By Gift Phiri
HARARE – The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) board has dismissed as false reports that Central Bank governor Gideon Gono stole 529 pieces of gold coins. Gono and his team of managers yesterday showed members of the press the 529 pieces of gold coins.
Gono and his officials addressed a news conference soon after an RBZ board meeting held amid an escalating attack on the RBZ boss on social networks accusing him of misappropriating the gold coins.
In a board statement read out by deputy RBZ governor Kupukile Mlambo, the central bank said the accusations have been made by a former staffer “who has been sued for criminal defamation and the matter remains subjudice because the wheels of justice are still to turn.”
Gono last September filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against his former aide Munyaradzi Kereke claiming he made false statements that tarnished his reputation.
The suit in the High Court claims Kereke’s allegations that Gono stole gold bullion, cars, shares and public funds — including $6,5 million to purchase real estate — were made with the intention to harm Gono and injure his reputation.
“The above accusations are false and the gold is there as the bank’s internal and external audit reports confirm,” Mlambo said.
“The latest of these reports and physical count confirmations relate to the bank’s financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2011 which were confirmed by the board of the RBZ on March 25, 2013.
“The board is satisfied that the bank’s assets, including gold coins, are under safe custody and stewardship.”
Besides unveiling the gold coins for members of the press, an audit report by Ernst & Young also confirmed the existence of the gold coins as at March 25, and noted six classes of coins including Kruger rands, 2 rand gold coins, Edward, Elizabeth, George and Victoria coins with gold quantities varying from 1/10 ounce to 1 ounce.
“We have noted that the quantity of gold recorded per client, records tallies with our results of counts and we further confirm that the quantity of gold coins counted on December 31, 2012 had not changed as of the day of our count as noted above,” the report by the chartered accountants said.
Gono said the misunderstanding arose when the gold coins were being moved from the old RBZ vault to the new building sometime in 2006. The central bank chief said they do “physical counts quite regularly, the latest was last week, again in the presence of a new broom of auditors.”
“So I think we must put this matter to rest,” Gono said. “We will be deadly in the process of disabusing people who are out to mislead others.”
“Someone makes accusations that your governor has walked away with gold, your gold by the way because assets in the central bank belong to the country; or no, no the governor has fled the country.
“So part of the reasons I thought you should come is that you can see that I am not a miracle, I am real, ok. I can’t flee from my country. I am told some of the gold coins that we have got date back to as early as 1869 before you were born.”
Last week, Gono was forced to deny sensational reports that he had fled into exile fearing assassination. It turned out he was in the Egyptian capital attending a scheduled board meeting of the African Export Import Bank headquartered in Cairo.
“We are not in the habit of responding to each and every criticism that come our way, we would do nothing else if we did that,” Gono said.
“But where we see things have gone to levels that are beneath the ground, sometimes we take the decision, the extraordinary decision, to say come and see for yourself.” Daily News