Foreigners in Midlands mine wrangle

A FIVE-YEAR–OLD mine wrangle between a Lebanese-born Australian businessman and a Russian working with local partners has affected operations at two chrome mines in Midlands after one of the parties applied for liquidation of the holding company, High Court papers have revealed.

by EVERSON MUSHAVA

The wrangle, which has sucked in lawyer, Gerald Mlotshwa, has seen two mines, Gothic and Pengamesu, which belong to Aquarium Trading which is owned by the Australian, Taleb Mohamed, close down, rendering over a 100 workers jobless.

Aquarium is now under judicial management after the Russian; Nikolai Varenko approached the courts through his company Tamira Overseas. However, the Russian was now pushing for the firing of the judicial manager in order to place the company under liquidation.

Oliver Masomera of Obram Trust was appointed judicial manager in 2015 after an application by Tamira despite no evidence that the company was indebted, the court papers show.

Aquarium has been mining chrome, antimony and gold in the Midlands province since 2004. In 2012, the company sought $400 000 recapitalisation money from Varenko who then expressed interest to invest $2 million in the business.

To protect his investment, Varenko roped in local partner Heena Josh as managing director and Mlotshwa as the company secretary.
After paying the $2 million through his investment arm, Tamira Overseas, Varenko then wanted to take over the company allegedly using a forged CR14 presented by Josh. The matter against Josh is still pending at the Bulawayo High Court.

Josh approached the Bulawayo High Court seeking liquidation of Aquarium under case number HC2020/14. The case was however thrown out after the court realised that the appeal was done fraudulently.

Varenko then sought to take over the company by reporting Mohamed to the police Serious Frauds Squad under case number 12/15 claiming he was duped of his money after misrepresentations.

Mohamed was acquitted of any charges in Gweru.

Another attempt by Varenko and his partners to take over the company was made when Obi Mabahwana, a former senior public prosecutor at the Harare Magistrates’ Courts, reported Mohamed of alleged fraud at Borrowdale Police Station under RRB2953338.
The criminal charges against Mohamed were however withdrawn by the state this year.

But according to Masomera, the company was placed under judicial management due to a shareholding dispute between Aquarium and Tamira after the latter advanced $2 800 000 for shareholding.

After the dispute, the Arbitration Court ruled out that Tamira’s shareholding was illegally acquired because there was no consultation with the Zimbabwe Investment Authority.

The money injected by Tamira for the shareholding was then turned into a loan and company paced under judicial management.

Masomera ordered a forensic audit but stopped after receiving a complaint that the auditors were using a militant approach, and realised that he was being paid by Tamira.

Varenko has filed several cases before the courts that include an appeal to have Masomera removed as judicial manager of Aquarium, apart from a second attempt to seek for the liquidation of the company. This is despite the company paying back the loan without defaulting.

The Russian also want Mohamed to personally pay back the loan and has also asked the court to stop Aquarium shareholders from disposing of their shares in the company despite there being no such intention.

The papers also show that Tamira has been refusing to pay costs of suits.

Varenko insists he was duped by Mohamed and was made to pay the money after misrepresentation, charges being denied by Mohamed through his lawyer Alec Muchadehama.

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