HARARE, Zimbabwe, April 1, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- U.S. businessman Alexander Zingman was released Wednesday without any charges, along with Italian businessman Paolo Persico and Zingman's colleague Oleg Vodchits. The three businessmen had been detained in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for the past 12 days. At a press conference held in neighbouring Zimbabwe after their release, Zingman made it clear they were the victims of misinformation.
"We were targeted by allegations made in the local media on the day of our arrival, claiming that we were 'arms dealers' coming to start a coup. The security agencies took us into custody upon our arrival to check our identities," Zingman told the international media.
54-year-old Zingman – who is also the Honorary Consul from Zimbabwe to Belarus and holds a diplomatic passport – owns AFTRADE, a company that distributes agricultural and mining equipment in Africa. He had business meetings planned with the Moisee Kapende Foundation in Lubumbashi, when they were detained on arrival, prompting concerns for their welfare from their families and colleagues.
"I wish to thank my family and friends for their support during this time, and for the professionalism of the security agencies of the Democratic Republic of Congo," he said.
According to Zingman and Persico, they were taken to a detention centre in Kinshasa, where they were questioned by four different security agencies. It was eventually established that they were indeed bona fide executives on a legitimate business visit.
During the past two weeks, their detention had triggered a rumour mill among local internet sites, which made allegations on the reasons for their visit to the DRC. These rumours have now all been laid to rest, according to Zingman.
"We were not visiting the DRC to meet any politicians or former presidents. We had a half-day visit planned to meet the Moisee Kapende Foundation and make a proposal to supply it with agricultural equipment. The head of the Foundation was there at the airport to receive us. He was also detained and taken to Kinshasa for questioning. He has now been released as well, as the security agencies have verified our business meetings," Zingman said.
He said the recent ordeal would not stop him from pursuing his business deals, and that he looked forward to returning to the DRC.
"Now that we have been vetted and cleared by no less than four security agencies of the DRC, they said we are welcome back anytime to complete the agricultural deals that we have planned," Zingman told the journalists.
AFTRADE has agricultural deals with several African countries to provide tractors and other farming machinery, as well as to provide training in modern farming techniques.