|Benevolence led to my persecution — Buyanga|
|Thursday, 18 August 2011 19:50|
BUSINESS tycoons Nick Van Hoogstraten, Jayesh Shah and Frank Buyanga (FB) of Hamilton Properties are alleged to be loan sharks who have been playing the role of the lender of the last resort because the central bank is broke. In May, Van Hoogstraten and Shah categorically denied being loan sharks in exclusive interviews with the Zimbabwe Independent, but admitted bailing out troubled financial institutions and companies.
More than 500 people have reportedly lost their immovable properties to Buyanga’s company after allegedly accessing loans from it and failed to repay. But Buyanga claimed the people had sold their properties to his firm.
Media reports recently claimed that Buyanga was on the run. This week, the 31-year-old business magnate fielded questions from Zimbabwe Independent editor Constantine Chimakure (CC) on his business and other related issues. Below are the edited responses.
CC: Are you a loan shark and what is your comment on reports that within a short space of time you acquired 500 immovable properties fraudulently?
FB: If your definition of loan shark is to invest in the Zimbabwean economy, then have individuals conspiring to mislead the public and state organs of my intentions then the answer would be yes.
In Zimbabwe we have a classic case of biting the hand that feeds us. I made one huge mistake. Nick Van Hoogstraten advised me a few years ago never to give money to anyone desperate or that needed it and in my own ambitions I stormed the market handing out cash. To my sad discovery the same individuals and companies later sought for my persecution.
CC:How many people who sold their houses and later approached the police have managed to pay you back as per the agreement you had with them and the Attorney-General’s Office?
FB: A year has passed and only two people have made good on the arrangement facilitated by the AG and police. On hind sight, it is disappointing to see the avalanche of individuals that sought refuge from the police and were given all the necessary attention and now have failed to deliver on their promise.
It is fortunate that the police force, being one of the best if not the best in Africa, realised that I had invested a great amount of money into the economy which none of these ‘so called complainants’ could ever pay me or the company I represented back.
It is their duty to protect the public and what the complainants conveniently ignored was the fact that the truth would sooner surface and they would be exposed. It is sad that tax payers suffer the costs of these illegitimate complaints.
CC: Media reports recently said you were on the run and that one of your employees has been arrested and arraigned in court?
FB: I am constantly in touch with the police regarding allegations that continue to be raised against me.
CC: Your employee?
FB: At the time of his arrest I was abroad. The bottom line is that the said employee was arrested as a result of a complainant who misrepresented facts in their report to the police after selling her property to us.
The matter is still before the courts and is subjudice. However, the complainants misrepresented facts and with the aid of a Harare lawyer they forged affidavits. We have lodged a complaint with the Law Society of Zimbabwe against the lawyer. Strangely, the law society is yet to act on our complaint.”
CC: Why are you embroiled in a legal wrangle with Zimra?
FB: Zimra raided our offices some months ago and confiscated vital documents. There has been some action taken (by my company) but I cannot comment on that at present.
CC: What are the links between Hamilton Property and Hamilton Finance? Do you own both companies?
FB: Hamilton Property Holdings is a registered company whose sole purpose was and is to invest in property through the purchase of properties and assets. It is a standalone company that believes in the turning around of the Zimbabwe property market. It is why we took the initiative to invest in the market.
Hamilton Finance is a money lending company which is licensed and operates under the supervision of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and in the confines of Zimbabwean law. These are two different companies which if you were to come to me seeking to buy or to sell your property I would refer you to Hamilton Property Holdings and if you were looking to borrow money I would refer you to Hamilton Finance.
CC: Are you involved in the two companies?
CC: What do you say to allegations that you are fronting business tycoon Van Hoogstraten?
FB: When one says front what immediately comes to mind is weather fronts were the front separates hot and cold, in this case I would say no as there is no separation in our relationship. The only separation is my inability to take advice that lands me in trouble at times.
He is a friend, mentor and advisor. As a matter of fact, he extended US$25 million to me for investing in the Zimbabwe market in 2008. In my stupidity, I invested in these troubled properties at a time he clearly pointed out to me that the world property market was on the brink of collapse. In my ambition to mop up, I got involved and finally got my fingers burnt.
To my surprise, even after technically losing well over US$10 million he told me that was back pocket change and I shouldn’t stress about it. I have decided to keep the US$15 million in London towards my pension.
Generally, Van Hoogstraten is misunderstood in the Zimbabwe market. He has for long been talking of pulling out but we have been able to convince him to stay a while longer. I have personally witnessed his walk and can say without a shadow of doubt that he has love for Zimbabwe and its people, he has great respect and speaks highly of our president and shares his vision of total empowerment.
He himself is the best form of empowerment I have experienced in the UK, Zimbabwe and other parts of the world.
CC: How are you linked to South Africa President Jacob Zuma, controversial arms dealer Fana Hlongwane and former Defence minister Siphiwe Nyanda?
FB: I am not prepared to discuss my relationship with any of these gentlemen without their authority.
CC: Why are you suing the SA Home Affairs and to what tune are you suing them?
FB: This matter is subjudice at the present moment.
CC: What do you say to assertions that you go around flaunting your wealth?
