A UK-BASED lawyer representing Belarusian businessman Aleksandr Zingman, says the arrest of his client by Congolese authorities is politically motivated.
And a representative of AFTRADE, a firm in which Zingman is a shareholder, revealed that the alleged arms dealer who was arrested along with the company director Aleh Vodchyts and his Italian partner Paolo Persico has been kept incommunicado while being denied basic needs like water.
Zingman has strong links with President Edgar Lungu and Lusaka businessman Valden Findlay.
Last year, 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 defence-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.
However the Belarusian businessman and oligarch was arrested and detailed at the airport in Lubumbashi, Congo, as he was about to board a plane to Harare.
In an interview with News Diggers, Zingman’s lawyer Daniel Delnero said his client’s business in the Congo is legitimate, and refuted claims that he was in that country to secure illegal arms deals.
“I am aware of the illegal and improper arrest of my client, Mr. Zingman. We are very concerned for the health and safety of Mr. Zingman in what appears to be a politically motivated arrest. The claims of arms dealing are categorically false and we strongly deny that Mr. Zingman is engaged in any such activities. These claims have only heightened my fears of a political motivation behind the detention. His business in the Democratic Republic of Congo is entirely legitimate, and we are working to secure his immediate release from custody. Further, as far as we are aware, he is being held without charges and without due process,” Delnero said.
And when asked why Zingman withdrew his planned legal action against News Diggers, Delnero said: “I have no comment on that”.
According to Belarus media outlet Belsat TV, Zingman, Vodchyts and Persico had their passports seized as they were about to leave for Zimbabwe, where the Belarusian businessman is Honorary Consul.
“Mr. Zingman held meetings with local partners in the city of Lubumbashi. At the end of the meeting, when he arrived at the airport and was about to leave for Harare, his passport was seized. He was placed in a room with two colleagues of him for several hours – there, one could not sit down, they were not provided with water, they did not have any opportunity to contact with the outside world,” representatives of AFTRADE DMCC, a dealer selling Belarusian machines in Africa, told the media.
A check on the AFTRADE website found an announcement on the home page claiming that Zingman was in Congo to secure deals in agriculture.
“We are deeply concerned by our shareholder Alexander Zingman being unlawfully detained in the DRC. He was in the country on a legitimate business trip for generating agricultural trade with our partners in Africa. We call on the DRC authorities to release Mr Zingman, his colleague Oleg Vodchits, and their Italian associate Paolo Persico immediately. To detain Western businessmen on a business visit is not helpful for our efforts to promote trade with Africa,” read the message.