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NZer's Zimbabwe investment eyed in US

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, April 13 NZPA - New Zealand financier Stephen Jennings' move to invest in Zimbabwe has caused problems for his Russian business partner, and may cripple his dreams of buying into a United States basketball team.

An American senator has hit out at investing in a country run by dictator Robert Mugabe, saying it could prevent Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov buying into National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise New Jersey Nets.

Russian metals oligarch Mr Prokhorov paid $NZ725 million for a half share in Renaissance Capital, the private Moscow bank founded 15 years ago by Mr Jennings, a former Treasury official.

When he returned recently to head the bank, Mr Jennings set the goal of it becoming the premier full service investment bank from the Russian Far East to West Africa, building on investments in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.

But diversification from financial and mining assets in Russia has created a problem for Mr Prokhorov, who has agreed to buy stakes in the New Jersey Nets basketball team, the Wall Street Journal reported on one of its blogs, The Source.

A New Jersey congressman Bill Pascrell Jr, has complained to the NBA about the Russian's character and fitness to be an owner of a NBA franchise.

He has asked US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to investigate Mr Prokhorov's business dealings in Zimbabwe, to see if they violate US sanctions against Mr Mugabe's regime.

Renaissance Capital said in a statement it was fully aware of the sanctions imposed by the US "on certain Zimbabwean persons" and had at all times strictly complied, so that it had no relationship with sanctioned individuals or companies.

Renaissance Group, the parent company of the investment bank in which Mr Prokhorov has a stake, said it had "relatively small minority stakes in two assets in Zimbabwe", according to the spokesman.

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