Friday, July 9, 2010

US spy ring claims "damaging": Zim businessman

Jul 8, 2010 7:43 PM
By Sapa

Media reports linking Zimbabwean businessman Ken Sharpe to a Russian spy ring uncovered in the United States contained "factual inaccuracies and damaging innuendo", he said on Thursday.

He was considering taking legal action over the “defamatory” reports concerning his business interests and his contacts with Alex Chapman and his ex-wife Anna, an alleged Russian spy “I have no business links to Russia nor to the Chapman’s. I have never done business in Russia nor exported vodka bottles to Russia. The closest I have been to doing business in Russia is in the Ukraine,” he said.

“I do however own 30% of West Bev in Zimbabwe which produces, amongst other beverages, vodka but our sales are limited to Zimbabwe and I have never done exports of any products to Russia.” Britain’s The Daily Mail reported that Alex Chapman was questioned by an MI5 agent about his ex-wife’s links to Sharpe.

The newspaper reported that Anna Chapman had worked with Sharpe at a British company based in a London flat she shared with her then-husband Alex Chapman.

According to The Daily Mail, while Anna Chapman was at the company, Southern Union, she moved millions of pounds — possibly connected to money-laundering — between Britain and Zimbabwe.

Sharpe was an importer of vodka bottles to Russia, was married to a Russian belly-dancer and spoke Russian, the newspaper reported.

Sharpe denied most of the accusations.

He described his Russian language capabilities as “conversational” and denied that his wife was a belly-dancer or lap-dancer.

“I am not fluent in Russian. When I first met my wife, Joanna, she could not speak English and I could not speak Russian.

“My wife worked in a well-known and highly-respected circus in Russia as a ballet and folk dancer. She was never a belly-dancer or a lap-dancer, and reports to the contrary from the press are hurtful to her and defamatory,” said Sharpe.

He also denied that he was involved as an owner of Southern Union.

He said the company’s business was the transfer of funds to and from Zimbabwe at competitive rates and that he had been one of its clients.

“The client base was largely limited to a large number of individuals looking to send small amounts of money to their relations in Zimbabwe.

“For this reason I would seriously doubt that the company could be involved in any large-scale money-laundering activities,” said Sharpe.

He admitted meeting Anna Chapman’s father at social functions in Harare and said that, at his request, he agreed to help her find employment in London.

He referred her to Southern Union where she was employed.

He said he was not a supporter of a political party in Zimbabwe, but had a “very good professional relationship” with the government.

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