The government of Zimbabwe has broken the silence around allegations of gold smuggling and money laundering exposed in an Al-Jazeera documentary last month, saying on Tuesday that it will launch an inquiry into the claims.
In a four-part documentary released on March 23rd, the news network shows individuals allegedly affiliated with Zimbabwean government smuggling gold to evade western sanctions.
According to Al-Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit), the gold mafia is licensed to buy the precious metal from small producers that would otherwise have been smuggled out of the country. The group then exports the gold to Dubai, where the proceeds of the metal sales is transferred into bank accounts to make the transactions look legitimate.
“Government takes the allegations raised in the documentary seriously, and has directed relevant organs to institute investigations into the issues raised,” Information Minister and Publicity Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said in the statement. “Any person found to have engaged in acts of corruption, fraud or any form of crime will face the full wrath of the law.”
The broadcaster has also alleged the money laundering and gold-smuggling rings involve millionaires, one of whom was accused of almost bankrupting Kenya through a similar, corrupt scheme also involving gold.
“It is concerning that the documentary suggests that authorities do not complete sufficient due diligence into potential investors – including official gold traders,” Transparency International says.
“The revelations are a possible source of information to bust criminal networks that are actively engaging in gold smuggling and laundering money from Zimbabwe and other selected African countries,” the organization adds.
Uebert Angel, presidential envoy and ambassador-at-large to Europe and the Americas since March 2021, was secretly filmed saying how easy it was for him to move $1.2 billion, given his diplomatic immunity.
Other individuals filmed or named in the documentary as being part of smuggling rings include Zimbabwe Miners Federation President Henrietta Rushwaya – believed to be the niece of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Gold accounts for almost half — over $2 billion — of the Zimbabwe’s exports. But the nation faces strict international sanctions that makes it harder for locals to export the precious metal through official channels, according to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre.
Figures from the World Bank show that half of the country’s estimated 16 million people live in extreme poverty – on $30 or less monthly.
The first two episodes of “Gold Mafia” have triggered outrage in the landlocked country and generated quite the buzz on social media.
The last two episodes are expected to air this month.
Watch episode one of the documentary here: