As U.S. Sanctions Loomed, Tagwirei ‘Mopped Up’ Zimbabwe’s Scarce Dollars, Worsening Economic Woes
As Zimbabweans faced the economic consequences of a crashing currency, well-connected businessman Kudakwashe Tagwirei bypassed the rules to convert government-backed securities into scarce U.S. dollars.
Tagwirei’s company used these dollars to buy a platinum mine through Landela Mining Ventures (Pvt) Ltd, a subsidiary of his holding company Sotic International that was set up in Mauritius in February 2019.
Even after Zimbabwe cut off its citizens from accessing U.S. dollars in mid-2019, the central bank governor allowed Tagwirei’s company to cash out large portions of a treasury bill he held before it matured, and unlawfully convert them into tens of millions of U.S. dollars.
Documents indicate Tagwirei’s staff repeatedly used treasury bills as a source of U.S. dollars as and when they were needed.
By accumulating scarce U.S. dollars, Tagwirei’s companies worsened the country’s economic problems. Zimbabwe’s former Finance Minister Tendai Biti told OCCRP:
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There were only so many dollars in the country and they mopped it up by cheating.
In December 2017, Patrick Chinamasa, the acting Finance Minister at the time, told Zimbabwe’s parliament that inflation was being deepened by a shortage of U.S. dollars partly caused by issuing and paying out on treasury bills.
Tagwirei denied any wrongdoing but did not respond to specific questions on the currency scheme sent by OCCRP.