Zimbabwe fights to claim Mugabe villa in Hong Kong

EXPENSIVE Hong Kong lawyers were due in court on Monday representing Zimbabwe’s “secret project”, which is a R7 million villa much loved by first lady Grace Mugabe.

Many say she believes she owns the three-storey building. Grace spent time there as her daughter, Bona, used it while she was studying commerce at university in Hong Kong.

Ownership of the flat is disputed as Jack Ping, a Taiwanese-born businessman, who lives in Joburg, claims he bought and paid for it in 2008, first via a company, Cross Global, and he then says he transferred it into his name two years later.
Zimbabwe fights to claim Mugabe villa in Hong Kong
The Zimbabwe government describes the property in papers before the Hong Kong High Court, as a “secret project”, and says it paid cash for it but has not yet produced any receipt.

The apartment is central to the bitter feud between Grace Mugabe and Jack Ping. It is a complex, epic drama, for the Mugabe family was close to Ping. He and the first lady were connected in several failed platinum and gold mining ventures in Zimbabwe years ago, according to documents within Zimbabwe’s mines ministry.

Ping introduced President Robert Mugabe to medical specialists in Malaysia and then Singapore who conducted prostate and eye surgery on him. Mugabe visits Singapore for medical check-ups every few months.

At the height of the family friendship eight years ago, Ping financed construction of about two dozen cottages for Grace Mugabe on land she took from white farmers about 20km west of Harare, and which formed the basis of her now famous orphanage.

According to documents with Ping’s defence team, he also imported expensive equipment in 2009 for the dairy Grace Mugabe built on a farm she grabbed in 2004.

And it was Ping who helped the Mugabes decide to send Bona to study in Hong Kong. The first family provided extensive security at the apartment, but it was later burgled and Bona fled and never returned.

The apartment was leased to Zimbabwe’s consul to Hong Kong, but Ping says he only received one month’s rent. The property is now believed to be empty.

The Harare government first went to the Hong Kong High Court disputing Ping’s ownership of the apartment in 2013. After several delays, a mediator was set to hear argument today.

Johannesburg lawyer Mannie Wits will be in Hong Kong to represent Ping in the dispute over ownership of the apartment.

On Sunday, he said: “The Zimbabwe government now says it could not appear for mediation on May 25.

“So I am going to Hong Kong to see what can be done to bring an end to this. We have the documentation to prove he paid for the flat and it was properly transferred to him.” Independent Foreign Service

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