A British human rights and anti-corruption organisation has accused a Chinese businessman with connections to Hong Kong of funding Zimbabwe's widely feared secret police.
Global Witness named the businessman as Sam Pa, an adviser to a group of companies with offices in the city.
A report by the group said: 'Several reliable sources within the Zimbabwe secret police [the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO)], have passed information to Global Witness demonstrating how Sam Pa appears to have provided a significant sum of money, said to be US$100 million, to the CIO.
'The same sources, corroborated by another source with first-hand knowledge of the deal, describe how Sam Pa also provided 200 trucks to CIO.'
Global Witness campaigner Nick Donovan said: 'We think Sam Pa represents Angolan interests. It's a combination of Hong Kong, private Chinese and Angolan interests. We do not believe the Chinese government is involved. What we're concerned about is that this money will fund violence and human rights abuses in next year's elections. It makes it more likely for ZANU [the Zimbabwe African National Union, Prime Minister Robert Mugabe's ruling party] to retain power, given it has more ability to fund intimidation of opposition groups.'
Donovan added that the CIO was involved in violence and intimidation of the Movement for Democratic Change, the main opposition party, in the elections of 2002, 2005 and 2008.
Sam Pa, who also uses the names Samo Hui, Xu Jinghua and Antonio Famtosonghiu Sampo Menezes, advises a group of companies with offices in Hong Kong and Singapore.
The group is referred to by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission as the '88 Queensway Group' because it has a base in Two Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty. It comprises a complicated web of companies including China International Fund (CIF) and China Sonangol International Holding, a joint venture with Sonangol, the Angolan state oil company.
The group, which has another office in the Lippo Centre, Queensway, firmly denies the Global Witness allegations.
In its first ever interview with media, a Queensway spokesman confirmed Sam Pa was an adviser to the group of companies. But the spokesman, who declined to be named, added: 'He does not hold any position or own any shares within the Queensway group.'
The spokesman, a CIF senior executive, said Sam Pa did not provide US$100 million to CIO or provide them with trucks, but CIF did send money and vehicles to Queensway companies in Zimbabwe for legitimate business purposes.
'Two hundred trucks were imported by CIF-related companies from South Africa into Zimbabwe, of which 100 were used by Queensway companies for legitimate business activities, and 100 were donated to the Zimbabwean government, which we believe were used by the police for their policing activities,' the spokesman said. He questioned the credibility of Global Witness's allegations, since it quoted unnamed sources.
Donovan said the allegations were corroborated by multiple sources within the CIO, but that identities were protected to save lives.
Global Witness also alleged Sam Pa received diamonds and business opportunities in cotton and property in Zimbabwe in exchange for his assistance. The Queensway spokesman denied the claims, saying: 'This is nothing but pure imagination.'
Another source said Sam Pa's wife and children lived in Hong Kong, while he travelled around Africa meeting various leaders. 'He's very bullish on Africa's economic prospects,' the source said. One reason for Sam Pa's close African connections was his ties to Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the source added.
When the Sunday Morning Post asked to interview Sam Pa at the group's office in Lippo Centre, the receptionist said he was in Indonesia.
The Queensway spokesman declined to confirm whether Sam Pa was born in China or held official Hong Kong residency, and refused to comment on rumours that he was a son of a powerful Chinese official.
He also denied speculation that the group was linked to Chinese intelligence. The company's business deals in Africa have prompted such comments in the global media.
'Any allegation that attaches any political, state or state intelligence labels to our company is nonsense,' the spokesman said.
'We are a commercial company driven by profit. We have many nationalities in our management.
'Neither the professional background nor nationality of the management support absurd allegations the company is a front for any national government, political group or intelligence agency.'
A Zimbabwean official was unable to reply to the Sunday Morning Post's questions.