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RBZ Attempts to Block Payment of Seized Private Mine Funds

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has appealed against a High Court order compelling the bank to return $1 million seized from Trojan Nickel Mine Limited’s bank account at the height of the country’s economic problems in 2007.

In June, the High Court ruled in favour of Trojan Mine despite opposition from the RBZ. Now, the RBZ is claiming immunity from prosecution in the Supreme Court.

There are fears that the order to retain the money will open floodgates for companies, Non-Governmental Organizations and individuals to also sue the RBZ.

The expropriation of the funds followed a monetary statement issued by the central bank in October 2007 centralising all foreign currency accounts. In a statement released in 2009, central bank chief Governor Gideon Gono said the RBZ took foreign currency from private accounts to help pay for some $2 billion in loans to state-owned companies and utilities and for power and grain imports.

Gono claimed that these measures helped keep the country afloat. The country's gold miners say the central bank owes them over $30 million, while the Global Fund aimed at fighting AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria said last year that the bank seized $7.3 million from its Zimbabwe account. It said the central bank later returned the funds after it threatened to defund Zimbabwe.

The RBZ is also said to have seized some money from HIVOS, a Dutch aid organization. Some of the money was paid back.

Political analyst Trevor Maisiri of the International Crisis Group says this Supreme Court move is designed to bring the issue to an amicable end.