Standard Chartered Asked to Reveal Zimbabwe CEO’s Fate

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HARARE (Bloomberg) — Pressure is growing on Standard Chartered Plc to disclose the status of its chief executive officer in Zimbabwe after a news organization reported that he’s been suspended amid a corruption scandal.

In two separate reports, 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.

StanChart declined to comment on the allegations or the possible suspension, saying it doesn’t comment on individual staff matters. Watungwa, who has been CEO since 2012, hasn’t answered repeated calls and text messages made to his mobile phone over several days.

“We need Standard Chartered to come out clean, which is what they have always done whenever there is an issue with non-managerial members,” Peter Mutasa, the general secretary of the Zimbabwe Banks and Allied Workers Union, said in an interview. “Now that there are issues with the bank’s executive we demand the same transparency. We expect the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to also be transparent as well over this matter in their capacity as the regulator.”

Mutasa said union members had said that Watungwa hasn’t been seen at work recently.

In a Tent

The Reserve Bank is seeking clarity from the bank.

The “central bank will wait for official comment from Standard Chartered, as it is an internal issue, to advise of the position,” Governor John Mangudya said. “We are still waiting for their report.”

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. 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.