OPINION: Uncovering the Dark World of the Gold Mafia – Documentary Review
In GOLD MAFIA, a four-part series by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, the criminal underworld that controls the African gold trade is exposed. The investigation reveals the conversion of dirty cash into gold, which is then sold globally. The reach of the gold mafia extends to the highest levels of state in southern Africa. The series highlights how, throughout history, the world’s insatiable appetite for gold has fueled a shadow economy that global financial institutions, regulators, and governments have implicitly enabled.
Investigators have gained access to the inner workings of billion-dollar money laundering operations that cater to the wealthy and powerful by sifting through confidential documents and speaking with insiders who have blown the whistle. In an effort to expose these criminal enterprises, undercover reporters, posing as major criminals with over a billion dollars in “black” money that requires laundering, have infiltrated the gold mafia gang scene. The team is led by a fictitious Mr. Stanley, who is purportedly a Chinese gangster with connections to the Triads, and have befriended members of rival gangs.
In the first episode of a series, the founder of the UK-based Good News Church 1, which has multiple branches worldwide, proposes to launder a large sum of money from China. The founder, Uebert Angel, indicates that he is a significant diplomat in the country and also serves as Zimbabwe’s ambassador to 85 nations. The plan involves utilizing his diplomatic status to transport the money into Zimbabwe, where it can then be laundered through gold and additional investments. Angel explains that he can easily transport the money by labeling it as diplomatic property, which would make it untouchable. Mr. Stanlev and his team attend private meetings with Kamlesh Pattni, who is known for developing a gold scam that confiscated $600 million from Kenya in the 1990s. They also meet with Pattni’s competitor and convicted gold smuggler, Ewan Macmillan. Additionally, it was revealed that Isabel’s Maltese consulting firm was hit with a $230,000 tax bill.
Macmillan claims that there is an enormous opportunity to launder money in the area. Both he and his partner are licensed gold traders, and they extend attractive deals to our undercover team to launder more than $100 million through government gold export schemes. Crime bosses working for rival organizations reveal that southern Africa’s largest laundromat, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, is at the center of their operations. It turns out that the Gold Mafia is employed by Zimbabwe’s elite to export gold on behalf of the government. This scheme is a way to evade the international sanctions imposed on political leaders and government entities.
During the investigation, Mr. Stanley interviews Zimbabwe Miner’s Federation President Henrietta Rushwaya, who is also President Emmerson Mangagwa’s niece. In just a few minutes, she offers them access to a laundry service that can clean up to $10 million of dirty cash weekly through gold producers and the reserve bank she knows.