Grace Mugabe probed for links to ivory smuggling

Zimbabwean police are investigating former president Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace, accused of smuggling ivory worth millions to underground foreign markets. The Sunday Mail reported yesterday that investigators from the parks and wildlife authority handed documents to police allegedly showing that the former first lady spirited large consignments of ivory to China, the United Arab Emirates and the United States, among other destinations. Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba confirmed receiving a report, but declined to elaborate. The Sunday Mail said the report accused Grace Mugabe of ordering officials to grant her permits to export the ivory as gifts to the leaders of various countries. “Once outside Zimbabwe, the ‘gifts’ would be pooled together with other consignments of the product and routed to black markets,” The Sunday Mail reported. A senior official in the presidency, Christopher Mutsvangwa, told the paper the government had been tipped off by whistleblowers.

“Police and whistleblowers laid a trap for suppliers believed to be working for Grace Mugabe,” Mutsvangwa said. “The culprits were caught and when we were confronted with so much evidence, there was no way we could ignore it.” The paper said police may question the former first lady soon. Grace was tipped alongside the current President Emmerson Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe since independence from British colonial rule in 1980 until he was forced to step down in November following a military takeover. She earned the sobriquet “Gucci Grace” for her lavish lifestyle. Zimbabwe has suffered rampant poaching of elephants, targeted for their ivory tusks which are used for ornaments and medicines. At least 400 elephants died from cyanide poisoning in Hwange, Zimbabwe’s biggest national park in the northwest of the country, between 2013 and 2015.