HONG KONG — President Robert Mugabe has launched a lawsuit to claim ownership of a Hong Kong luxury home that was reportedly bought by a middleman for use by his daughter, Bona, while at university on the territory.
By Austin Chiu
When the deal was revealed in 2009, Mugabe denied owning the property, insisting he had only rented the home for use by Bona while she completed her undergraduate studies.
“We are paying rent. After they finish we will have nothing to do with that property at all,” Mugabe said at the time. He added: “What do I do with a house in Hong Kong, really? We just want accommodation for our daughter and her friends.”
The veteran leader insisted he did not own any other properties outside of Zimbabwe.
“This is not the first time I have been given a home. Last time they gave me a home in Scotland and another one in Malaysia,” he said.
However, according to Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, in a High Court writ, the Zimbabwe government, led by Mugabe, is now suing local businessman Hsieh Ping-sung and a company, Cross Global.
Media reports in 2009 claimed Mugabe splashed out HK$40 million in June 2008 for the three-storey home at JC Castle, an upmarket development along Shan Tong Road developed by Albert Yeung Sau-shing’s Emperor Group and named after action star Jackie Chan. It was suggested that the house was bought through Hsieh, who was acting on behalf of the Mugabes, months before their daughter began studies at the University of Hong Kong.
Hsieh was said to have used a company to buy the property with the Mugabes holding a controlling interest in the house.
Hsieh was the sole shareholder of Cross Global in 2010, Companies Registry filings show. On January 29, 2010, Cross Global sold the house to Hsieh for about $5 million – the same price at which it bought the house in 2008 – Land Registry records show.
In the writ, the Zimbabwean government says Cross Global is holding the property for it in trust.
It is asking the court to declare it has a “100% beneficial interest” in the property and to order Cross Global and Hsieh to transfer the property to it. It also wants the court to void the 2010 transfer of the property between Cross Global and Hsieh. Filings show Hsieh on June 29, 2010, transferred all his shares in Cross Global to Johan Carel Nel, a South African national.