AON faces US sanctions, fines, over Zim diamonds

ZimEye.org on June 6, 2012 released the following:

“By Gift Kugara

Harare(ZimEye)The world’s biggest insurance broker in sales, which is also a sponsor of Manchester United football club, AON Corporation, is currently faced with investigations over Zimbabwe’s so called ‘blood diamonds’, ZimEye can exclusively reveal.

There are reports that the company’s Zimbabwe arm of the broking group has already been warned by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) over its dealings with sanctioned Mbada Diamonds and is currently under discussion for possible breach of US laws.

Highly placed sources within the firm have confirmed that, just until recently, AON was the designated insurance broker for Mbada Diamonds.

The company’s Zimbabwe wing is partly owned by TA Holdings. TA Holdings has a 30% stake in Aon Zimbabwe, and TA Holdings has 33.8% owned by Masawara PLC, an investment firm based in the Channel Islands . TA Holdings has under its porfolio Aon Zimbabwe, Zimnat Life, Zimnat Lion Insurance, Grand Reinsurance Company, Lion Assurance Company and Botswana Insurance Company in its portfolio. AON Zimbabwe’s parent company is US owned although it recently moved its headquarters from Chicago to London.

In this view, AON Corporation, falls under the US jurisdiction and any violation of OFAC which administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on US foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries and regimes would result in huge fines.

Mbada Diamonds was listed on US sanctions last year as a result of its negative record on reported human rights abuses and links with ZANU (PF). When asked to comment, a US Embassy spokesperson (name withheld) in Harare stated that while Mbada remains under sanctions, any person or company under US jurisdiction which trades with Mbada is guilty of contravening US statutes.

“As a company controlled by the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), Mbada Diamonds is subject to sanctions administered by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). In July 2008, following widespread political violence in Zimbabwe, OFAC added the state-owned ZMDC to its list of sanctioned entities. As a consequence, U.S. nationals may not do business with ZMDC or with companies in which ZMDC has significant ownership,” she said.

Contacted for comment, AON Zimbabwe Managing Director, Susan Mutangadura refused to answer on either whether a warning from OFAC was issued or that they conducted business with Mbada Diamonds in the past:

“Client confidentiality is an integral part of the way we do business with our clients, current and prospective. I am accordingly not able to issue a statement as requested,” She stated.

On the other hand Mbada Diamonds gave an unclear reply as their Public Relations officer and former Herald reporter, Mr Tafadzwa Chiremba, initially asked this reporter to reveal his sources and later replying stating:

“I hereby inform you that as Mbada Diamonds we are courteous to reveal our service providers to the public. This is so in view of protecting them from the purge of illegal sanctions that were slapped on our company by the US.”

Aon group is not new to controversy as it has been allegedly involved in corruption, bribes and human rights abuses in the past. In 2009, the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA) fined the company a £5.25 million for anti-corruption failings, with the group’s UK subsidiary found guilty of failing to crack down on possible bribery. The FSA found the company had made “suspicious payments” worth £4.6m to people and firms overseas. In 2004, the company was singled out by a human rights organisation, Burma Campaign for allegedly “directly or indirectly helping to finance Burma’s brutal military dictatorship.”

In 2011, Aon is reported to have paid $100 Million in Penalties and Disgorgements for FCPA violations including more than $16 million in fines to settle charges that its subsidiaries bribed foreign government officials. (ZIMBABWE, ZimEye)”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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