Staff Reporter|newzimbabwe| HAMILTON boss Frank Buyanga has revealed that he received US$25 million from the controversial British property tycoon, Nicholas van Hoogstraten, in 2008.
Buyanga, wanted by police in Zimbabwe on fraud charges, told South African television over the weekend that the allegations and purported charges against him were “hot air”, while also denying that he was on the run.
Dubbed a “loan shark” by Finance Minister Tendai Biti, Buyanga also launched a defiant defence of the business practices of three of his Zimbabwean companies – Hamilton Finance, Hamilton Property Holdings and Hamilton Insurance.
In a rare television interview for the Click Africa programme on DSTV’s Africa Magic channel aired Sunday, Buyanga spoke openly about:
# And his relationship with African leaders including Malawi’s former President Bakili Muluzi and Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang
“He gave me money, US$25 million. One of my property companies received US$25 million as a facility, and out of that I think we used US$10 million and that’s it,” Buyanga told interviewer, Josey Mahachi.
In 2002, Van Hoogstraten – estimated to be worth US$800 million – was jailed in the UK for 10 years for ordering the murder of a business rival, but the conviction was overturned on appeal.
Three years later, he was ordered to pay the victim’s family £6 million in a civil case but he vowed they would “never get a penny”.
Hoogstraten is believed to have donated money to President Robert Mugabe’s campaign in the past. Asked why he had not exploited such a political connection to end the police pursuit of him, Buyanga bristled with indignation.
“Why should he [Hoogstraten] speak to the President about my problems? I told you these problems are not from high-up, there are all these little Mickey Mouse people. The President has bigger issues to deal with. Besides, he is a senior citizen and should be left alone,” he said.
Buyanga abruptly stepped down as a director of Hamilton Property Holdings in 2010 to avoid a gathering storm over the company’s activities which were attracting police and Reserve Bank attention.
Dozens of people came forward to say that they had borrowed money from Hamilton and surrendered collateral in the form of houses, vehicles and household goods. They claimed that before their borrowing period was over, Hamilton had disposed of their property.
Most of the petitioners had sold their properties, the company argues, but with a “buy-back option… subject to parties agreeing on a buy-back price and the terms of the buy-back.”
“Hamilton in all sale transactions has made available to all the complainants the following documents for the purpose of completing the sale transaction: agreement of sale, power of attorney to pass transfer, declaration by seller, notice to vacate property and acknowledgement of receipt of funds,” the company says in court papers.
But police are also charging Buyanga individually under laws that impose liability on directors where a company is involved in illegal activities.
“We all know that the police are not always concise, are not always precise. You cannot say that police are always right,” Buyanga said in the interview on Sunday.
“We have extended funding to more than 4,000 people but we are talking about 45 people who are using elements in the system and state organs to create something out of it. Nothing will come out of it,” he added.
When asked who was running his businesses in Zimbabwe in his absence, he replied that “these things run themselves”. His business interests extended beyond Zimbabwe, he emphasised.
One man, who was unnamed, said: “There are people who did benefit, perhaps in their desire to do business they failed in various projects and they had challenges in repaying the money., The ended up finding excuses in terms of repaying the money.
“What I would have thought is that people who are accountable, people with integrity… the best thing would have been to go back to the drawing board and renegotiate the loans. It’s just unfortunate that some people who were really greedy thought the best way to move this agenda was to push Frank out of that industry, in the hope that those debts would be written off.”
It has been reported that Buyanga’s troubles began when the brother of a senior cabinet minister’s girlfriend borrowed over US$50,000 using her sister’s house – with her permission – as collateral.
It has since emerged that Transport Minister Nicholas Goche also borrowed US$70,000 and had neglected to pay, forcing the company to take him to court.
“There is nothing wrong with extending funding to a government minister. In Zimbabwe, at the time I was extending funds, no-one else was. Even the banks didn’t have any money. So none of these people had anywhere to run, so they could only run to me,” he said.
He said he had friends who were ministers, but he did not expect them to stand up for him and fight what he sees as a miscarriage of justice.
“I would not want them to stand up for me,” Buyanga said. “The minute that minister lifts up his hand and mentions my name, then he is in trouble. They are gonna jump on him. You can’t have anyone standing up for me right now, can you? I understand that.”
Buyanga – charged with conspiracy to defraud in the United Kingdom before failing to make an appearance in court in 2005 – says he recorded all transactions on video because he had a premonition some clients would default and use corrupt police officers to intimidate him into writing off the debts.
He says his lawyers in the United Kingdom are engaged in discussions with the Crown Prosecution Service to have the fraud charges scrapped.
Buyanga also spoke about his connections with African leaders including Muluzi and Obiang, whom he was photographed meeting in Equatorial Guinea.
On Muluzi, he said: “He is like a father figure. We have known each other for a while. My dad is late now and I need someone who can advise me on the way forward in life.”
“I personally feel we can improve the situation, and move away from the situation of forfeiture of people’s assets by means that I don’t agree with. You can only develop the human being by financial literacy, by education.”
FRANK BUYANGA INTERVIEW PART I
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