Expat pays millions for ‘stolen’ Zim land

2008-07-01 00:00

A South African expatriate has paid millions of dollars to a former Israeli gun-runner with links to Robert Mugabe in a bizarre bid to secure 99-year leases on farmland seized by the Zimbabwean government as part of its land reform programme.

According to documents filed with the U.S. Justice Department, Paul Calder le Roux, who lives in the Philippines, transferred at least $12 million (nearly R94 million) to Ari Ben-Menashe’s Canadian consultancy, Dickens & Madson, between March 2007 and February this year.

Beeld managed to to track Le Roux to Manila and contacted him by phone and e-mail. “Thank you for your e-mail. However, I have no comment,” was all he would say.

In an interview with Colin Freeze of the Globe and Mail, to be published today, Ben-Menashe said: “Those deals are just land in Zimbabwe, that’s all … This is not money that has come into our [Dickens & Madson’s] pockets.”

He added that his relationship with the Mugabe regime has been “helpful” in facilitating the deals.

“Now the government is willing to lease all kinds of land to all kinds of people. Things are cheap there … The owners and masters of the land are the black government.”

He declined to comment on his dealings with Le Roux. “It’s private … I don’t want to get into details”.

But Le Roux’s involvement with Ben-Menashe, the self-described “man of infamy”, who implicated Tsvangirai in treason, raises serious questions.

In February 2002, Tsvangirai was charged with treason in Harare after Ben-Menashe leaked videotapes of talks with the MDC leader in Montreal in which he appeared to be asking for Dickens & Madson’s help in “eliminating” Mugabe.

Tsvangirai denied the allegations. He admitted attending the meeting with what he thought were political consultants and said he left the room when those present began talking about killing Mugabe.

Ben-Menashe was the Zimbabwean government’s star witness, but the judge threw out the case, describing Ben-Menashe as a “rude, unreliable and contemptuous” witness.

He found that “nowhere” in the tape was there a “direct request made by the accused … to assassinate the president”.

Ben-Menashe later went on to do public relations work for his “old friend Bob” Mugabe.

Beeld has seen a copy of an agreement between Le Roux and Ben-Menashe that was signed on April 2 last year in Montreal. The vaguely-worded document states that Dickens & Madson will “provide other confidential services to assist Mr le Roux in achieving his goals”. According to the document, Le Roux had to pay $1,2 million for Ben-Menashe’s “services” on signing the contract.

Submissions made to the U.S. Justice Department by Ben-Menashe in terms of the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act state that Le Roux “intends to become involved in the leasing of real estate for farming and other purposes in Zimbabwe”.

Le Roux is described as a businessman who “deals in Internet commerce and in the installation of call centres in Southeast Asia, Cost Rica and Israel”.

He remains something of an enigma. He lived in Krugersdorp. In 2002, he registered a company called Planetsolar. Then he emigrated. He currently lives in Manila in the Philippines in an exclusive, high-security suburb, Dasmariñas Village, which is home to politicians, businessmen and more than a dozen foreign embassies.

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