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‘Loan shark’ dines with presidents

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Property mogul and alleged loan shark Frank Buyanga, who police last weekend said was on the wanted list for fraudulently seizing over 500 immovable properties in the capital through an opaque loan scheme, is reportedly globe-trotting, wining and dining with heads of state across the continent.

Buyanga, whom the police claim is on the run, met President Robert Mugabe, Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema among other heads of state recently.

The businessman, known for driving expensive state-of-the-art vehicles and “living large”, denies the allegations of fraud levelled against him, claiming he is a victim of conspiracy by debtors who want to repossess the properties now valued at about $60 million.

Information obtained by NewsDay shows the businessman supped with influential African and Western leaders, among them Mujuru, during the African National Congress (ANC) centenary celebrations in Bloemfontein, South Africa, in January and Mugabe at the African Union (AU) Summit in Ethiopia the same month.

Buyanga also met with Nguema last weekend at the Equatorial Guinea presidential palace in Bata, the country’s second largest city.

NewsDay is reliably informed the businessman flew into Johannesburg, South Africa, on Thursday this week from Malabo.

Police said Buyanga fled Zimbabwe last year for South Africa and later Kenya after fleecing the property owners, among them politicians, musicians and businesspeople, of more than
$4 million through a loan scheme where the borrower would sign an agreement of sale and repay the principal loan and interest within three months.

In August 2010, he was accused of fraud, but some of the people who accused him of seizing their properties later made a U-turn, saying they had sold their houses and stands to the property mogul.

A settlement agreement was later hammered out between Buyanga, the Attorney-General’s Office and the complainants’ lawyers for them to
repay the businessman and retain their properties by the end of 2010, but the pact was not honoured and Buyanga filed over 350 cases against the defaulters with the High Court seeking to evict the people from the properties.

The cases are still pending in the court. Legal experts argued that the case against Buyanga was more civil than criminal.

Sources close to the businessman, who also has close links with South African President Jacob Zuma and controversial ANC bigwig and arms dealer Fana Hlongwane, said Buyanga met Mujuru at the ANC gala dinner on January 7 and the following day he was in the presidential suite at the stadium, mixing and mingling with both African and Western leaders who were celebrating the party’s 100 years of existence. He and Zimbabwe-born South Africa-based businessman Mutumwa Mawere were part of Zuma’s entourage when he toured Russia and China in 2010.

At the AU Summit in January, Buyanga reportedly had a brief chance meeting with Mugabe at the union’s new headquarters.

Mugabe, the sources said, was flanked by CIO director-general Happyton Bonyongwe and Chief of Protocol Munyaradzi Kajese.

Buyanga reportedly told Mugabe he was currently based in South Africa because of his business interests in the country.

Last Friday, the sources said, Buyanga had a one-on-one meeting with Obiang Nguema at his palace in Bata.

He reportedly pledged to promote Franco-Anglo relations and raise awareness of the developments that were taking place in Equatorial Guinea in the Sadc region.

The following day, the businessman, in the company of former Mozambique and Malawi presidents, Joachim Chissano and Bakili Muluzi respectively, and Benin president Thomas Yayi Boni, the sources said, met Obiang Nguema.

Footage of the meeting was broadcast on Equatorial Guinea national television.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba yesterday said: “I don’t know about the meeting.

Maybe it is something I didn’t know about. Isn’t he the person you are calling ‘loan shark’? Why would the President meet a loan shark — to be swallowed? The only person I saw was Mawere, who was just roaming around.”

Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena said the issuance of the warrant of arrest against Buyanga is still valid despite reports of the businessman meeting influential people in African business and politics.

“We are still investigating and we don’t have the results yet. We issued a warrant of arrest and it’s still standing despite the rumours. We don’t work on rumours,” he said.

Efforts to get a comment from Mujuru yesterday were in vain at the time of going to Press as Minister of State in her Office Sylvester Nguni was not answering his mobile phone. Buyanga was also not reachable.

The sources said the mogul was using his political links to spread his business tentacles across Africa and Europe. Buyanga has business interests in the UK, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. The operations have different names and partners.

On his alleged fraud, NewsDay is in possession of footage of some of the property owners signing the agreements of sale of their properties to Buyanga’s companies.

In the footage, the homeowners were advised they were being filmed while signing the agreements and consented.

In September last year, Buyanga won a civil case at the High Court when Tonderai Tarima approached the court seeking to cancel a property sale he entered into with the businessman’s company, Zimcor Trustee (Pvt) Ltd.

Tarima had sold a residential stand in Vainona to the company for Z$4 quadrillion in January 29.

Justice Bharat Patel dismissed the application on the basis that the agreement signed by both parties indicated payment had already been effected.

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