HARARE, (Reuters) – Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s wife is demanding $15 million in a lawsuit against a private newspaper for publishing details from U.S. cables on WikiLeaks that said she was involved in illicit diamond trading.
In classified documents, U.S. diplomats cite a British mining executive as saying those close to Mugabe, including his wife Grace, “have been extracting tremendous profits” from the Chiadzwa mine in the eastern part of the country.
The allegations cover a period before the formation of a unity government between the president and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in February 2009.
The stones dubbed “blood diamonds” because of the human rights abuses associated with their extraction, were resold to foreign buyers, earning each of the members of the powerful group hundreds of thousands of dollars a month, it said.
The weekly Standard newspaper carried the report last Sunday naming Grace Mugabe and central bank governor Gideon Gono as being at the centre of the illegal gem trade.
In High Court papers seen by Reuters yesterday, Mrs Mugabe said the story was false and malicious and that readers of the paper would believe it.
“This is an imputation of criminality and association with violations of human rights. Whatever it (the Standard) prints is regarded as gospel truth by those people in Zimbabwe and abroad,” she said.
Officials from the Standard were not immediately available and no date has been set for the case.
Rights groups have accused Zimbabwe’s military of widespread atrocities in the diamond fields in 2008 as Mugabe’s government moved to stop thousands of illegal miners on the poorly secured fields in the east of the country.
Zimbabwe is now struggling to sell the Chiadzwa diamonds after global gem regulator Kimberley Process barred members from dealing in the stones, saying their certification by global regulators did not guarantee they were free from rights abuses.