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Mel enolds

Ex-US congressman held in Harare with porn

FORMER Illinois congressman Mel Reynolds has been arrested in Zimbabwe, an immigration official said on Tuesday, after state media reported the convicted sex offender had been found with pornography at a local hotel.

Police and immigration officials were investigating Reynolds for living in the country without a valid visa, Francis Mabika, an assistant regional immigration officer, told Reuters.

Mabika said Reynolds has been in Zimbabwe since November, but declined to give further details.

Reuters was unable to reach Reynolds for comment. A spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Harare declined to comment.

The state-owned Herald newspaper said the former Illinois congressman had been arrested at the Bronte Garden Hotel in Harare on Monday, where he had been found in possession of pornographic videos and pictures.

Possession of pornography is a crime in Zimbabwe.

He had also run up $24,500 in unpaid hotel bills, the newspaper said.

“I have been in this country 17 times where I have done a lot of work for the people including the fight against sanctions,” the newspaper quoted Reynolds as saying.

He was involved in the planned construction of the US$145 million five-star Hilton Hotel and office complex along Samora Machel Avenue in Eastlea which was scheduled to begin in April this year.

When the project was announced Reynolds toured the construction site with Government ministers Walter Mzembi, Webster Shamu and Ignatius Chombo, and Harare businessman Farai Jere.

Reynolds, a former Rhodes scholar, served as an Illinois congressman from 1993 to 1995.

In 1994, the sitting congressman was indicted for sexual assault and criminal sexual abuse for a relationship with a 16-year-old volunteer during his 1992 campaign.

Reynolds was convicted in 1995 on sexual assault and solicitation of child pornography charges and resigned on October 1st of the same year.

While serving a five-year prison sentence, Reynolds was convicted of 15 unrelated counts of bank fraud and lying to SEC investigators, adding 78 months to his prison term. His sentence was commuted by President Bill Clinton in 2001.

Reynolds attempted a political comeback in the 2004 race for a U.S. House of Representatives seat, but was soundly defeated by Jesse Jackson Jr. in the Democratic primary.

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