PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has been dragged into a cash-for-diamonds bribery scandal playing out in a United States court involving former Congressman Mel Reynolds and business tycoon, Elzie Higginbottom.
According to media reports, Reynolds — a self-actor — spent 90 minutes grilling Higginbottom during trial, where he was implicated in sending $100 000 in bribe money.
“Did you ever send money to me in Zimbabwe to give to a high-ranking elected official?” Reynolds asked Higginbottom.
“No, I did not,” Higginbottom said.
The inquisition went on: “Did you ever give Robert Mugabe a cheque for money for him?” Reynolds insisted.
And Higginbottom retorted: “Absolutely not.”
Reynolds inquired further: “Did you have a deal with Robert Mugabe for a diamond concession in Zimbabwe?” Reynolds asked. “No, I did not,” Higginbottom responded. Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba yesterday said he would not be drawn into commenting on matters before the courts, describing Reynolds as a convict.
“I cannot dignify allegations made against the President by a convicted felon. You are asking me to put the President on trial by commenting on a matter that is sub judice. This matter is before the courts and, therefore, I will not be drawn into commenting,” he said.
Reynolds alleged Mugabe had agreed to grant Higginbottom a concession to mine diamonds and the profits would be split between the two after the latter gave the Zanu PF leader a cheque for $100 000.
Reynolds, a contentious character, who visited Zimbabwe in 2014 and was feted by government officials such as Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo and his Tourism counterpart, Walter Mzembi, is being charged for tax evasion in the US.
His short stay in Zimbabwe was marred by an arrest on allegations of possessing pornographic material.
However, the charge was thrown out by the courts, but the former US Representative was convicted for staying in the country on an expired permit.
Reynolds also claimed Higginbottom was upset that Reynolds had somehow sabotaged the deal and paid a Zimbabwean official to “set up” the former congressman, triggering the pornography case.
The former Congressman also reportedly brought up the issue of a “journal” that he claimed contained the “funnel” transactions, but did not produce it.
The trial was set to resume yesterday.