Zimbabwe’s gold mafia allegedly exposed by Al Jazeera, Transparency International calls for action against those implicated

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera news channel claims it is exposing “one of the biggest money laundering operations in the world” in a new six-part documentary.

The first episode of the documentary looks at how Zimbabwe’s abundant store of gold is allegedly the key that unlocks a scheme that washes millions of dollars by trading the precious metal from Southern Africa to the Middle East and back again.

Transparency International has responded to the documentary by calling on Zimbabwe’s financial intelligence unit, police and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate further and introduce the necessary reforms to end such activities in the country.

Gold, shell companies and trusts

The documentary exposes alleged illicit financial flows from Zimbabwe, and includes serious allegations of abuse of diplomatic immunity, illicit gold trading, corruption and money laundering in the mining sector.

It highlights the way cartels work with individuals and institutions in Zimbabwe to move illicit proceeds using anonymous trusts and shell companies in tax havens and other secretive jurisdictions. This relationship facilitates organised crime and huge outflows of gold and other precious minerals.

High-level corruption

In one audio-snippet in the documentary, convicted gold smuggler Ewan Macmillan claims he allegedly spent 60 days in prison to protect his then ‘partner’, Zimbabwe’s highest ranking politician.

Macmillan alleges that the money laundering scheme begins with the smuggling of cash into Zimbabwe. That money is then used to buy gold from small-scale miners. The gold is then sold in Dubai, with the proceeds deposited in bank accounts in the emirate.

Under-invoicing and under-declaration

The documentary elsewhere suggests the scheme is rather more sophisticated, involving alleged under invoicing and under declarations by registered gold dealers to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and Fidelity Printers and Refinery, a security printing and gold refinery company wholly owned by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

The documentary also suggests that authorities do not complete sufficient due diligence into potential investors, including official gold traders.

Revoke licenses

Transparency International says Zimbabwe’s law enforcement, anti-corruption agencies and regulatory authorities should immediately revoke gold trade and export licenses given to individuals and corporations implicated in the documentary, pending an investigation into the allegations.

The anti-corruption association says it will continue to follow the remaining episodes of the documentary and provide additional recommendations as relevant.

Episode 1 of Al Jazeera’s Gold Mafia The Podcast: The Skeleton Key can be found here.

Transparency International’s response, Al Jazeera “Gold Mafia” Documentary Demonstrates Urgent Need to Combat Corruption in Zimbabwe, can be found here.


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