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Shady Belarusian businessmen detained in Africa

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Zingman detained at Lubumbashi airport /still from video​

Belarusian businessman Alyaksandr Zingman was detained on March 19 in Lubumbashi, the second-largest city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Along with him, the security forces arrested the head of the AFTRADE company, Aleh Vodchyts, and the Italian entrepreneur Paolo Persico. The wife of the latter confirmed that he had been detained.

Zingman is not just an ordinary exporter of Belarusian machinery to African countries. He is an honorary consul of Zimbabwe in Belarus and often accompanies the head of the Presidential Administration, Viktar Sheiman, on his trips to Africa.

What is known about the detained Belarusians?

The media of some African countries often call Zingman an "adviser to Lukashenka's aide," meaning exactly Viktar Sheiman. Together with Sheiman, the businessman used to attend official meetings in Zimbabwe and Zambia.

 

Zingman (circled in red) accompanies Sheiman on a "tour" of Africa

Zingman and his company AFTRADE sell Belarusian machinery produced by Amkodor, Minsk Tractor Works, MAZ, and others to African countries. In this market, he works in parallel with Alyaksandr Zaitsau, a long-time partner of Alyaksei Aleksin and Mikalai Varabey. All of them are called "Lukashenka's wallets."

True, if we believe the local media, Zingman's interests went far beyond the sale of agricultural and mining activities. The Daily Maverick, for example, citing sources, claimed that Zingman wanted to sell arms to the former president of the DRC, who had tense relations with the current president. Other media wrote that the reason for the arrest "was an alleged plot by three men to overthrow the Congolese government."

In 2020, Singman was interested in business in Congo. He wanted to mine jewels there.

It is worth noting that Zingman does have "not very official" contacts with the "top officials" of several countries. For example, his informal photo with the Zambia president with glasses of wine led to criticism in the local media and accusations of possible corrupt deals.

Zingman (center) drinking wine with Zambia's president / NewsDiggers

According to the Daily Maverick, the United Arab Emirates is trying to intercede for Zingman because his company is registered in the country, another grey area where it is impossible to get clear information about his business.

The DRC authorities remain silent, but there is a video of Zingman's detention. Behind the scenes, a woman excitedly utters: "Ihar, shoes!"

Henadz Masesau, director of AFTRADE's representative office in Belarus, has also confirmed the detention in a comment to the Italian website Ilsole24ore:

"Mr. Zingman held meetings with local partners in Lubumbashi. When he arrived at the airport and was about to leave for Harare, his passport was confiscated at the end of the meeting. He was placed in a room with two of his colleagues for several hours without being able to sit down, without water, without contact with the outside world."

Another Belarusian detained by DRC authorities is Aleh Vodchyts. He works as the CEO of AFTRADE and is involved in the main negotiations along with Zingman.

Unlike the business owner, Vodchyts is not so media savvy: he was mentioned several times in the Belarusian media when he worked as deputy head of Promagroleasing. He hardly ever appeared in the African media. That said, the Promagroleasing-related info on his resume is also very telling: this organization, now part of the Development Bank holding company, probably works with Africa as well. There, it actually finances exports from Belarus. From time to time, it allocates funds to African banks, which they, in turn, provide to local players for the purchase of Belarusian machinery. In the language of officials, it is called "state support of foreign sales."

 

UPDATE: Belarusian businessman Alyaksandr Zingman, detained in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was later released from jail,  stated the spokesman for the Belarusian Foreign Ministry Anatol Hlaz to onliner.by. 

According to the diplomats, Zingman was not charged.