BELARUSIAN businessman and alleged arms dealer Aleksandr Zingman, who appeared in controversial pictures with President Edgar Lungu, Lusaka Businessman Valden Findlay and Russian businessman Alexander Mikheev, has been arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Zingman, through his UK-based lawyers threatened to sue News Diggers in England if the newspaper did not disclose the source of the images, delete them from the website and tender an apology.
However, after the newspaper’s lawyers from Nchito and Nchito Advocates communicated to Zingman’s lawyer Daniel Delnero, asking him to serve the court process, his client abandoned the claim and never engaged the newspaper again.
According to South African investigative outlet Daily Maverick, Zingman was nabbed by Congolese Police in Lubumbashi on Wednesday, after his meeting with former president Joseph Kabila.
The Maverick Report:
Mystery and international intrigue surround the arrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) of Alexander Zingman, a businessman and alleged arms dealer with close links to Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko.
Zingman was arrested by Congolese police in Lubumbashi on Wednesday after meeting with former president Joseph Kabila. Zingman has previously been mentioned in media reports in connection with arms deals in Zambia and Zimbabwe – which he has denied.
A source close to the administration of DRC President Felix Tshisekedi confirmed Zingman’s arrest. He said that after meeting Kabila, Zingman flew from Kinshasa to Lubumbashi, where he was questioned by police about his business in the DRC. The source said he could not explain what he was doing in the DRC.
Zingman is a dual US and Belarus citizen, and his arrest has led to intense diplomatic activity. The Congolese source said the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe were both applying pressure for his release. However, the Congolese official said, they were “holding on to him for now”.
Another DRC source claimed that Zingman had offered to sell weapons to the former president, whose relations with his successor are said to be tense. The source said there was no evidence that Kabila invited the meeting or agreed to any arms deals.
Zingman has been photographed many times with Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has been on Zingman’s private jet and is Zimbabwe’s honorary consul to Belarus.
In June last year, Zingman threatened to sue News Diggers after the newspaper published pictures of him meeting and drinking with President Lungu and Findlay.
News Diggers published images showing President Lungu interacting with Zingman and Russian businessman Alexander Mikheev, who is the president of Rosoboronexport, a Russian state intermediary agency for the exports of defense-related products and services.
The photographs also showed Defence Permanent Secretary Sturdy Mwale, Zambia Air Force Commander Lt Gen David Muma and Military Attaché at the Zambian Embassy in Moscow, Robert Kampeshi, with the said Belarusian businessman.
Following the publication Zingman, through his lawyers, gave the newspaper a 7 days ultimatum in which to delete them.
“You cannot continue to publish untrue and defamatory articles about our client (especially of this magnitude) without any consequence. This is a wholly unprofessional way for you to conduct business. You must within two working days of your receipt of the email attaching this letter; remove the Article (including the e-Paper version) from your website and provide us with evidence of the same,” read the letter of claim.
“Thereafter, within seven days of the date of this letter, you are required to; (a) confirm whether you are aware of the Article being reposted/republished by any third parties, and provide us with any details you have for those third parties; (b) confirm from where or whom you obtained the photographs of our client; (c) provide the text of an apology to be published on your website, for agreement by our client; (d) cease and desist from publishing any further untruthful and defamatory comments (whether oral or written) about Mr Zingman.”
But News Diggers refused to remove the images, and instead challenged Zingman to go ahead and sue.
“Your client appears to be an honoured and welcome guest of our government and should have no difficulty prosecuting his claim through our courts should he choose to litigate his grievances which he is entitled to do. Kindly take note that we have instructions to accept service of any court process on behalf of our client,” read the letter from Nchito and Nchito Advocates.
Although he operates under the radar, Zingman is reported to be a valuable chain in the relations between Zambia and East Europe, and is believed to have brokered the procurement of helicopters from Russia and the contract for the supply of Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft.
State House has been tightlipped on President Lungu’s relationship with Zingman, but former defence permanent secretary Stardy Mwale defended pictures, saying there was nothing wrong with him taking pictures with a person of questionable character.
“To get a picture with somebody, is that a crime? Are you being sincere? So if somebody has a questionable character, I can’t take a picture with them? Does it concern you? I know myself; I know my children; the rest are comrades,” Mwale said.
“I don’t need to dig deeper on who they are, no. I limit myself to the occasion that I am with them, if they are of questionable character, that is not my business, so you question them!”
Asked to explain his trips to Russia, Mwale told the reporter that she was too small to question what he goes to do in Moscow, stressing that the government sends him there.
“You don’t know that I am a PS? I go on behalf of the government. The government sends me there. I don’t report to you so you can’t ask what I was doing there, you are too small! How many times have I gone to Moscow? More than 10 to 15 times,” he said.