Belarussian businessman and diplomat Alexander Zingman held without charge in Congo

Following astonishing and chaotic scenes at Lubumbashi Airport, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on March 17th 2021, Belarussian Alexander Zingman, Zimbabwean Honorary Consul to Belarus, was arrested and detained. At the time of writing no formal charges appear to have been filed.

Mr. Zingman, owner of AFTRADE, a company that deals with the trading of agricultural and mining equipment, arrived at Lubumbashi in the company of his colleague Oleg Vodchits, a Belarusian citizen, and Italian businessman Paolo Persico, both of whom who have also been apprehended and detained.

EUToday was able to speak with a member of the crew of the private jet that took the three detainees to Lubumbashi.

The crew member told us of the confusion preceding and following the arrest, which was able to be filmed on a mobile phone.

Whilst the three men were initially accused of not having visas, our contact was able to refute the allegations: "they had all the right paperwork," we were told.

Mr. Zingman himself was manhandled at gunpoint during the drawn-out events: the video taken at the time shows him being forcibly taken from his aircraft, and clearly under considerable distress.

The armed men, who wore both police and military uniforms, appeared to be under the command of "a guy in a pink shirt", who can be seen in the video.

We are deeply concerned for Alex’s welfare. He has been unlawfully detained by the DRC authorities. No formal explanation has been provided and attempts to receive welfare checks were consistently denied. Thankfully, his lawyer was able to make contact briefly on Tuesday. But, given the instability in the country and the recent death of the Italian Ambassador, this is an extremely worrying situation for all of Alex’s family, friends and colleagues. The rumour of arms dealing is categorically false and has heightened our fears of the political motivation behind his detention.

Elizaveta, wife of Alexander Zingman.

Since the arrest there has been considerable speculation as to the reason for these dubious events.

A considerable amount of content has appeared online suggesting that Mr. Zingman is, in fact, an arms dealer, which would possibly explain his presence in the Congo, a highly troubled country.

However, it is notable that these obviously orchestrated allegations appear to go back no further than the day after his arrest, and emanate mainly from dubious African media outlets, casting serious doubts on their credibility.

There has been some speculation that his detention, which took place under highly unusual circumstances, may be related to the activities of Rwandan Hutu rebels operating in the area.

The incident also happened just weeks after the murder of Italian ambassador to the DRC, Luca Attanasio, alongside his bodyguard and driver, in what is believed to have been a bungled kidnap attempt. Whilst there is no suggestion that Mr. Zingman's experience is related to this, it appears an unfortunate and tragic coincidence at the very least.

What is certain, from the account, is that confusion reigned on the ground at Lubumbashi airport, with Mr. Zingman eventually being taken away after a stand-off of two days, by men in uniform, in what was clearly not a military aircraft.

Our source, who during the event was threatened with a machine gun being pointed at their head, confirmed that Mr. Zingman and his fellow passengers are, at the time of writing, being held in a government prison, and that Italian, US, and Zimbabwean counsels have visited them and confirmed their safe-being.

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor and Brussels correspondent of EU Today.

An experienced journalist and author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

In October 2021 POLITICO described Gary as "the busiest man in Brussels!"

Gary's most recent book WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU is currently available from Amazon

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