Zimbabwe vice president's wife arrested for suspected fraud, money laundering

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwean authorities arrested the wife of Vice President Constantino Chiwenga on charges of money laundering, fraud and violating exchange control regulations, the country's anti Corruption Commission (ZACC) said on Sunday.

Marry Mubaiwa was arrested on Saturday evening and will likely appear in court on Monday, ZACC spokesman John Makamure said. He declined to give further details.

Mubaiwa could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Appointed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa this year, ZACC is under pressure to show that it can tackle high-level graft, which watchdog Transparency International estimates is costing the country $1 billion annually.

An internal ZACC memorandum of the charges seen by Reuters showed that between October 2018 and May this year Mubaiwa is accused of unlawfully transferring $919,000 to South Africa under the guise of importing goods, which it claims she never did.

The timing of Mubaiwa's arrest will likely raise eyebrows after local private media reported two weeks ago that she was going through a divorce with her husband Chiwenga.

The ZACC memo accused Mubaiwa of fraudulently obtaining a marriage certificate without Chiwenga's consent earlier this year when the vice president was ill. The two have been married under Zimbabwe's customary law since 2011 and have two children.

Chiwenga returned home last month after spending four months in China receiving medical treatment for a blocked esophagus. He has not been seen with Chiwenga in public, including at the annual ruling party conference that ended on Saturday.

Critics of ZACC say the agency is conflicted because its head judge, Loice Matanda-Moyo, is the wife of Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo, a top ally of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.


(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Tim Cocks, John Stonestreet and Christina Fincher)