The revelation was made by Lebanese businessman, Jamal Ahmed, who is at war with Mugabe’s wife, Grace, over a botched deal to buy a million-dollar diamond ring supposedly intended as the President’s wedding anniversary present to the First Lady.
Grace, the Lebanese claims, has ordered the seizure of his properties in Harare, apparently to force the return of about $1.4m she paid for the ring through her account with CBZ bank in Harare.
Ahmed claims Grace surprisingly rejected the ring when it was delivered in Dubai and demanded the return of her money. She reportedly insisted that the money be paid into a Dubai bank account.
The Lebanese argued that a full refund was not possible since costs had been incurred in procuring and polishing the precious stone. He also objected to paying the money in Dubai saying this would be illegal under Zimbabwe’s laws.
In the ongoing court battle over the saga, the First Lady denied demanding payment in Dubai, saying she did not have a bank account there.
However, in response Ahmed said the Mugabes rent an expensive villa in Dubai which is used by son Robert Junior who is based there.
“Whether or not the second respondent has accounts outside Zimbabwe does not mean she did not ask for a refund in Dubai,” Ahmed argued.
“The second respondent’s family rents a 10-bedroomed villa at the Emirates Hills in Dubai and the address of the villa is J11. I am able to say that this is an exclusive and upmarket area where annual rentals are around US$500 000.
“If the respondent has no accounts outside the country, how does her family pay the rent for this villa which is mainly occupied by her son who lives there?
“And, of course, there are the living expenses which cannot be low given the affluence of the area.”
Grace has rejected suggestions she was likely trying to externalize funds in a country desperately short of foreign currency and claimed that she was duped by a fraudster wanted by the “international police”.
Ahmed however, hit back, challenging her to explain why – with the high level of security the Mugabes have access to – she would have business dealings with an international criminal.
He asked: “With all the security around her, why would 2nd respondent have dealt with me if I was of bad character?
“Is she saying that Zimbabwean security is so bad that it would have allowed the First Family to have tea with family members of a fraudster and to buy a diamond from the very same fraudster?”
Clearly concerned about the impact of the embarrassing saga and the obvious questions about the source of the $1.4m in a country where the majority of people are struggling to survive and the government is unable to pay salaries, Grace claimed the money came from family savings.
She said her husband had saved over many years for what he intended to be a present on the 20th anniversary of their wedding. Mugabe married his former mistress and secretary in July 1996.
Grace also claimed that part of the money came from the family’s dairy and farming business.
Meanwhile, $42, 000 a month is enough to pay 140 teachers who earn an average salary of $300. Government has been struggling to pay civil servants on time for years.