LONDON, The United Kingdom (UK) has refused to grant immunity to Uebert Angel, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ambassador-at-large, who is currently embroiled in a money laundering and gold smuggling scandal. Conservative member Lord Peter Henry GoldSmith of Richmond Park stated that Mr Angel was not diplomatically accredited to the UK, and that the UK would not provide special treatment to him.
While responding to a series of questions tabled in the second chamber of the UK Parliament by House of Lords member Jonathan Oates, Lord GoldSmith emphasized that diplomatic passports do not confer any diplomatic status on the holder. He added that countries are free to determine who they want to grant such passports to.
Lord GoldSmith, who is also the Minister for Overseas Territories, Commonwealth, Energy, Climate and Environment at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, further stated that corruption was seen as an important barrier to economic reform and inclusive growth in Zimbabwe. He revealed that the UK was engaging with various actors in Zimbabwe, including the government, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, and civil society, to fight corruption.
There have been calls for the UK to freeze assets belonging to Angel, who was appointed Zimbabwe’s ambassador-at-large in March 2021 to seek trade and investment opportunities globally for the country. He was secretly recorded by Al Jazeera journalists, who alleged that he was the kingpin of a gold smuggling and money laundering syndicate in Zimbabwe. In the investigative documentary, he allegedly offered to use his diplomatic cover to launder as much as US$1.2 billion in dirty money.
There has been growing pressure on Mnangagwa to dismiss Angel, but presidential spokesperson George Charamba has confirmed that he remains the ambassador-at-large. Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa stated that the government has initiated investigations into the allegations made by Al Jazeera. However, there has been no update on the progress of the investigations yet.
The UK’s decision not to grant immunity to Angel is likely to increase pressure on Mnangagwa, who is already facing criticism from various quarters for his handling of the country’s economic crisis and human rights abuses.