ZIMBABWE

Former US congressman Melvin Reynolds held in Harare over porn tapes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 February, 2014, 2:07am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 February, 2014, 5:01pm
AP

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Former US Congressman Melvin Jay Reynolds has been arrested in Zimbabwe on suspicion of possessing pornography and an immigration offence.

Reynolds is being held in custody and is expected to appear in court soon, immigration official Ario Mabika said.

Reynolds, 62, was arrested on Monday by police detectives and immigration officials at a Harare hotel, according to the state-controlled newspaper The Herald.

He brought several Zimbabwean models and other women to his hotel room where he took photographs and videos, the newspaper reported.

As Reynolds was being escorted to a government vehicle he demanded that officials give him his mobile phone and laptop computer, according to The Herald, whose reporter arrived at the hotel as the arrest was taking place.

Reynolds complained that he was not expecting such treatment when he had brought investors to the country, according to the newspaper. He said he had been to Zimbabwe 17 times and had called for US sanctions to be dropped against President Robert Mugabe and his top associates.

This is the latest of several legal problems for Reynolds, an Illinois Democrat, who once was a Rhodes scholar. Reynolds resigned from his congressional seat in 1995 after he was convicted of 12 counts of statutory rape, obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography. While in prison he was also convicted of bank and campaign fraud. He was in jail until his sentence was commuted by president Bill Clinton in January 2001.

A spokeswoman for the US Embassy said the embassy could not comment as it was a private matter and the embassy did not did not have a privacy waiver.

Reynolds has also accumulated hotel bills worth US$24,500 which he has not yet paid, reported The Herald.

Reynolds could face up to two years' imprisonment or a hefty fine if found guilty of possessing pornographic material and deportation for breaching Zimbabwean immigration laws.

Before his arrest, Reynolds had gained prominence in Zimbabwe for being involved in attracting investment for the US$145 million construction of a Hilton Hotel and office complex in Harare, reported The Herald.

Reynolds' arrest comes a little more than 14 months after he tried to resurrect his political career, running for the congressional seat vacated by Jesse Jackson Jnr, who resigned from office and pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds on personal items. Jackson is now serving a 21/2-year prison term.