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24 Mar 2023

Al Jazeera

Zimbabwe: Ambassador offered undercover reporters diplomatic cover to launder over $1bn cash in explosive documentary on gold- smuggling by AI Jazeera

‘Top Zimbabwe ambassador involved in gold smuggling scheme’ 23 March 2023

One of Zimbabwe’s most influential diplomats, Uebert Angel, offered to use his status to launder millions of dollars through a gold-smuggling scheme, during an undercover operation by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit). Angel, appointed ambassador-at-large and a presidential envoy by Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa in March 2021, told reporters he would be able to carry large volumes of dirty cash into the country using his diplomatic status…Angel and his business partner Rikki Doolan also claimed that their laundering operations had the approval of Mnangagwa, who has been in power since November 2017, when Zimbabwe’s controversial former leader Robert Mugabe was ousted in a military coup. “You want gold, gold we can do it right now, we can make the call right now, and it’s done,” Angel told Al Jazeera’s reporters. “It will land in Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe can’t touch it too until I get to my house. So, there can be a diplomatic plan.”

…Central to Angel’s gold-for-dirty money operations is Henrietta Rushwaya, president of the Zimbabwe Miners Association. Rushwaya, who is also President Mnangagwa’s niece, told Angel and the reporters on a phone call that smuggling 100kg of gold each week would be no problem. The scheme would need an initial investment of $10mn of dirty cash into the government’s gold refinery, Fidelity. Of that, $5mn would be held in reserve by Fidelity for the duration of the scam, with the rest being used every week to buy gold. Once the gold is bought, another $5mn would be brought in to buy more gold until all the money had been laundered into the precious metal — which would then be sold internationally for legitimate, clean cash.

…“We have got world class deposits of gold, but we have nothing to show for it,” Biti said. “I think we are losing about a billion US dollars in illegal gold exports — which is a euphemism for gold smuggling.” “The biggest challenge Zimbabwe now faces is the existential threat that comes from this mafia, the gold mafia.” When asked for a response to Al Jazeera’s investigation, Fidelity denied all involvement in money laundering or smuggling. Mnangagwa, Angel, Doolan and Rushwaya did not respond to our inquiries.