Zimbabwe has hired a company that was once accused of looting diamonds to team up with the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA) to undertake a survey to gauge investor sentiment in the country.
The International Finance Corporation, the commercial arm of the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme and the African Development Bank were sponsors of the African Management Services Company (AMSCO) which seconded management to River Ranch under very controversial circumstances.
AMSCO was initially based in the Netherlands but later moved to Johannesburg and was supposed to assist small and medium enterprises owned by Africans.
It was, however, involved with River Ranch from November 2004 to July 2007 where it seconded five managers.
At the time, the ownership of River Ranch was in dispute after Saudi Arabian billionaire Adel Aujan partnered with the late former army commander Solomon Mujuru and took over the mine from Bubye Minerals which was owned by Michael and Adele Farquhar.
The mine was, therefore, not supposed to sell its diamonds because of the dispute. Besides, Mujuru was under United States sanctions.
Aujan, who held 80% of River Ranch, was not an African and was a billionaire ranked the 28th richest Arab with a net worth of US$3.4 billion.
The Management seconded by AMSCO to River Ranch was paid by River Ranch through the Netherlands bank ABN-Amro but it was never clear how River Ranch paid them when it was not selling its diamonds and also in view of the foreign currency restrictions in Zimbabwe at the time.
This is what led to allegations that the company was looting diamonds from Zimbabwe as River Ranch was not only able to pay its 300 workers but also said it was engaged in community projects in Beitbridge town.
However, the allegations were never proven.
The smuggling allegations were tied to two vehicles that had ordinary (yellow) number plates- AAQ9041 and AAQ9042 but were registered in the name of the UNDP, which meant that they enjoyed diplomatic status and crossed into South Africa without being searched.
The managers seconded to River Ranch by AMSCO also had diplomatic passports as they had UNDP permits and were therefore also not subject to search.
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