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Tuesday Feb 17, 2009

Mugabe buys $5 million home in Hong Kong

February 16, 2009 - LONDON, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has bought a 4 million pound ($5.6 million) home in Hong Kong, Britain's Sunday Times reported.

Citing unnamed sources in Zimbabwe, the newspaper identified an intermediary who it said had helped arranged the purchase of the three-storey property, in a walled and gated complex in an exclusive area of Hong Kong.

It was bought last year, as Mugabe's 20-year-old daughter began studying at the University of Hong Kong, the newspaper said. The paper said it was one of several properties the Mugabes own in Asia but the first to be documented.

Speculation intensified during last year's election turmoil that Mugabe may be looking for a way out of office after he lost the first round to Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

But he formed a unity government with Tsvangirai last week, resisting Western calls for him to step down.

Once prosperous Zimbabwe is facing total economic collapse including widespread poverty, high unemployment and crippling hyper-inflation.

Mugabe's second wife Grace has made several shopping and holiday trips to Asia, including Hong Kong and Bangkok, in recent years. The paper said she was also weighing up diamond ventures in China.

The Sunday Times said a reporter and photographer had visited the apartment last week, where they were attacked by the occupants. The journalists reported the incident to the Hong Kong police, who said they were investigating the allegations, the newspaper said.

Mugabe, who turns 85 this week and is expected to hold lavish celebrations, is blamed in the West for much of his country's woes, pursuing policies that have exacerbated the crisis. He is banned from travelling to the European Union.

Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, says Western powers want to remove him from power and have destroyed the economy by imposing sanctions. (Editing by Alison Williams) 


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