Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace have secretly bought a £4m bolt-hole in the Far East while his country struggles with hyper-inflation, mass unemployment and a cholera epidemic.
The Mugabes’ house, in an exclusive residential complex in Hong Kong, was purchased on their behalf by a middleman through a shadowy company whose registered office is in a run-down tenement block. When a reporter and a photographer called at the house last week, they were attacked by the Zimbabwean occupants. The assailants were questioned by the police.
The property came to light during a Sunday Times investigation into the Mugabes’ financial interests in Asia, where a web of associates has helped them to spend lavishly on luxuries and stash away millions in bank accounts. In Zimbabwe, meanwhile, inflation has reached 231m%, unemployment stands at 94% and 3,467 people have died in recent months from cholera.
According to sources in Zimbabwe and Asia, Grace Mugabe has splashed out £55,500 on marble statues in Vietnam and £8,700 on a handbag in Singapore. She and her husband have enjoyed some of the region’s finest hotels.
In Hong Kong, where she has discussed a venture to have Zimbabwean diamonds cut and polished in China, her aides paid one hotel bill with a bag of cash containing £10,500.
The Hong Kong house is the first in the Far East to be identified as the Mugabes’. Last Friday two men and a woman objected violently to the arrival of this newspaper’s journalists.
The throat of Colin Galloway, a 46-year-old reporter, was gripped and bruised by a man in his thirties who lifted him off his feet. Galloway was later examined under police supervision at hospital.
Tim O’Rourke, 45, was grabbed by the neck in his second bruising encounter involving the Mugabes in Hong Kong. Last month Grace Mugabe flew at him with her fists after repeatedly punching another Sunday Times photographer in the face in an incident that attracted worldwide publicity.
Hong Kong police said last night that inquiries into a case of alleged common assault on Friday were continuing.
The disclosures about the Mugabes’ Far Eastern interests are certain to anger Zimbabweans already outraged by extravagant celebrations laid on for the dictator’s 85th birthday this week.