StanChart Zimbabwe Starts Probe After Reports CEO Suspended

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HARARE (Bloomberg) — Standard Chartered Plc said it’s investigating allegations of misconduct involving senior management in Zimbabwe more than three weeks after a media organization reported that the chief executive officer of the unit in that country had been suspended amid a corruption scandal.

In two separate reports in January said Ralph Watungwa had been suspended and tied him to alleged abuse of a foreign currency auction run by the central bank, as well as allegations of improperly authorized renovations at buildings owned by the bank. The news website cited people it didn’t identify.

“We are aware of recent press reports concerning serious allegations of apparent misconduct by senior management officials within the organization,” Lovemore Manatsa, chairman of Standard Chartered Bank Zimbabwe, said in an emailed statement on Thursday.

The reports and the absence of the CEO from work led the Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers Union to ask what the status of the executive was while the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, John Mangudya, said he was waiting for the bank to advise him of what the situation was.

Watungwa declined to comment when called earlier this week and didn’t answer a call made to his mobile phone on Thursday.

“Any conduct which is found in letter or spirit to conflict with the principles outlined in our Code of Conduct and which may impair fair outcomes for colleagues, clients and the regulators will be responded to accordingly,” Manatsa said.

StanChart’s local unit is the oldest financial institution in Zimbabwe. It was founded in 1892 in a tent in Bulawayo, now the second-biggest city in the nation. That was just two years after an expedition backed by Cecil John Rhodes set up a presence in the country initially known as Southern Rhodesia. The nation became independent from the U.K. in 1980.

The London-based lender now has 390 employees in the country with a head office in the center of the capital, Harare, and competes with local and South African banks.