By Lance Guma
Gilbert Muponda is an exiled Zimbabwean businessman who is taking on the might of international money transfer giant MoneyGram, after he challenged them to review their relationship with a financial institution that he says ‘stole’ his bank.
Muponda was forced to flee the country at the height of a controversial crackdown on the financial sector in 2004. Century Bank, which he owned via his ENG Capital investment company, was illegally seized by the government he says. Six years on the struggling bank was rebranded to CFX Bank and later bought by Interfin Bank. Its CEO, Farai Rwodzi, is reported to be a proxy for retired army general Solomon Mujuru.
‘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,’ Muponda told SW Radio Africa. MoneyGram International has been sucked into the dispute because they have a business relationship with Interfin.
‘I feel MoneyGram as a leading international brand should not be doing business with Interfin because they are holding onto an asset that was looted from me. So what we have asked MoneyGram to do is carry out a proper diligence check and ensure that they are doing business with reputable people,’ he told us.
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 CFX Bank. Muponda however used an aggressive internet campaign dubbed ‘Return Muponda’s Bank’ and Credit Suisse eventually pulled out of the deal.
On the 25th August this year the Newsday newspaper covered a story that quoted Interfin chairman Farai Rwodzi claiming they had paid Muponda US$5,3 million in compensation for his shares in CFX Bank. A furious Muponda denied this and said; ‘Rwodzi and Interfin Bank Zimbabwe are trying to mislead their international business partners such as MoneyGram International and DSTV who are obviously concerned by the on-going CFX Bank/Interfin ownership dispute.’
On Wednesday SW Radio Africa spoke to Linda Michielutti, the company spokesperson for MoneyGram International. She told us ‘MoneyGram International has an extremely strong commitment to and investment in anti money-laundering compliance. We are fully compliant with all local and international requirements for Money Services Businesses. We are currently investigating Mr. Muponda’s claims.’
A determined Muponda meanwhile has designed more website banners, this time targeting MoneyGram and he has sent them to the company head office for them to see. ‘We will look at this and revert to you,’ was all MoneyGram lawyer Bessima Bahri wrote in response. SW Radio Africa