Paper Co. Cuts Off Supply of Zimbabwe's Bank Notes

Secretive German firm caves to pressure
By Dustin Lushing,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 2, 2008 12:46 PM CDT
An unidentified Zimbabwean man buys a bottle of beer at a local bar in Harare, Zimbabwe Wednesday March, 19, 2008.    (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
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(Newser) – The German company that supplies Zimbabwe with the paper for its hyper-inflated currency has caved to pressure from the German government and stopped doing business with embattled dictator Robert Mugabe. The secretive Bavarian firm, Giesecke & Devrient, had been airlifting tons of special blank bank notes—fortified with watermarks and other antiforgery features—to Mugabe so that new currency could be printed, adding more zeros,  every couple of weeks.

The influx of paper money has allowed Mugabe to pay his army and supporters, while the cost of a loaf of bread has soared to 30 billion Zimbabwean dollars. "The business of printing bank notes is comparable only to the arms trade," a currency expert tells the Wall Street Journal. "It's discreet, highly political, and based on long-term relationships." The supplier yielded reluctantly to pressure after Mugabe outraged most of the world by sabotaging recent presidential elections.