King Mswati III of Swaziland who was once reported to have a personal net worth of US$200 million has told a court that he has no assets outside of Swaziland.
He made his statement in a case where he is personally being sued over a US$3.5 million debt relating to repairs and improvements to his private jet aircraft.
The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) made a freezing order against the King, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, which meant he could not dispose of his jet until the debt dispute was resolved. King Mswati was also required by the court to disclose his assets.
In an affidavit to the court, Sihle Dlamini, the King’s Private Secretary and Director of Administration at the King’s Office, who had been authorised by the King to swear on his behalf, stated the King had no ‘commercial assets’ outside of Swaziland. He also stated the King, ‘does not own any assets in the United Kingdom’ and that the King did not ‘own any assets in any overseas territories of the United Kingdom’.
He also stated that the King and the King’s company Inchatsavane, which is also being sued, ‘do not own any other property, solely or jointly, in their own name or not, in any other jurisdiction outside of Swaziland’.
King Mswati’s wealth is a closely guarded secret. In August 2007, Forbes magazine first disclosed that his personal net worth was US$200 million (E1.4 billion at the then exchange rate). That figure was revised downwards in later years.
In June 2014, Forbes estimated his wealth had fallen to US$50 million, which made him the third wealthiest monarch in Africa.
Forbes reported, ‘The King is one of Africa’s wealthiest royals. His personal net worth is at least $50 million, based on the annual $50 million salary that he is paid out of government coffers.
‘He also controls Tibiyo TakaNgwane, an investment holding company that owns stakes in sugar refining giants Ubombo Sugar and Royal Swaziland Sugar Corporation (RSSC), dairy company Parmalat Swaziland, spirits manufacturer Swaziland Beverages and hotel chain Swazi Spa Holdings. The company has assets worth over $140 million, but he holds it in trust for the people of Swaziland.’
In 2012, Forbes named King Mswati as one of the top five worst rulers in Africa.
It reported the King ruled over a kingdom which has one of the world’s highest HIV prevalence rates: over 35 percent of adults. Its average life expectancy is the lowest in the world at 33 years; nearly 70 percent of the country’s people live on less than US$1 a day and 40 percent are unemployed.
It added, ‘But for all the suffering of the Swazi people, King Mswati has barely shown concern or interest.
‘He lives lavishly, using his kingdom’s treasury to fund his expensive tastes in German automobiles, first-class leisure trips around the world and women. But his gross mismanagement of his country’s finances is now having dire economic consequences. Swaziland is going through a severe fiscal crisis.
‘The kingdom’s economy is collapsing and pensions have been stopped. In June last year , the King begged for a financial bailout from South Africa.’
In February 2011 the Mail & Guardian newspaper in South Africa reported King Mswati also had US$10-billion that was put in trust in King Mswati’s name for the people of Swaziland by his father, King Sobhuza II.
In 2015, a report from the United States government report concluded there was no oversight in the kingdom on how the King, his 15 wives and vast Royal Family spent public money.
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