President Robert Mugabe’s lavish spending has been exposed in his wife’s court battle with a Lebanese tycoon over a botched $1.3m (R17.5) diamond ring deal.

New court documents filed by businessman Jamal Ahmed opposing First Lady Grace Mugabe’s move to seek to overturn a provisional order against her, showed that the Mugabe family was paying half a million dollars in yearly rentals for a villa in Dubai.

Grace Mugabe torched a storm recently when she demanded a refund of $1.3m (R17.5) that she paid to Ahmed for a diamond ring after Ahmed allegedly failed to deliver it on time. The ring was meant to be Mugabe’s gift to Grace on their wedding anniversary.

Grace allegedly grabbed Ahmed’s properties, resulting in the High Court ordering the First Lady to vacate the seized houses. Grace was now challenging the court order.

In her opposing affidavit recently, Grace denied that she wanted the money to be transferred into her account in Dubai. She maintained that she did not hold a foreign account.

But Ahmed insisted that it would be impossible for the First Lady not to have a bank account in Dubai, as the first family rented a villa that required monthly rentals to be paid through a bank.

“Whether or not the second respondent (Grace) has accounts outside Zimbabwe does not mean she did not ask for a refund in Dubai.

“The second respondent’s family rents a 10-bedroom villa at the Emirates Hills in Dubai and the address of the villa is J11. I am able to say that this is an exclusive and upmarket area where annual rentals are around $500 000 (R6.7m).

This came at a time when most Zimbabweans were battling worsening cash shortages, a floundering economy and high unemployment.

Mugabe, who was currently on vacation in the Far East, was reportedly spending $36m (R487M) during his month-long annual leave that was interspersed with official business.

His huge expenditure also came at a time when health authorities required only $250 000 (R3.4M) to contain a typhoid outbreak in some parts of the country. The outbreak had so far claimed at least nine lives, according to health officials.

Many Zimbabweans questioned where the Mugabe family was getting the huge sums of money.

Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba was not immediately available for comment as his mobile phone was not being answered. However, a cabinet minister who requested not to be named said that Mugabe and his family had “a larger number of businesses in Zimbabwe” and could be using proceeds from those businesses to finance his lavish lifestyle.