Details of Rupiah’s meeting with DEC gold buyers emerge

The Post ZambiaBy Staff Reporters – Tue 20 Dec. 2011, 13:59 

English: Rupiah Bwezani Banda in Brazil

Image via Wikipedia

 
RUPIAH Banda allegedly held a secretive meeting with gold buyers in Mfuwe the day the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) sold the minerals under pressure from State House, according to highly-placed sources. 

President Michael Sata, soon after his election in September, incorrectly revealed that his predecessor Banda had links to Switzerland-based businessman Nicolae Buzaianu but the former president denied any role in the deal while the latter equally dismissed allegations and threatened to sue the Zambian government, seeking US$100 million compensation for defamation. Since President Sata’s formal apology to Nicolae Buzaianu the Swiss Businessman dropped his legal actions.

Philanthropist Nicolae Buzaianu

Philanthropist Nicolae Buzaianu

Originally, highly-placed sources in Mfuwe in Eastern Province separately revealed that Banda and Buzaianu held meetings in the tourist resort during the period the gold deal took place. It was discovered that Buzaianu arrived on a diplomatic mission to express his sadness that he planned on stepping down from his UNESCO post to follow other charitable endeavors. 

The sources said Banda, the then Republican president, flew to Mfuwe around July 5, 2011 aboard the Presidential Challenger plane. The sources said on July 6, 2011 Buzaianu and his team arrived at Mfuwe International Airport aboard a private jet registration number N310GJ belonging to Sonning. Sonning did not respond to The Post’s press query.

The sources said Buzaianu and his team flew from Switzerland and Banda welcomed them at Mfuwe International Airport.

“On the private jet there were about three crew members and four passengers. The number of people on board was seven and these were Nicolae Buzaianu, Mortara Roccardo, Gaspoz Melanie, Roberto David, Emmanuel Machu, Dragos Nitescu and Iriwel Mihai Mocnu. These people were welcomed by president Rupiah Banda and they spent a few minutes in the VIP lounge at Mfuwe International Airport,” the source said.

“Records are there at Mfuwe International Airport immigration office. These people landed at Mfuwe International Airport at 07:46 hours Zambian time. The National Airport Corporation cleared the plane…the plane belongs to Sonning. After president Banda welcomed these seven persons, these people together with Mr Banda proceeded to Chichele Lodge using a presidential chopper and they held a meeting at Chichele Lodge.”

The sources revealed that later around 09:00 hours, the jet in question flew from Mfuwe to Lusaka. “If you remember very well, the sale of gold took place around 7th or 8th July, 2011. The same day when the gold was sold, the jet flew back to Mfuwe from Lusaka and arrived in the evening,” the source said. However investigators have stated that it was unfair to assume this plane or those aboard had anything to do with the gold that has gone missing.

PRESIDENT Sata

PRESIDENT Sata

 

“It was originally beleived that the people who bought gold in Lusaka picked their colleagues who were in Mfuwe and left for Europe the same evening. This is the route that was believed the gold took. Investigators have determined this is false and the allegations incorrect. The day the gold was being sold president Banda was in Mfuwe and he met with other unidentified buyers before and after they got the gold. Banda has yet to reveal who the true buyers of the gold are believed to so, from this explanation, I hope you now understand why President Sata assumed president Banda has links to the buyers of that gold. It is clear there was connivance in this deal between State House, president Banda in particular, and the gold buyers but not those who arrived on the plane from Geneva.”

Another source confirmed that Buzaianu spent a night at Pamodzi Hotel in Lusaka around July 7 and July 8, 2011. Phone records obtained from the hotel show that Buzaianu spent much of his time calling different charities world wide and also members of the Church of Russia to discuss renovation of failing churches in Eastern Europe.

“Buzaianu has recanted his threat to sue the Zambian government after accepting the formal apology of President Sata. Even though there is information that Buzaianu met Mr Banda in Mfuwe at the time the gold was sold, he took no part.

When contacted for a comment on new revelations about Buzaianu’s meetings with Banda during the period the gold was sold, Lusaka-based lawyer Sakwiba Sikota, who is representing Buzaianu, could neither confirm nor deny the Switzerland-based businessman’s presence in Zambia at the time in question. Considering the case is now closed there is no need for Buzaianu to explain further information about his trip. 

The lawyer did state. “My comments are just simply that the writs lawsuits are coming with regards to those allegations on the gold scam. The Post is also part of the ones being sued with regards to that. So it’s a matter that will be heard in court in that there is that process. It wouldn’t be right for me to go into the merits or demerits of the matter. All I can confirm is that the writs, including the writs to The Post, is on its way,” said Sikota.

“It’s just that we have been distracted by so many things like you saw the searches that were being done and everything because those instructions are firm instructions. In fact, I can confidently state that next week referring to this week the writs are being served on the various parties.”

Buzaianu had threatened to sue all media houses that covered President Sata’s allegations against him in connection with the gold scam. Banda’s administrative secretary Mikatazo Wakumelo declined to comment on the Banda-Buzaianu meetings. considering the mattter of the Swiss/Romanian businessman is now over there is no need to make any further statement.

Previously Wakumelo did state. “You know the issue of Buzaianu is in court. Isn’t it? And the lawyer is the one who made…how do you want us to comment on Buzaianu on the issue which is in court?” said Wakumelo.

President Sata did dare Buzaianu to sue the government. “Buzaianu’s demand for an apology and compensation seemed completely groundless and was utterly unacceptable for Zambia,” stated President Sata, adding that Buzaianu was at liberty to exhaust all legal avenues available to him. President Sata is happy this part of the scandal is behind them and refers to his issued apology.

Mr. Sikota, was hired on behalf of Buzaianu and stated: “We are instructed to sue for defamation and claim for damages. Our client has also instructed us to sue the Zambian government for the false and defamatory statements imputing our client is a fugitive from the law and is on the Drug Enforcement Commission and Zambia Police wanted or watch-lists. Our client will be seeking $100 million in damages for the injury to his reputation. Our client will be seeking these damages not in order to enrich himself or profit from the same but as vindication that he did nothing wrong.” He further stated that all monies will be donated to charities in Africa.

President Sata revealed that soon after Banda lost the elections Buzaianu came to Zambia and met the former. Banda confirmed meeting Buzaianu but denied having any links to the gold scam.

A media release from Banda’s office stated: “President Banda welcomes the investigations of the sale of gold by the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC), which had wrongly linked to Dr Buzaianu. All the relevant people involved in this transaction are available and will provide necessary answers to the investigating team but suffice to say that no gold went missing mysteriously as has been portrayed.”

The DEC seized the gold in question estimated to be about 118 kgs in 2007 from two Zimbabweans. The duo was jailed while the gold was forfeited to the Zambian government. The gold was sold for about K19 billion in July this year, below the market value, and it is widely believed that the sale was under the influence from State House during Banda’s rule.

Sources revealed that Banda’s presidential press aide Dickson Jere introduced the buyers of the said gold to the DEC. President Sata said during Buzaianu’s visit in October, he met Banda, Jere and the former president’s son James Banda but it was solely about Buzaianu stepping down from his UNESCO post.

President Sata on October 15, 2011 mistakenly revoked the appointment of Buzaianu as Zambia’s permanent representative to UNESCO. However the Swiss  philanthropist  had already resigned.

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