Lord Peter Mandelson, the chairman of Lazard International, was questioned by a cross-party group of U.K. MPs and peers over his meeting with Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, in February, according to the Daily Mail.
Led by Labour MP Kate Hoey, the joint-group committee sought to know if the Foreign Office paid for Lord Mandelson’s trip to Zimbabwe “and what, if anything, arose from his meeting with the country’s finance minister.”
Mandelson reportedly met Mugabe’s finance minister in Harare in February, and five months later, Chinamasa traveled to London, where he held talks with Lazard International.
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Furthermore, Chinamasa is accused of discussing raising a $1.1 billion (£800 million) loan to save Zimbabwe’s troubled economy with Lazard International and another London bank.
“The cash would be to settle its arrears with the World Bank,” the Daily Mail adds.
Lord Mandelson reportedly denied reports that his travels to Zimbabwe were in any way linked to the proposed Zimbabwe bailout by Lazard.
The spokesman of the Labour Peer also came to Lord Mandelson’s defense, saying that he is not playing any role in advising the Zimbabwean government either through Lazard or any other entity.
“During his trip, he met with representatives of the business community and civil society to encourage them to continue the process of reform in Zimbabwe,” the spokesman said.
It also emerged that Lord Mandelson’s trip to Zimbabwe was arranged by the British Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Catriona Laing, who also accompanied him to the meeting with Chinamasa.
Mandelson is the former spin doctor of Tony Blair, trade and industry secretary for Northern Ireland, and U.K.’s EU trade commissioner.
Although the Zimbabwean economy has been struggling for quite some time, things appear to have taken a turn for the worse this year, with the government being forced to undertake quick remedial measures, such as the reintroduction of bond notes, decongestion of prisons by pardoning inmates, and the deferment of salaries for civil servants, due to its many issues.
The South African country is also struggling with bilateral and multilateral loans even as it continues to borrow to sustain its economy.
The dire situation has sparked nationwide protests since July, with protesters – the majority of them desperate graduates – calling for their 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe to resign.