So the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe – looking after your Investment

#GoldMafia from Al Jazeera

20th April 2023

THE Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has come under renewed pressure to deal with allegations of gold smuggling and money laundering after a leading think-tank said the central bank’s operations should be audited following a damning exposé by an international broadcaster.

Zimbabwe was placed at the centre of gold smuggling and money laundering activities by syndicates operating in southern Africa following an investigation by Qatar-based Al Jazeera television network.

The documentary, aired between March and last week {14th April 2023}, was centred on a secret recording of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ambassador-at-large Uebert Angel — born Uebert Mudzanire — and his associates promising to help undercover Al Jazeera journalists launder US$1,2 billion in dirty money.

In an analysis of revelations made in the four-part documentary titled the Gold Mafia, legal think-tank Veritas said there was an urgent need to audit RBZ operations.

Government has since said it would investigate all individuals implicated in the documentary, while the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) froze assets of Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe security official Cleopas Chidodo, Aurex Holdings official David Chirozvi and former Fidelity Printers and Refiners senior executives Mehlululi Dube and Fredrick Kunaka.

Chidodo, Chirozvi, Dube and Kunaka were secretly recorded by the undercover journalists speaking about their alleged roles in facilitating money laundering and smuggling activities.

Aurex and Fidelity are both RBZ subsidiaries.

The RBZ also froze the accounts of some of the people named in the documentary such as Ewan McMillan, Kamlesh Pattni, Angel and Simon Rudland.

Veritas, however, said a forensic assessment of the central bank was necessary following the claims made by people that were employed by its subsidiaries and some of the suspected money laundering and smuggling kingpins.

“The Reserve Bank is a vital cog in the country’s economy and it is essential for it to maintain a spotless reputation for competence, fiscal responsibility and probity,” Veritas said.

“The Al Jazeera series, coming on top of the bank’s illegal quasi-fiscal activities, have tarnished its reputation and sown suspicion within financial markets, multilateral financial institutions and the general Zimbabwean public.

“In the interests of transparency and accountability an investigation should be undertaken to ascertain precisely what the bank and its subsidiary companies have been and are doing and whether their activities have been lawful.”

According to Veritas, the RBZ Act gives the central bank wide powers to buy, sell and keep gold, hence the call for a forensic audit.

The legal think-tank gave three suggestions on how the audit could be done.

One of them is that Finance minister Mthuli Ncube could order an investigation into the central bank’s activities in terms of section 38 of the RBZ Act.

“The section gives persons conducting an investigation power to demand documents and answers from all officers, employees and agents of the bank; anyone refusing to supply such documents and answers on demand can be imprisoned for up to three months,” Veritas said.

“The Auditor-General (Mildred Chiri) could be directed to conduct a forensic audit of the bank’s financial statements and the financial statements of its subsidiaries.

“Section 309(2)(b) of the Constitution says that at the request of the government, she (Chiri) must carry out a special audit of the accounts of any statutory body or government-controlled entity.

“And section 6(1)(a) of the Audit Office Act gives her the function of auditing the accounts of public entities on behalf of the National Assembly.

“So, she could conduct a forensic audit at the direction of either a government minister or the National Assembly.”

Veritas said Mnangagwa could also appoint a commission of inquiry to investigate the activities of the bank and its subsidiaries.

One challenge, according to Veritas, of the third option was that the documentary implicated Mnangagwa himself in the illicit activities.

“The persons alleged to be carrying on this illegal trade were shown boasting of their close links to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and to senior government officials, up to and including the President and his wife,” Veritas said.

“They said they had the governor of the Reserve Bank (Joh Mangudya) ‘on speed dial’ and that senior managers of Fidelity Printers and Refiners, a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank, were on their payroll to facilitate the issue of licences to buy and export gold.

“Through these links, they claimed, all the processes in their trade were made to seem above board, with legitimate paperwork to authorise their gold exports.”

According to Veritas, any audit or probe carried out in accordance with the company’s recommendations would have enough legal authority to substantiate misconduct on the side of the apex bank and supersede any right to confidentiality granted by section 60 of the RBZ Act.

Lords-Questions.jpgThe governor, however, released a statement denying any involvement by the central bank in money laundering schemes before the documentary was broadcast in full.

Angel’s lawyer Lovemore Madhuku said his client only entertained the undercover journalists as part of an “intelligence operation” after he realised that they were not genuine investors. He denied allegations that he was involved in money laundering and gold smuggling.

Contacted for comment, Mangudya said the call by Veritas for a probe “are a welcome development”.

“The allegations by the Al Jazeera interviewees on which Veritas are basing their calls on are not consistent with the way gold is produced and traded in Zimbabwe,” he told NewsDay.

