Mugabe ‘business associate’ in trouble

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A Thai businesswoman who had been appointed a government minister in Thailand was yesterday forced to defend her links to President Robert Mugabe before being asked to step down from her new post.

Nalinee Taveesin, who is also Zimbabwe’s honorary consul in Bangkok, was appointed minister to the Prime Minister Yinluck Shinawatra’s office in a new Thailand government reshuffle.

But critics immediately called on her to resign following revelations she had business links with Zimbabwe’s First Family.

In 2008, the US Treasury included Nalinee on the sanctions list targeting President Robert Mugabe’s inner circle over alleged human rights violations and electoral fraud.

She was accused of facilitating a number of financial, real estate and gem-related transactions on behalf of Zimbabwe’s First Lady, Grace.

Yesterday Nalinee told journalists at a Press conference in Bangkok she was introduced to President Mugabe and his wife in 2002.

She said she facilitated visits by the Zimbabwean First Family to Thailand on several occasions “as a host, enjoying a cordial social relationship” with them.

However, she said she was surprised to see her name being included on the US sanctions list and was challenging the move.

She accused people of disseminating distorted information through social networks following her ministerial appointment.

“May I be the final political victim who fell prey to such grave accusations, which has caused gross misunderstanding,” Nalinee was quoted as saying by the Thailand media yesterday.

She said she would not quit her new post, but did not want the matter involving President Mugabe’s family politicised.

The businesswoman is reportedly a major shareholder in 25 companies in a number of sectors.

United States diplomatic cables leaked by anti-secrecy organisation WikiLeaks last year revealed Western nations had been trying to trace President Mugabe’s assets abroad with little success.