A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) special investigator, Frank Dutton, is coming to Harare this week to investigate allegations that UNDP vehicles were used to smuggle diamonds from River Ranch mine near Beitbridge into South Africa nearly two years ago.
The probe could, however, be much wider judging by the calibre of the investigator. Reports say Dutton might be coming to look at the entire operations of the Harare office. Resident representative Agostinho Zacarias’s job may be on the line.
Dutton, a former South African police officer, has impeccable credentials both in South Africa and abroad. He uncovered the Third Force and hit squads in apartheid South Africa and exposed apartheid’s military destabilisation machinery.
He was head of the investigations unit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and set up South Africa’s crack police unit, the Scorpions, before retiring. He worked for the International Court in The Hague where he headed the investigation unit in Sarajevo and was commander of field operations in Kosovo.
The allegations of UNDP involvement in diamond smuggling from River Ranch were first levelled by Bubye Minerals, a company that also claims rights to the diamond mine which is now owned by Saudi Arabian billionaire Adel Aujan and former commander of the Zimbabwe army Solomon Mujuru.
The UNDP was involved with River Ranch through African Management Services Company (AMSCO), a Johannesburg-based company that it jointly owns with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank.
AMSCO started assisting River Ranch in November 2004 by seconding five senior managers to the mine. It pulled out in July last year after the allegations surfaced in the local and international media.
Bubye claimed that officials seconded by AMSCO were using UNDP vehicles to smuggle diamonds to South Africa because the vehicles and the officers had diplomatic immunity and were not subject to search as they were accredited with the UNDP.
It also queried why United Nations companies were assisting River Ranch since it was owned by one of the persons specified under the United States Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) which prohibited international financial institutions like the IFC from trading with the designated persons and wrote secretary of State Condoleezza Rice complaining about this.
Mujuru, a politburo member of President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), is specified under the United States sanctions that are implemented by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). His wife, vice-president Joyce Mujuru is also specified.
The UNDP has denied the allegations of smuggling and says three investigations so far carried out have come up with nothing.
A Kimberley Process (KP) Review Team that visited Zimbabwe in May last year cleared the UNDP of the smuggling allegations after meeting Zacarias but it admitted that it had not carried out any investigation but had simply been offered no evidence of smuggling.
The KP report also claimed that Bubye Minerals’ lawyer Terrence Hussein had “denied having said that a UNDP vehicle was ever involved”.
Hussein was incensed because the KP team had refused to interview his clients and other people they had lined up when the team visited the country. He wrote KP chairman Karel Kovanda demanding that the report be corrected to indicate that he had never withdrawn the allegations arguing that only his clients could withdraw them.
Kovanda said Hussein’s letter of protest would be attached to the report but Hussein was forced to take the matter up with the UNDP headquarters in New York in January when River Ranch sued him for US$1 million for defamation after the KP team had cleared the company of smuggling.
He argued that the KP Review Team was not an investigating team and had no power to investigate the UNDP.
“Only the UN can investigate itself and that is what we have requested,” he argued. Hussein also said that none of the so-called “investigations” that had been carried out conformed to the United Nations guidelines endorsed in 2003.
It was only in July that Dutton wrote Hussein advising him that the matter had been referred to the Office of Audit and Investigation and he was handling the case. Dutton seems to have been hired specifically to look into the Zimbabwe case because he is on a six-month contract which expires in December.
UNDP spokespersons in Harare, New York and Johannesburg all said they were not aware of Dutton’s planned visit or the investigation.
UNDP head of communications Cassandra Waldon said: “Accusations that UNDP vehicles were involved in diamond smuggling at River Ranch Mine in Zimbabwe have been addressed by different investigations. Three investigations have come to the same conclusion: no evidence has been found that UNDP vehicles have been used in diamond smuggling.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by Maureen Mundea, the communications advisor of the UNDP for Eastern and Southern Africa based in Johannesburg. She said the matter was now closed and “if new evidence were to come to light, UNDP would take appropriate measures”.
Zacarias could not be contacted for comment. Executive Associate, Emily Ndawona said Zacarias was away for the week. “Dr Zacarias is away on mission and will be back next week….. On the issue of an investigation, only Dr Zacarias can shed light on this since we have no information to that effect,” she said.
The Insider has irrefutable evidence that Dutton is coming and will be in the country for five days.