Exiled businessman warns Interfin over its takeover of disputed bank

By Lance Guma
29 July 2010

An exiled Zimbabwean businessman, who says his bank was illegally seized by the government in 2004, has condemned the recent takeover of that same institution by Interfin Financial Services Limited.

Gilbert Muponda says he owns Century Bank through his ENG Capital investment company, but was forced to flee the country at the height of a controversial crackdown on the financial sector in 2004.

Prominent businessmen like James Makamba, Mutumwa Mawere, Nicholas Vingirai and James Mushore, among others, were persecuted on various allegations, including black market trading.

Six years down the line Century Bank now known as CFX Bank has been taken over by Interfin Bank. A furious Muponda told Newsreel; ‘Interfin is now liable to my claim due to their attempt to cover up the ownership dispute by rebranding and changing CFX Bank operations. This is clear money and transaction laundering being executed by Farai Rwodzi and Interfin Bank.” Rwodzi is the CEO.

In November 2009 Muponda successfully used an internet campaign to block a major financial institution from buying the disputed bank. One of the world’s biggest banks, Credit Suisse, through the Finance Bank of Zambia, had sought to buy the struggling CFX Bank.

But using an aggressive internet campaign dubbed ‘Return Muponda’s Bank’ he made enough noise to scare Credit Suisse away from the deal. Internet banners picked up by Google, plus letters and articles circulated online, were enough to finally discourage the deal from going through.

When Muponda and his colleagues left the country there was a belief that they had engaged in underhand financial deals, including running away with investor’s money. But on Thursday he told us the government at the time was desperate to find scapegoats in the business community, to blame for the country’s economy collapse. “I was turned into a corruption poster boy and spent 4 months in prison without trial,’ he said.

So what was the case all about? Muponda said; “We did not have a political godfather. Despite claims we stole people’s money and did not have assets to pay them back, we got bail in court after proving the company had Z$200 billion in assets against total liabilities of Z$61 billion. After being granted bail I was told I could start the company again but only if we got a political godfather within ZANU PF.”
Muponda, through his lawyers, has now written to the new owners of the bank telling them the transaction will expose them to ‘reputational risk’. He said that warning is still in force as he seeks compensation for his shares ‘fraudulently’ seized. He said CFX Bank was struggling to mobilize sufficient business to return to profitability because ‘all market participants in Zimbabwe are fully aware of my claim and the high reputational risk that comes with ignoring the claim.’

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