29 November 2017

East Africa: How Cartels Are Smuggling Gold Through East African Countries

The Police Nationale Congolaise (Congolese National Police), in conjunction with Interpol are investigating a case of gold theft and smuggling surrounding the disappearance of up to 500kg of gold stolen in a privately-run warehouse in Goma suburbs in North Kivu Province of Congo.

The case started in January 2017 when a warehouse manager working for the Cooperative Miniere d'Ihusi in Goma - North Kivu identified as Mr Mulume Mweze, was arrested and detained in Goma following the disappearance of 30kgs of gold.

Further investigations led the police investigators to the arrest of individuals behind a gold smuggling syndicate operation between DRC, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.

Semi refined gold is smuggled without paying any taxes or royalties to the Congolese Government. According to official reports from the Police Nationale Congolaise, the cartel members use diplomatic bags and chartered small planes operating from Goma and Kavumu Airports in North and South Kivu provinces, the gold is channeled through the East African Community countries before ending in International markets in Dubai, Hong Kong, London, and Istanbul.

After several export attempts in Nairobi and Tanzania, where several fake customs entries and several fake documentations were used, sources indicate that the trail of 346kgs of gold, part of the disappeared shipment location might be in Uganda.

"It's a matter of time. With the collaboration from our faithful partners in the Uganda Police, we will impound the cargo and bring the smugglers to book," Col Pierre Rombaut Mwana Mputu, the Goma Police spokesman says with confidence.

Conflict

It should be remembered that armed conflict, corruption, poor quality of life for citizens and illegal mineral exploitation and interference from neighbouring countries in pursuit of mineral wealth remain major causes of instability in the DR Congo.

Obscure mining concessions in the DR Congo are also said to be undermining the country's economic growth. The Africa Progress Panel, after analysing five mining deals in the DR Congo late last year, said there was massive undervaluation of assets and sale to offshore companies.

This reminds us of another case when DRC President Joseph Kabila flew over for emergency talks with President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya over huge consignments of gold stolen and smuggled into Kenya from his country by a cartel.

The seriousness the two leaders attached to the problem was discernible from the fact the presidents immediately set up a joint investigative team to probe the gold smuggling syndicate between the two countries.

Sources in security circles revealed at the centre of discussions was loss of gold weighing 2.5 tons, whose entry into Kenya was linked to execution of a Kenya Revenue Authority official assigned investigations into the smuggling activities on February 26.

"Kabila banned mining in North and South Kivu in September 2011 because the precious stones are the lifeline of guerrilla activities in DRC," A source from Interpol says.

"This could be one of the networks which fueled the war in the east," a one Paluku told this reporter.

"If a rebel leader is given money in exchange for gold, he will never leave the bush," he added.

Information about the case is however limited as investigations are still being conducted. Meanwhile, all police agencies in the region are on high alert mode.

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