- Van Hoogstraten, Grace Mugabe.
British tycoon Nicholas van Hoogstraten has come under fire from officials in Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s government over the collapse of Hwange Colliery Company under a mountain of heavy debts, it emerged.
Deputy information, media and broadcasting minister and close Mugabe aide Thokozile Mathuthu lashed out at Van Hoogstraten at a meeting of Hwange shareholders and creditors recently amid revelations company debts had risen to US$350 million.
Mathuthu strongly disputed suggestions that government, the majority shareholder, should pour more money into the virtually bankrupt company and said Van Hoogstraten, who holds a 39 percent stake was not doing his part to clear the debt.
“What is the other shareholder doing? We hear that Nick (Van Hoogstraten) is acting as if he is not interested in the welfare of the company. Is it not possible to buy him out?” Mathuthu said.
- Hwange Colliery.
Van Hoogstraten has been accused in confidential documents seen by Now Daily of moving hundreds of millions of dollars from the London Stock Exchange-listed company to offshore accounts in cahoots with his ‘close friend’ Grace Mugabe, the president’s wife. Sources within the ruling Zanu PF party confirmed that Van Hoogstraten was bankrolling Grace Mugabe’s bid to succeed her ailing husband as president and had ‘donated’ tens of millions of dollars for that purpose through his company, Messina Investments. Part of the money given by Van Hoogstraten has been used to buy farming inputs and foodstuffs donated by Grace Mugabe at her campaign rallies.
Previous attempts to run Van Hoogstraten out of Hwange have flopped after Mugabe stepped in to protect him. Former company chairman Tendai Savanhu was sacked by Mugabe after he questioned the British businessman’s role in the company.
Van Hoogstraten is close to the Mugabes and has been rewarded with commercial farmland in Zimbabwe at a time whites are being driven out of the country under the guise of black empowerment. The businessman once described the dictator as “an English gentleman”, a reference to Mugabe’s taste for Western luxury goods and a British lifestyle adopted from the country’s former colonial masters.
Van Hoogstraten served several years in a British prison for hiring a hit man to murder a business rival and is under investigation for tax dodging in the UK. He spends a lot of his time in Zimbabwe where he owns numerous properties. The flamboyant businessman has dated several young black Zimbabwean women and has been seen entertaining them in top Zimbabwean restaurants and at his hotel in south London.
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