Deeds Office boss in property scandal involving loan shark

The Head of deeds, companies and intellectual section in the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, Absolom Mangwere has been linked to the case of the alleged loan shark Frank Buyanga scam involving the illegal transfer of a property.

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Mangwere is being charged with criminal abuse of duty as a public officer after he allegedly facilitated the illegal transfer of deeds of a Highlands house worth US$280 000.

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It is alleged that a Harare couple secured a loan of US$35 000 from Chegutu Properties owned by Frank Buyanga and used the title deeds for their Highlands house worth US$280 000 as security.

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It is further alleged that the couple failed to repay the loan on time and Buyanga through his company caused the property to be transferred into Chegutu Properties without the knowledge of the complainant.

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According to state papers, the couple went on to repay their loan and settle the debt, but later on discovered that their house had already been transferred to Chegutu Properties and a police report was made.

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It is further alleged that the file of the deeds of the house was then secured by the Registrar of Deeds to ensure no further changes would be made.

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However, it is understood that after Chegutu Properties realised that the complainants paid back the loan in full they never sought to reverse the transfer of the property to the complainant, instead they sold it to one Daisy Shamu.

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The accused Mangwere is alleged to have facilitated the transfer of the property despite knowing that the property was under investigation.

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Frank Buyanga has revealed that he received US$25 million from the controversial British property tycoon, Nicholas van Hoogstraten, in 2008.

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Buyanga, wanted by police in Zimbabwe on fraud charges, told South African television over the weekend that the allegations and purported charges against him were “hot air”, while also denying that he was on the run.

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Dubbed a “loan shark” by Finance Minister Tendai Biti, Buyanga also launched a defiant defence of the business practices of three of his Zimbabwean companies – Hamilton Finance, Hamilton Property Holdings and Hamilton Insurance.

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In a rare television interview for the Click Africa programme on DSTV’s Africa Magic channel aired Sunday, Buyanga spoke openly about:

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# His extraordinary relationship with the British businessman Nicholas van Hoogstraten

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# His legal troubles in the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe

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# How Hamilton Finance became the “lender of last resort” during the liquidity crisis between 2007 and 2009

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# And his relationship with African leaders including Malawi’s former President Bakili Muluzi and Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang

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Until Sunday’s interview, Buyanga had only previously said of Hoogstraten that he was his friend, mentor and advisor.

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“He gave me money, US$25 million. One of my property companies received US$25 million as a facility, and out of that I think we used US$10 million and that’s it,” Buyanga told interviewer, Josey Mahachi.

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In 2002, Van Hoogstraten – estimated to be worth US$800 million – was jailed in the UK for 10 years for ordering the murder of a business rival, but the conviction was overturned on appeal.

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Three years later, he was ordered to pay the victim’s family £6 million in a civil case but he vowed they would “never get a penny”.

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Hoogstraten is believed to have donated money to President Robert Mugabe’s campaign in the past. Asked why he had not exploited such a political connection to end the police pursuit of him, Buyanga bristled with indignation.

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“Why should he [Hoogstraten] speak to the President about my problems? I told you these problems are not from high-up, there are all these little Mickey Mouse people. The President has bigger issues to deal with. Besides, he is a senior citizen and should be left alone,” he said.

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Buyanga abruptly stepped down as a director of Hamilton Property Holdings in 2010 to avoid a gathering storm over the company’s activities which were attracting police and Reserve Bank attention.

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Dozens of people came forward to say that they had borrowed money from Hamilton and surrendered collateral in the form of houses, vehicles and household goods. They claimed that before their borrowing period was over, Hamilton had disposed of their property.

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But Buyanga said “none of these people have any money”, insisting if they did he would be happy to give them back their houses.

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The Attorney General has filed an application in the High Court seeking to interdict Hamilton from selling 45 properties.

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But the company is fighting the application, insisting that it has not sold or tried to sell the said properties.

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Most of the petitioners had sold their properties, the company argues, but with a “buy-back option… subject to parties agreeing on a buy-back price and the terms of the buy-back.”

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“Hamilton in all sale transactions has made available to all the complainants the following documents for the purpose of completing the sale transaction: agreement of sale, power of attorney to pass transfer, declaration by seller, notice to vacate property and acknowledgement of receipt of funds,” the company says in court papers.

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But police are also charging Buyanga individually under laws that impose liability on directors where a company is involved in illegal activities.

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“We all know that the police are not always concise, are not always precise. You cannot say that police are always right,” Buyanga said in the interview on Sunday.

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“We have extended funding to more than 4,000 people but we are talking about 45 people who are using elements in the system and state organs to create something out of it. Nothing will come out of it,” he added.

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When asked who was running his businesses in Zimbabwe in his absence, he replied that “these things run themselves”. His business interests extended beyond Zimbabwe, he emphasised.

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Africa Magic showed interviews with some individuals who borrowed money from Hamilton and successfully paid back.

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One man, who was unnamed, said: “There are people who did benefit, perhaps in their desire to do business they failed in various projects and they had challenges in repaying the money., The ended up finding excuses in terms of repaying the money.

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“What I would have thought is that people who are accountable, people with integrity… the best thing would have been to go back to the drawing board and renegotiate the loans. It’s just unfortunate that some people who were really greedy thought the best way to move this agenda was to push Frank out of that industry, in the hope that those debts would be written off.”

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Buyanga says he has no intentions of writing off the debt. “It’s about principle, not forgiveness.”

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It has been reported that Buyanga’s troubles began when the brother of a senior cabinet minister’s girlfriend borrowed over US$50,000 using her sister’s house – with her permission – as collateral.

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After his investment bombed, he committed suicide when realising that his sister’s property would be sold.

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It has since emerged that Transport Minister Nicholas Goche also borrowed US$70,000 and had neglected to pay, forcing the company to take him to court.

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Buyanga says he saw nothing wrong with giving loans to ministers, describing them as “just civil servants”.

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“There is nothing wrong with extending funding to a government minister. In Zimbabwe, at the time I was extending funds, no-one else was. Even the banks didn’t have any money. So none of these people had anywhere to run, so they could only run to me,” he said.

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He admitted that “a lot of people haven’t paid me back”.

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He said he had friends who were ministers, but he did not expect them to stand up for him and fight what he sees as a miscarriage of justice.

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“I would not want them to stand up for me,” Buyanga said. “The minute that minister lifts up his hand and mentions my name, then he is in trouble. They are gonna jump on him. You can’t have anyone standing up for me right now, can you? I understand that.”

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Buyanga – charged with conspiracy to defraud in the United Kingdom before failing to make an appearance in court in 2005 – says he recorded all transactions on video because he had a premonition some clients would default and use corrupt police officers to intimidate him into writing off the debts.

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He says his lawyers in the United Kingdom are engaged in discussions with the Crown Prosecution Service to have the fraud charges scrapped.

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Buyanga also spoke about his connections with African leaders including Muluzi and Obiang, whom he was photographed meeting in Equatorial Guinea.

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On Muluzi, he said: “He is like a father figure. We have known each other for a while. My dad is late now and I need someone who can advise me on the way forward in life.”

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He only knew President Obiang as a man who has “achieved a lot for his country”.

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Buyanga recently received three awards from a South African organisation for assisting in “human development”.

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He recently donated R1 million to a youth development programme in South Africa.

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“It’s important to add value to the youth in terms of youth development programmes by way of education,” he said.

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“I personally feel we can improve the situation, and move away from the situation of forfeiture of people’s assets by means that I don’t agree with. You can only develop the human being by financial literacy, by education.”

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