Ex-Congressman’s Zimbabwe Saga: Shooting Porn And Cutting Deals

ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Multi-million dollar hotel deals and a prolific hobby as an alleged amateur pornographer. It appears Melvin Reynolds, the former Illinois congressman who left office in disgrace following his conviction of, among other things, having sex with one of his underaged campaign volunteers, has been busy in Zimbabwe.

Reynolds had tried to become something of a business mogul in the country, leading U.S. business delegations and helping strike a $145 million deal to build a Hilton hotel in its capital city, according to various published reports of his post-prison business dealings.

But Reynold’s arrest Monday in the capital Harare has echoes of his past troubles. A report from the state-controlled Herald newspaper, cited though not independently confirmed by other news outlets, said Reynolds was charged with possessing pornographic materials and violating the country’s immigration laws.

The Herald, relying on an aide to Reynolds identified as “Sunny” and another unnamed source, supplied the sordid details of the ex-congressman’s alleged lifestyle while cutting business deals in the African country.

He shot more than 100 pornographic videos and snapped 2,000 pornographic pictures while in the company of up to 10 “beautiful women” — “famous models” even — at a time, according to the report, while four personal aides kept watch.

He also amassed more than $24,000 in bills at two different hotels and remained in Zimbabwe after his visa expired, the Herald said.

The Herald, which is owned by the Zimbabwe government, has been described by Freedom House, an international watchdog group, as a newspaper “whose propagandistic coverage favors [President Robert] Mugabe.” Mugabe has been targeted with sanctions by the United States and European Union for alleged human rights violations and suppression of democratic values, including freedom of the press.

It’s not the first time that sex has brought Reynolds in the crosshairs of the law.

He was convicted on a dozen sex-related charges, including statutory rape and solicitation of child pornography, in August 1995. While serving a five-year prison sentence, he was also convicted of bank fraud and lying to investigators, staying behind bars until President Bill Clinton commuted his sentence in 2001.

He attempted to mount a political comeback in the aughts, running in 2004 and again in 2013 to reclaim his congressional seat, which had since been occupied by Jesse Jackson, Jr. Neither renaissance came to fruition.

During his second bid, Reynolds told the Chicago Tribune that he was self-employed, working as a broker between African investors and U.S. businesses. The Herald said he “hogged the limelight” while facilitating an agreement in 2013 to build a new Hilton hotel in Harare.

“I knew it was very realistic to bring Hilton Hotel here because I know what’s happening in America now economically. All one needs to do is to present a project correctly,” Reynolds told the Sunday Mail last September. “You see, from a business standpoint, there is no reason not to invest in Zimbabwe — you are using the U.S. dollar, 95 percent literacy rate and 30 percent of the world’s diamonds — what reason would an investor have not to invest in Zimbabwe? Don’t worry about the politics.”

In 2011, he guided a delegation of Chicago businessmen, led by housing developer Elzie Higginbottom, on a tour highlighting the country’s commercial potential for U.S. investors, according to the Sunday Mail. He also has criticized U.S. sanctions against Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe.

Higginbottom and Hilton representatives did not immediately return TPM’s requests for comment.

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