U.S. Hits Zimbabwe with Sanctions over ‘Queen Bee’ Corruption

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The U.S. sanctioned Zimbabwean businessman Kudakwashe Tagwirei, an adviser to the President Emmerson Mnangagwa, for alleged corruption it said has derailed the nation’s economic development.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces U.S. sanctions regulations, added Tagwirei and the energy company he operates, Sakunda Holdings Ltd., to its list of specially designated nationals Wednesday.

“Tagwirei used a combination of opaque business dealings and his ongoing relationship with President Mnangagwa to grow his business empire dramatically and rake in millions of U.S. dollars,” the Treasury said in a statement. Calls to Tagwirei’s mobile phone didn’t connect when Bloomberg sought comment.

Tagwirei is known as “Queen Bee” in Zimbabwe because of his influence in the economy. His business interests span agriculture, mining, banking and the fuel industry, and he’s sealed deals in recent years with companies including commodities trader Trafigura Pte Ltd.

The sanctions come as Zimbabwe’s government struggles to stabilize an economy hobbled by inflation of more than 700%, a collapsed currency and shortages of fuel, food and medicine.

In September, Zimbabwe’s central bank froze the accounts of Sakunda’s petroleum unit amid an investigation into Sakunda Petroleum, one of the country’s biggest suppliers, which had a government contract to provide fuel to farmers.

Payments to Sakunda for a state farm-subsidy program championed by Mnangagwa were effectively made by the central bank printing money, the Financial Times reported at the time. The disbursements led to an 80% surge in the amount of money in circulation, compared with an IMF-set target of 8% to 10%.

Sakunda said on its website that its investment in and support of command agriculture is “testament to our desire for fueling economic development and empowerment through igniting bold action in key sectors of our economy.”

Trafigura in February announced that it acquired the 51% controlling stake previously held by Sakunda in the company’s Zimbabwean operations.

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