“The bank was not involved in illicit gold activities and has no appetite to do so. The bank has a zero tolerance to illicit trade in any commodity and money laundering. Calls by Veritas are, therefore, a welcome development.”

Ncube did not answer repeated calls to his cellphone, while Treasury spokesperson Clive Mphambela’s number was not reachable.

United Kingdom Member of the House of Lords Jonathan Oates tweeted: “The allegations contained in the Al Jazeera documentary, #GOLDMAFIA are very serious and as you say, they do involve allegations against British citizens. I’ve tabled questions ... to ask the government to investigate ... so that those (allegedly implicated in gold smuggling and money laundering) do not profit from those alleged crimes.”


7th-APR-2023 News DayBackground from Zimbabwe News Reports

7th April 2023

SELF-STYLED prophet and President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ambassador-at-large Uebert Madzanire, aka Uebert Angel, has claimed that Mnangagwa will spend US$240 million for his re-election bid.

Appearing in the third episode of the four-part Al Jazeera documentary on gold smuggling and money laundering titled Gold Mafia: El Dorado that aired yesterday, Angel said: “His (Mnangagwa) election, I think they are spending like US$240 million and that is his money.”

Angel has appeared in all three episodes aired so far in which he was secretly recorded by Al Jazeera investigative journalists offering to use his diplomatic cover to facilitate gold smuggling and money laundering.

Zanu PF spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa and political commissar Mike Bimha were not answering their mobile phones despite repeated efforts.

The controversial prophet’s alleged involvement in the alleged criminal activities has triggered outrage in and outside the country, with Zimbabweans domiciled in South Africa threatening to demonstrate today at his Johannesburg church to demand authorities to act on his alleged corrupt deals.

Zimbabweans based in the United Kingdom will also on April 18 deliver a petition to the British government to freeze Angel’s assets.

In the documentary, Angel demanded US$200 000 from the Al Jazeera investigative journalists for him to organise a meeting with Mnangagwa, which he described as an “appreciation” fee.

“That guy (Mnangagwa) doesn’t take bribes, oh no he won’t. There is a big difference between appreciating somebody and bribing.

“You know at this level, people don’t bribe anybody, you get my point. He is not that kind of a person,” Angel said.

“When somebody got that money to spend on an election campaign, you give one million, it’s like a slap in the face, unless you say a thank you.”

During the undercover investigation, Angel’s personal assistant Rikki Doolan also claimed that government ministers needed to be “greased” to facilitate the deals.

“Obviously, once we get the ball rolling, there will be points and times along the way where people will need to be greased,” Doolan said.

In response to a public outcry over the Al Jazeera exposé, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)’s Financial Intelligence Unit announced on Wednesday that it had frozen assets of four officials implicated in facilitating gold smuggling.

But the decision to freeze assets belonging to Cleopas Chidodo (Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe head of security, stationed at Robert Gabriel Mugabe Internal Airport), David Chirozvi (RBZ’s Aurex Jewellery head of finance), Mehluleli Dube (Fidelity Printers and Refiners gold-buying manager) and Fredrick Kunaka (Fidelity Printers and Refiners general manager) sparked outrage, with critics saying the authorities were targeting the small fish, leaving the kingpins involved in the alleged gold smuggling and money laundering scandal.

On Tuesday, government announced that it had launched a probe into the corruption allegation raised in the Al Jazeera exposé.

Zimbabwe Miners Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya and gold dealer Ewan MacMillan were also implicated in the Gold Mafia exposé.

News Day Report 23rd March 2023Exiled former Cabinet minister Jonathan Moyo said Angel’s assets should also be frozen.

“It would be unwise to go after all of these pikininis on grounds that they incriminate themselves in the documentary when everyone has seen that their handlers, the real Gold Mafia as described in the documentary, have done more and better self-incrimination, and basically nailed themselves beyond any escape,” Moyo said on Twitter.

“For example, ambassador plenipotentiary Uebert Angel said he owns and runs something called Billion Group, which facilitates gold smuggling and money laundering.

“There is no reason for not freezing the assets of the ambassador’s Billion Group, given what he says about it in the documentary!”

Centre for Natural Resource Governance director Farai Maguwu urged government to investigate “everyone” implicated in the documentary.

“First, there is need to investigate all the people who are involved, that is everybody mentioned, whether they are residents of Zimbabwe or not in Zimbabwe,” Maguwu said.

“We have international police who can assist the police to arrest whoever has been fingered in this gold looting heist. We have Uebert Angel who has been mentioned. He seemed to be one of the kingpins of the Gold Mafia, and we are not hearing anything that has been done, either to freeze his assets or to get him arrested.”