THE search for the missing $15bn realised from diamond mining activities in Zimbabwe’s Marange district has intensified, according to a source in Harare’s banking sector.

The source, who declined to be named, told Team Buntu Africa website that the Zimbabwe government has contacted six countries where millions of dollars were allegedly externalised by Jinan Mining (Pvt) Limited and other players involved in diamond trading.

Zimbabwe is now seeking mutual legal assistance in the investigation of the matter from the United Arab Emirates, China, Zambia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Democratic Republic of Congo,” the source said. “Banks in those countries have been identified as having received multi-million dollar externalisation of cash from the sale of Zimbabwean diamonds.”

Former Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe himself acknowledged two years ago that the country had “lost” around $15 billion in diamond mining revenue.

The missing money is believed to have been externalised and squandered by corrupt government officials working in cohorts with dodgy investors.

According to the source, preliminary investigations have revealed that the money was first transferred from BancABC Zimbabwe account to another account with the same bank in Botswana.

However, the money was never used in Botswana. Instead, investigations made so far show that the money was later transferred to various bank accounts in the six named countries.

As part of the investigation into the mystery of the mission $15 billion, Zimbabwe’s National Prosecuting Authority, represented by national director of public prosecution, Mrs Florence Ziyambi, has sought mutual legal assistance from the six countries.

In the letters in question, Zimbabwe wants the authorities in the relevant countries to assist with investigating the bank transfers to establish the account holders and several other details required for the purposes of prosecuting the suspects.

Zimbabwe is investigating Jinan and its directors, Bai Xiangqian, Bei Bei Ma and Qingde Jiang in connection with the externalisation saga.BancABC Zimbabwe, which also effected the transfers is also under police investigation,” the source said. “In terms of the law, for police to carry out their investigations extra-territorially, they need assistance of the countries involved. Police officers from the countries in question may carry out investigations and record statements from witnesses on behalf of the local police.The evidence gathered by foreign investigators will be used in the prosecution of the suspects back in Zimbabwe.”

In terms of Section 10 of the Criminal Matters (Mutual Assistance) Act of Zimbabwe, the ProsecutorGeneral may request authority of a foreign country to arrange for evidence to be taken in the foreign countries.

Part of Mrs Ziyambi’s letters to the six countries reads:”The competent authorities of the requested States are hereby requested to assist in the investigation of the details of the holders of the bank accounts and their beneficial owners.The disposal of the said money should target the beneficiaries of the disbursements, withdrawals or bank transfers. Lastly, it is requested that account opening details of the said bank accounts be retrieved also.”

According to the source, Information gathered so far shows that $7 000 500 was transferred from Botswana to Mozambique. Of the $7 000 500, about $6 000 000 was transferred into Sogecoa Moz LDA’s BancABC account number 1356 6605 1029 in Maputo as an investment.

A further $1 000 500 was transferred into Mozambique’s Millenium Bim (Corporate) Bank account number 2598 65038 in favour of China AnhuiForeign Economic Const LDA of Maputo.

A company called SOGECOA of Lusaka Zambia received U.S.$4, 310 000 into its BancABC account from Botswana.

It has also been established that a total of U.S.$39, 444 614 was transferred into bank accounts in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some $335 076 000 was transferred into various bank accounts in China. A disbursement of $676 800 was made into two bank accounts in Sierra Leone.

In October this year, Zimbabwe’s then minister of mines, Walter Chidhakwa told the members of the Senate that teams of auditors tasked with tracing the missing $15 billion diamond proceeds were finding it difficult to get relevant information to facilitate their investigations.

There have been three teams (of auditors) from three companies that we appointed and, as a result, they have been working and the last report that we got was that they were having difficulties with accessing information,” he said.

The contracted companies would not have unfettered access to information that was required because the companies, which they wanted to do forensic audits on were in fact before the courts,” Chidhakwa added.

Meanwhile, the source added that the amnesty stipulated by Zimbabwe’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa for all persons who externalised money under Robert Mugabe’s rule, to return the monies to Zimbabwe by February next year, or face prosecution, is likely to prompt some holders of ill-gotten wealth to respond positively.