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Zimbabwean Entrepreneur Francesco Marconati Seeks Safety Following Revelation of Forex Syndicate

 

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Zimbabwean Businessman Seeks Protection After Exposing Forex Syndicate

A local businessman who exposed a well-organized syndicate involved in externalizing scarce forex through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has filed for protection, citing threats to his life.

Francesco Marconati, the owner of several companies including Eagle Italian Shoes and Leather and Strengthened Investments Private Limited, stated that he is seeking declaratory relief as law enforcement agencies have repeatedly arrested him on false charges after he reported forex externalization by a director in his companies.

Marconati expressed concerns that his rights are being violated after exposing the criminal syndicate. He has petitioned the court to invoke protections for whistleblowers, as outlined in Article 33 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. He believes that his actions, aimed at combating organized crime contributing to Zimbabwe’s economic struggles, warrant legal safeguarding.

The businessman noted ongoing parliamentary efforts to enact a whistleblower protection law, referred to as the Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Whistleblower) Bill. Marconati highlighted previous legal actions he pursued, including cases against his former business partner Li Song.

“Reference is made to the application for a declaratory relief under HCH 1247/23. In HCH 1247/23, I dealt specifically with cases under the following references, PGD 446/22 and PP3780/22

“Of all the cases I have reported, nothing has been tried. Some of the cases have been overtaken by events and transferred to different police stations thus causing a change in circumstances, and as such, for purposes of establishing the cause of action for this present application, some of the issues maybe highlighted, however, it is my averment that this present application is based entirely on different circumstances which materially establish the need for my protection as a whistleblower,” Marconati said.

” I am a business person, running a successful business in different areas of interest; leather and textile, mining and tourism. I am involved in these different businesses as either shareholder or director.

“In my years of running business, my focus has mainly been on expanding the business, growing the network and supply whilst other members, in particular directors would handle financial transactions.

“Sometime in 2021, I discovered that the companies, at first Eagle Italian Shoes (Pvt) Ltd and Eagle Italian Leather (Pvt) Ltd, had been abused by one of the directors, Li Song, who was involved in illicit transactions and was involved in bidding for forex as if on behalf of the company yet it was only for her personal benefit. The company lost huge sums of money in the process,” Marconati submitted.

“Upon discovering these illicit and underhand dealings, I immediately acted swiftly as the majority shareholder to remove Li Song as director. I also reported the case to the police citing my suspicions of her involvement in illicit transactions.

“Later on, I also discovered that the same person, Li Song, was using other affiliate companies namely; DGL 9 and 5, and Strengthened Investments to facilitate illicit transactions, forging invoices, bidding on the foreign currency system for raw-materials which were never purchased or delivered to Zimbabwe.”

Marconati revealed that subsequent investigations uncovered Li Song’s utilization of a company registered in Mauritius named Jacaranda Consulting Services. Officially categorized as an investment company, this information has been made available to the police, who have been actively involved in the case.

” I have cooperated with them in every way possible, and have supplied them with all the information and even I have offered to support them financially such that they can conduct their investigations and finalize them.

Marconati stated that Li Song attempted to silence and hinder him by taking him to criminal court, accusing him of fraud for removing her as a director. However, Marconati was acquitted of these allegations after a full trial.

” The matter was finalized on the 16″ of November 2022, and I together with other co-accused persons was found not guilty and acquitted. However, my acquittal specifically and not that of other coaccused persons was appealed against by the Prosecutor General and remains pending before this court under case number HCHCR 797/24. Again the effort is to frustrate and silence me, but it has not worked.

 

“Having had established the background above, despite the frustration I have been suffering due to the actions of Li Song and other individuals assisting her, I have remained steadfast and determined to ensure that justice is done,” Marconati said.

“It is my belief and position, however, that I blew a whistle on Li Song and her enablers who have been assisting her to manipulate the auction system and externalize huge sums of money outside Zimbabwe through all kinds of sophisticated white-collar criminal strategies for a period spanning from 2015 to the date that access to accounts belonging to the companies aforementioned was changed.”

“In my actions of blowing the whistle against serial offenders, I alerted the government of Zimbabwe about how millions of dollars have been lost through externalization that was facilitated by Li Song and other individuals likeminded.

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“l am encouraged that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) took up the matter and conducted its own investigations which led it to join the case as complainants against Li Song.

” It was later exposed through investigations by the RBZ that over US$11 000 000 was externalized through manipulation of the auction system and the participation of particular banks which are still under investigation in order to establish the extent to which such financial institutions were complicit. This is so because, no acquittals were processed to show if indeed the raw-materials that were presented for bidding were purchased and delivered to Zimbabwe,” he said.

Marconati mentioned that ever since he exposed Li Song, he has been followed by unmarked vehicles without license plates.

“At first the aim was to silence me through frustration by dragging me to the criminal court and laying all kinds of accusations, but it did not work. As a result, Li Song tried to arrange for a hit on my life and that of my son. l reported the attempt on my life and presented all necessary evidence to officers supervised by officer in charge Dornington Police Station and witness statements were recorded, however to date no action has been taken. l have written compliant letters highlighting the extent of the threat against my life,” he submitted.
Marconati has named the Prosecutor General, District Public Prosecutor, Commissioner General of Police, Officer in Charge of Dornington Police Station, Officer in Charge of CID Commercial Crimes Division, and Minister of Justice as respondents in the pending matter

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