FB: It’s just a matter of being in a small pond, the splashes are exaggerated. When in the south of France, Bermuda or London they don’t bat an eye lid.
CC: How much are you worth, business wise?
FB: Van Hoogstraten once asked Jean Paul Getty (the richest living American in 1967) how much he was worth and his answer was, ‘if you know how much you are worth, then you are not worth very much’. One thing I do know is that I don’t own anything but have access to everything money can buy.
Frank Buyanga: SA Cops hijacked my brand new Rolls-Royce
ZIMBABWEAN property mogul Frank Buyanga bought a R4 million (US$396k) Rolls-Royce Ghost three years ago, but still hasn’t had a chance to drive it.
The luxury car has been locked up at the Sunnyside Police Station in Pretoria since it was impounded in December 2010 on its way to Zimbabwe.
Buyanga says his car was “hijacked” by police. Police at the time claimed the car was part of an ongoing investigation. They suspected it was stolen.
Police in Hampshire in the UK, where Buyanga bought it, say the vehicle was never part of any of their investigations, nor was it suspected to be stolen. They didn’t say whether their South African counterparts had asked them about the car.
“I have investigated your query and can confirm that the vehicle you mention is not, and has not, been of any interest to Hampshire Constabulary,” said Inspector Patrick Holdaway, executive officer to the Police and Crime Commissioner in Hampshire.
The Rolls was seized by police on the N1 North near the Pumulani toll plaza while being transported by a trucking company to Zimbabwe.
At the time, police Captain Solly Ngobeni said it was suspected that the vehicle was part of a stolen-car haul by a syndicate led by Buyanga.
Ngobeni claimed the syndicate would bring vehicles into South Africa through Durban harbour, take them to Zimbabwe for registration and then bring them back to the country.
In February, the North Gauteng High Court turned down Buyanga’s application to have the vehicle returned. The court relied on an affidavit signed by Ngobeni’s colleague, Nhlane Mashabela, stating that they couldn’t get hold of him.
Mashabela told the court that after the vehicle was impounded, Buyanga failed to give police the Rolls’ ownership papers.
He said Buyanga disappeared on Christmas Eve in 2010 and they couldn’t get close to him because he was under heavy guard before he left South Africa.
It is a claim Buyanga denies. “I met with Ngobeni about seven times during that period and he even took me to the police station to show me the vehicle,” he says. “It’s an absolute lie that I didn’t give them the papers.”
Video footage obtained by City Press shows Ngobeni driving around with Buyanga on several occasions before December 23 2010 in and around Sunnyside. In one of the videos, Buyanga is seen handing over a set of documents to Ngobeni and his superior at their offices.
In one of the videos Ngobeni can be heard asking Buyanga’s driver what type of person he is before taking him to see the Rolls at the police station.
When asked this week if they had misled the court about Buyanga’s failure to hand over documents, police failed to respond, but said they were conducting further investigations.
Meanwhile, police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said police had arrested and charged a suspect with corruption in relation to the vehicle, and he would appear in court on July 10.
The battle for his Rolls-Royce isn’t Buyanga’s only problem. He’s currently fighting an Interpol warrant of arrest issued at the behest of the Zimbabwean government.
Buyanga left Zimbabwe in 2010 and moved to South Africa following charges of fraud, forgery and money laundering. He has hired top Israeli lawyer Nick Kaufman, who has represented Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saadi in his extradition case from Niger, to fight the case.
Kaufman has been quoted as saying the warrant of arrest is political because Buyanga instituted legal action against a government minister in Zimbabwe.
Buyanga wrecks $230k Ferrari
ZIMBABWEAN property tycoon Frank Buyanga has cheated death after crashing his $230,000 Ferrari 458 Italia in Cape Town.
The millionaire playboy extensively damaged the front end of his expensive motor in wet weather after failing to negotiate Cape Town’s famous Hospital Bend shortly after 6AM on Thursday.
The 34-year-old Buyanga, reputed to be one of Zimbabwe’s richest people with a personal fortune of over US$20 million, walked away from the wrecked red Ferrari unhurt.
On the same day that Buyanga trashed his motor, the Cape Argus newspaper said “unseasonably heavy rain began to fall, lifting several weeks’ worth of rubber, oil and diesel fuel out of the tar and leaving the city’s roads treacherously slick”.
Buyanga told NewZimbabwe.com by telephone from South Africa that he was “fine and resting”, refusing to go into detail about his unscheduled visit to the steel barriers.
England-born Buyanga made his millions selling properties in Europe and Africa, driven by his mentor – the controversial property tycoon Nicholas van Hoogstraten.
Dubbed a “loan shark” by Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Tendai Biti, Buyanga exiled himself from Zimbabwe after powerful Zanu PF figures who owed his Hamilton Finance hundreds of thousands of dollars pressured police to arrest him on alleged fraud charges.
Buyanga – who counts South African President Jacob Zuma, former Malawian President Bakili Muluzi and Equatorial Guinea strongman Obiang Nguema among his friends – insists he is a legitimate businessman and is fighting the charges in court.
The loss of the Ferrari will hardly make a dent on Buyanga’s lifestyle. His garage includes nearly a dozen super cars including a Rolls Royce, a Bentley Continental, a BMW X5 and a Mercedes ML.
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