/ 19 April 2013

Fugitive Banda accused of siphoning oil millions

Fugitive Banda Accused Of Siphoning Oil Millions

He was named in court documents as a key figure in an allegedly corrupt oil deal worth $2.5-million with Nigeria's Sarb Energy Limited.

Rupiah Banda, recently stripped of immunity from prosecution by the Zambian Parliament, has been charged with abuse of office for ­setting up the deal.

Prosecutors in Zambia say Henry opened an offshore account in Singapore where they suspect the proceeds of the Sarb deal were deposited. The charge sheet in Rupiah's case reads: "The [investigative] team established that Henry Banda, the son to Rupiah Banda, was involved in the oil deal with the sole responsibility of deciding where the Nigerian firm assigned to uplift the crude would remit the proceeds for the transaction."

When the case for stripping Rupiah Banda of criminal immunity was made in Zambia's national assembly, it was alleged that the former president asked Sarb Energy and Henry to agree where the payment for the shipment of the oil would be deposited and when the oil should be delivered to Zambia.

Henry's London-based lawyer, Robert Amsterdam, dismissed the allegations as a Zambian government fabrication.

"Henry Banda is completely innocent," Amsterdam said. "The real criminals are the Zambian government and I believe that one day they will account for what they are doing. You [the Mail & Guardian] will become an accomplice in a harassment campaign against Banda if you publish this."

The Zambian Parliament was told that Abuja-based Sarb Energy received $2.5-million for shipping the oil to Zambia, but that it failed to deliver. Interviewed this week, Zambia's justice minister, Wynter Kabimba, said the oil did not reach Zambia, despite being shipped out of Nigeria. "We would love to have Henry here, but that won't stop us from pursuing the case," Kabimba said. "We have the principal suspect – Rupiah Banda."

Red notice
A senior justice ministry source, who asked not to be named, alleged that Zambia's former ambassador to Nigeria, Richard Kachingwe, was a special envoy for Banda when Sarb was engaged.

"Initially, Rupiah engaged another Nigerian company, the Anyiam-Osigwe Group. But he suddenly sent Kachingwe to deliver a letter to Nigeria's vice-president, Namadi Sambo, about his new decision to engage Sarb." Kachingwe refused to comment, saying the issue was before the courts and it would be prejudicial for him to say anything. "If you say I was a special envoy for the president, that makes things even more ­complicated," he said.

Contacted for comment in Nigeria, Sarb asked for amaBhungane's phone number and promised to call back, but failed to do so.

Henry, who operates financial services company Gushford IV from Johannesburg, has been on the Zambian police's wanted list since 2011, when his father lost the elections. He is also the subject of an Interpol "red notice".

He was accused in 2009 of ­brokering an allegedly corrupt deal in which Kenyan oil trading company Dalbit Petroleum clinched a multimillion-dollar contract to supply finished petroleum products to Zambia. His name has also been mentioned in a corruption case involving Dora Siliya, the former Zambian communications minister, relating to the controversial appointment of a Cayman Island-registered company to value Zambia's ­telecommunication assets.

Rupiah Banda has also been charged over vehicles he allegedly procured for his campaign from a Chinese company ahead of the 2011 general election. He allegedly spent K20-billion on campaign materials, with most of this cash being personally handled by Henry.

Amsterdam, a strong critic of President Michael Sata's government, accused Kabimba of looking for potential political opponents to attack and intimidate ahead of the country's 2016 general elections.

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