zim SHIP for grabs

A German bank has obtained a court order to impound the cargo of the Chinese ship carrying weapons for Zimbabwe as it tries to recover unpaid debts from that country, officials said yesterday.

A German bank has obtained a court order to impound the cargo of the Chinese ship carrying weapons for Zimbabwe as it tries to recover unpaid debts from that country, officials said yesterday.

But KfW IPEX-Bank GmbH, a subsidiary of Germany's state-owned KfW development bank, was unaware that the An Yue Jiang was carrying arms when it obtained the order from a South African court last week, spokesman Dela Strumpf said.

The Chinese ship has been turned away from South African and Mozambican ports in recent days as officials balked at its cargo of weapons and ammunition for Zimbabwe's government.

It is now believed to be headed for Angola, possibly with a refuelling stop in Namibia.

On Thursday KfW IPEX-Bank obtained a court order in Durban to impound the ship's Zimbabweanowned cargo because the Zimbabwean government still owes the German bank about ?R504million, Strumpf said.

"We did not know at any time that the ship was carrying weapons," Strumpf said. "We would never have accepted weapons."

Strumpf said KfW IPEX-Bank awarded the loan to the state-owned Zimbabwe Iron & Steel Company in 1998 but the loan was never paid back.

In 2006 the bank obtained an arbitration ruling from the International Chamber of Commerce in London, allowing it to impound Zimbabwean property abroad to recover its losses.

"As is common, we hired an internationally operating company, in this case Commercial Intelligence, to track down Zimbabwean overseas property for us and impound it," Strumpf said.

She said that Commercial Intelligence, which obtained the impounding order for the An Yue Jiang on the bank's behalf, also did not know that the Chinese vessel was carrying weapons. - Sapa-AP

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