lawyers to successfully appeal for bail before regulation time under the Presidential Powers legal provisions.” Prominent businessman and Zanu PF Central Committee member, James Makamba was arrested in February for allegedly externalising billions of local currency in forex. The Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act) Regulations 2004 was swiftly promulgated, disabling courts from granting bail to accused persons accused of certain crimes in a period within 21 days.
The amendments caused a furore among legal experts, with critics saying that was unconstitutional because the amendments were tantamount to officialising the arresting of a person in order to investigate, but the state argued that the period was vital for undisturbed investigations to take place.
The revelation that Kuruneri allegedly held two passports has left the general public dumbfounded, with people wondering how, if true, a cabinet minister could do so. Questions are being posed over his allegiance to his country, this time regarding the allegation that he held onto his Canadian passport even after the government made that a criminal offence.
Critics are charging that Kuruneri’s allegiance to his country, worse still because he is in charge of the sensitive portfolio of finance, would be questionable if the allegation of dual citizenship were true. Given that it is illegal to hold dual citizenship under Zimbabwean law, it is also mysterious how President Robert Mugabe promoted Kuruneri to full minister without state security checking on his details, a development many say betrays yawning gaps in the country’s intelligence system. The beleaguered minister deputised in the finance ministry from 2000.
Ironically, when Mugabe promoted Kuruneri, he hailed him as the panacea to Zimbabwe’s economic woes.
The 55-year old Kuruneri, who was elevated to his current portfolio in the February cabinet reshuffle, has been dogged by controversy for a long time. In August 2001, when he was deputy minister, the deputy sheriff, on orders from the High Court, attached property from a firm linked to him, Quality Packaging Products, over a $130 000 debt.
He was in 1995 loaned $19 702 by the now defunct Universal Merchant Bank and he failed to repay the debt by the deadline date of December 31 1997. In yet another saga, while he was with the Transport and Communications ministry, $5 billion worth of tenders mysteriously disappeared from the then Post and Telecommunications (now ZIMPOST) department and his office could not give a satisfactory answer.
President Mugabe recently launched an across-the-board sting campaign against corruption, which has so far netted in several prominent politicians and businesspeople, while others are reported to be on the run. Among those who have been arrested are Phillip Chiyangwa, the Zanu PF Mashonaland West provincial chairman whose post seems to be hanging in the balance, and Makamba. While Chiyangwa successfully applied for bail, Makamba is still in custody. The anti-corruption blitz has extended to the ruling party’s own businesses. Several directors linked to the business concerns, among them Jayanti Joshi, a British national who for a long time managed Zanu PF businesses, have since skipped the country.
before the current Zanu PF probe, there had been rumours that a very
senior ruling party official was under investigation for his alleged
involvement in irregular dealings and might be suspended from his highly
important state post any time from now. Confidential sources allege
the senior official’s arrest has been postponed several times
in the past, but that the relevant authorities in government had now
been asked to prepare the necessary paperwork to facilitate his suspension.
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