HARARE – Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit) has uncovered a series of gold smuggling gangs in Southern Africa that help criminals launder hundreds of millions of dollars. These gangs, referred to as the Gold Mafia, are involved in Southern Africa’s biggest gold and money laundering operations. They use gold as a way to turn dirty cash into clean, seemingly legitimate money using a complex web of companies, counterfeit identities, and fake documents. The investigation reveals that no matter where gold is purchased or stamped, it is difficult to determine its origin. The gold is melted and refined repeatedly, obfuscating any trace of its origin, making it difficult for law enforcement agencies to build evidence against suspected smugglers.

Gold Mafia syndicate

The investigation also shows that gold has become one of the preferred commodities for money launderers as its origins can be masked by melting and refining, making it an ideal tool for money laundering. Several Southern African gold smuggling gangs offered their services to Al Jazeera’s undercover reporters who were pretending to be Chinese criminals looking to launder more than $100 million of undeclared wealth. The gangs are based in Zimbabwe, a country that needs US dollars because the local currency has no value in international trade. Gold, the country’s biggest export, is a good way to acquire dollars. Smugglers carry Zimbabwe’s gold to Dubai, where it is sold in exchange for clean cash. This money is transferred to the bank accounts of the money launderers, who hand over an equivalent amount of their dirty dollars to the Zimbabwe government through the smugglers.

The investigation has exposed the involvement of high-ranking officials from Zimbabwe in smuggling and money laundering. One of Zimbabwe’s top ambassadors, Uebert Angel, appointed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to attract investments from Europe and North America, offered to use his diplomatic privileges to carry more than $1 billion of dirty cash into the country. Henrietta Rushwaya, who heads Zimbabwe’s Mining Association and is Mnangagwa’s niece, suggested parking the cash with Fidelity, a gold refinery run by the country’s central bank, and carrying an equivalent amount of gold out of Zimbabwe.

The investigation also reveals the global nature of these crimes, in which gold smuggled from one nation could end up in the form of cash deposited in offshore accounts of front companies halfway across the world. The Gold Mafia is bigger than the government, as the investigation has uncovered that gold is at the centre of a dark economy with roots deep in the governments of Zimbabwe and South Africa. In South Africa, a cigarette don and a man named ‘Dollars’ are also involved in the gold smuggling business.

The investigation warns that it is hard to be certain if gold purchased on the open market is ethically and legally clean or whether it is free of laundering and crime. Alistair Mathias, one of the money launderers who met with Al Jazeera’s undercover reporters, told them he has been using gold as a means to move money for several African heads of state, stating that, “See, the best thing with gold is it is cash.” The Gold Mafia investigation has uncovered the extent of the gold smuggling gangs in Southern Africa, and the complex web of companies and individuals involved. The investigation highlights the need for law enforcement agencies to tackle money laundering and smuggling, particularly those involved in the gold trade, to prevent criminals from getting rich at the expense of nations.
Source -MasimbaNews ✍

By Power

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