HARARE, An investigation by Al Jazeera has uncovered evidence that suggests Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa may have links to gold smuggling gangs operating in the country. The four-part investigation, titled Gold Mafia, involved undercover reporters posing as Chinese criminals and infiltrating smuggling gangs. During the investigation, multiple smugglers mentioned Mnangagwa as the person they claimed gave them a protective shield. Some described the president as their business partner or former partner, while others said they had to keep him in the loop about smuggling operations. The president’s niece also outlined an elaborate money laundering and gold smuggling scheme that she promised to help execute.
The investigation also revealed multiple links between Mnangagwa and the gold smuggling and money laundering schemes operating in Zimbabwe, raising questions about how much the president knows about these scams and whether he was facilitating them. One of the most direct ways to launder money in exchange for Zimbabwean gold was proposed by Uebert Angel, Zimbabwe’s ambassador-at-large to Europe and the Americas, and his deputy Rikki Doolan. They described Mnangagwa as “Number One” in their scheme and repeatedly insisted that he was aware of what they were doing. The idea was simple: Money launderers could send their unaccounted cash to Zimbabwe through Angel, who enjoys diplomatic cover and is not searched at airports. In exchange, the launderers would receive an equivalent amount of Zimbabwean gold that they could then sell for seemingly legitimate money.
Angel and Doolan also offered to set up a meeting between Al Jazeera’s undercover reporters and Mnangagwa – in exchange for a fee of $200,000. However, Angel made clear that it should not be seen as a bribe paid to Mnangagwa, but rather a way of saying “thank you” to the Zimbabwean president. Doolan, who used the nickname Mr. Jones for Mnangagwa, said: “What we’re gonna do is take all of that appreciation and give it to Mr. Jones.”
Although Al Jazeera did not pay the $200,000 fee, Doolan was clear about the influence Angel wielded with the president’s family. “Mr. and Mrs. Jones call him their son,” Doolan said, speaking of Angel. During one of the meetings with the reporters, Angel telephoned Mnangagwa’s wife Auxillia, whom he called “mum”. During the call, he asked for help to launder $1.2bn. Al Jazeera has independently verified that the person at the other end of the call was Auxillia Mnangagwa.
When Angel asked Auxillia if it was achievable to “move the cash,” Zimbabwe’s first lady responded: “That’s right.” Immediately after the call, Angel told the undercover reporters: “You have got the president, you have got his family involved.” The investigation raises serious questions about the Zimbabwean president’s involvement in gold smuggling and money laundering in the country.