By Cory Doctorow
Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe unleashed a storm of brutal, genocidal violence after losing the 2008 elections — and now we know that it was funded by western hedge-funds and banks, led by Och-Ziff Capital Management, the largest publicly traded fund, with assistance from Blackrock, GLG Partners, and Credit Suisse, who raised $100M for Mugabe’s weapons and torture-chambers in exchange for a sweetheart deal on the country’s platinum mines.
Daniel Och’s Och-Ziff manages $45.7B, including funds from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. Och’s protege, Michael Cohen, led the charge to fund Mugabe’s pogrom; while an Israeli diamond trader called Dan Gertler helped broker a joint deal with OCH to invest in mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo, another nation whose state is complicit in horrific terror-campaigns that include child soldiery and rape camps.
Och-Ziff is under investigation for its deals in Zimbabwe and DRC, including allegations that it deliberately and illegally disguised its involvmeent. Cohen left Och-Ziff in 2013, shortly after buying a $22M country estate outside London: “Ewhurst Park, the more than 900-acre spread includes a sprawling main house, cottages, a church, a large lake with ducks, a boathouse, bridges, wooded areas, fountains, and formal gardens.” Cohen wouldn’t provide a comment to Businessweek on the deals.
Four days later, Camec announced it was using the money it raised to purchase a joint venture with the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp., or ZMDC, Mugabe’s state-owned mining company. The joint venture owned the platinum stakes on the Great Dyke that had been taken back just a few weeks earlier from Anglo American. The price included $5 million in cash; Camec issued shares to partners whose identities were shielded by a shell company based in the British Virgin Islands; and $100 million to Mugabe’s government. Camec said the $100 million was a cash loan “to comply with its contractual obligations to the government of Zimbabwe” for the platinum claims. It said the money would be repaid out of ZMDC’s share of future platinum earnings. Camec’s balance sheets for the period make clear that funding for the platinum rights came from the private transactions involving Och-Ziff.
On the day Camec announced the deal with Mugabe’s government, two of McGee’s embassy employees were in the countryside gathering intelligence on Mugabe’s efforts to ensure his win. A lieutenant colonel in the president’s army told embassy staffers that soldiers, militia members, and ruling party backers loyal to Mugabe were training to conduct what he called a “reorientation campaign,” according to McGee and embassy cables. The lieutenant colonel also said 400 vehicles were being deployed to facilitate the operation.
Violence intensified throughout May. Soldiers drove opposition supporters out of their rural villages or urban neighborhoods. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 33,000 people were driven from their homes by month’s end. Hundreds turned up at the gates of the American Embassy. “These people were literally running for their lives,” McGee says.