Thursday, November 19, 2009
Mugabe’s Vice-President sells $90 million worth of DR Congo gold
The Vice-President of Zimbabwe has been accused of trying to sell millions of dollars in gold nuggets and diamonds in defiance of international sanctions.
Joyce Mujuru used her daughter as a go-between to seek a deal for the gold, according to Firstar, a commodities trader based in Britain, which says that it was approached in November.
Mrs Mujuru, appointed by Robert Mugabe five years ago, is among the 200 Zimbabweans under European Union and United States sanctions for alleged human rights abuses.
Firstar claims that Mrs Mujuru’s daughter and Spanish son-in-law, Nyasha and Pedro del Campo, offered to sell 3,700kg of gold for $90 million to Firstar Europe Ltd, a precious metal dealer. At the present market rate, one kilo of gold sells for $30,700 (£21,500).
Mr del Campo allegedly e-mailed Firstar offering 3.7 tonnes of gold nuggets with a certificate of origin from the Democratic Republic of Congo and $15 million of diamonds without certification. He claimed to represent two commodities companies, Onesafara International and Berline Equities Corp. But over the course of the correspondence, it allegedly came to light that the real seller was Mrs Mujuru.
Bernd Hagamann, the president of Firstar, told The Times: “Our investigations showed who was really involved in the deal — Mrs Mujuru — who is on our blacklist. So we refused.”
Mr Hagamann said that when he told Mrs del Campo that he would not buy “blood gold” she offered to change the certificate of origin to Kenya.
“We have no interest in buying gold from people running a country where people are dying of cholera or from Congo, where the money from any deal would be used to buy arms to kill more people,” he said. “This is bloody gold. These people are criminals.”
Mr Hagamann said that after refusing to go ahead with the deal and telling the couple that he was reporting them to the authorities he received a telephone call from Mrs Mujuru.
“She said, ‘Some people will visit your house. You and your daughter will have problems’. But I was not afraid. It was funny. I told her she would have problems coming to Europe.”
Firstar posted the e-mail correspondence and documents concerning the deal on its website, saying that it wished to deter other blacklisted buyers. The documents included photographs of the gold nuggets and one of 13 diamonds ranging from one to five carats. E-mails between Mrs del Campo and Firstar detailed how the gold would be transported from Nairobi to Zurich once Firstar had paid $100,000 for transportation costs. A certificate of origin stated that the gold was from Lubumbashi, an area of the Democratic Republic of Congo with links to Zimbabwean officials.
The case raises concerns about attempts by members of unsavoury regimes to break sanctions. Mrs Mujuru and her husband, Solomon, a former head of the national army, are among the wealthiest and most powerful people in Zimbabwe, with extensive mining interests, including the River Ranch Diamond Mines. The World Diamond Council has accused the company of trafficking blood diamonds by mixing them with Zimbabwean stones and smuggling them to South Africa.
The United Nations has documented how leading members of the Mugabe regime benefited from mining concessions granted by the former Congolese leader Laurent Kabila in return for the help of Zimbabwean troops during the 1998-2002 war.
The United Nations reported in December that 53 tonnes of munitions were flown to Harare from Lubumbashi in August. As the Democratic Republic of Congo does not manufacture ammunition, it must have arrived from another country.
Mrs del Campo declined to comment but said that she was speaking to her lawyers.
— During the civil war in Sierra Leone in the 1990s, 4 per cent of the world's diamond production came from areas controlled by the country's warlords
— Profits from the trade in blood diamonds were used by warlords to buy arms for wars in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo
— Illicit rough diamonds have been used by rebels to fund conflicts in Liberia, Ivory Coast and the Republic of Congo
— In 2008 the Swiss gold refiner Metalor launched a campaign in Colombia to prevent gold being used for tax evasion
— Turkey is reported to be the main supplier of smuggled gold to Europe
— The FDLR, a Hutu force waging civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, funds itself by illegally trading minerals including the gold that is mined there
Sources: UN, Amnesty International, Times archives
Copyright 2009 Times Newspapers Ltd.