Robert Mugabe linked tycoon to fight sanctions decision

A spokesman for Mr Bredenkamp, who was ranked as one of the richest men in his adopted home of Britain in 2002 with an estimated fortune of £720m, said the businessman was "astonished" by the decision, which "ignored the fact that he was imprisoned by the Zimbabwe government for alleged passport violations in 2006".

A statement from the US Treasury described the former captain of the Rhodesia rugby team as "a well known Mugabe insider involved in business activities, including tobacco trading, grey-market arms trading and trafficking, equity investments, oil distribution, tourism, sports management and diamond extraction".

Blacklisting 20 companies owned or controlled by Mr Bredenkamp, the Treasury claimed he has "financially propped up the regime and provided other support to a number of its high-ranking officials". It will henceforth be illegal for US citizens to do business with Mr Bredenkamp or his companies, although his empire is thought to have scant connection with the US.

Also added to the sanctions list – which the US has been tightening while Mr Mugabe has clung to power after March’s violent elections – was Billy Rautenbach, a former business partner of his fellow white Zimbabwean.

Mr Rautenbach has a long history of involvement in the opaque Congolese mining sector and is wanted in South Africa in connection with alleged fraud and theft.

He had supported "large-scale mining projects in Zimbabwe that benefit a small number of corrupt senior officials", the Treasury claimed. The Treasury, however, gave no details of how either man had supported the regime.

Two further people were placed under sanctions: a Thai businesswoman acc-used of assisting "kleptocratic practices" and a Malaysian urologist des-cribed as one of the

president’s "physicians and business advisers".

* Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday called for former South African president Thabo Mbeki to step down as the mediator in Zimbabwe’s political crisis.

"He does not appear to understand how desperate the problem in Zimbabwe is, and the solutions he proposes are too small," Mr Tsvangirai said.