UNDERCOVER journalists who were posing as Chinese gangsters seeking to smuggle US$1.2 billion in Al Jazeera’s four-episode investigative documentary have denied ever desiring to meet President Emmerson Mnangagwa, contrary to threadbare attempts by his envoy Uebert Angel to shake off gold smuggling and money laundering accusations.
According to the Al Jazeera investigation, Zimbabwe has been losing more than 50 kilogrammes of gold every week through a well-knit racket involving people close to President Mnangagwa.
In the exposé, Mnangagwa’s controversial envoy revealed that investors pay facilitation fees ranging from US$200 000 to US$1 million to have access to the President.
Angel and his assistant, Rikki Doolan, also recklessly exposed how President Mnangagwa is lavished with gifts by corrupt investors.
In the third episode, Angel suggested to the undercover reporters that they could give the head of state a gift of over US$1 million as appreciation for his involvement in ensuring that the deal to launder US$1.2 billion succeeded.
In his attempts to defend himself through lawyer Lovemore Madhuku, Angel said he was playing along with the undercover journalists’ demands so as to extract as much information as possible on how far enemies of Zimbabwe could go in trying to destabilise the country.
“Those people (Al Jazeera undercover journalists) approached one of the assistants of my client (Angel) seeking his assistance for them to invest in Zimbabwe. He asked how much they knew about them and they said they had known them for two years.
“My client then subjected those people to intelligence checks through the national framework of intelligence for this country. He (Angel) was advised by the intelligence operatives that they had serious doubts on the people and it was not advisable for them to meet the President. The national intelligence discovered that those people had dangerous intentions not only to the country but the President himself,” Madhuku said.
However, in a podcast this week aired by Al Jazeera titled The Crocodile, one of the lead investigators in the documentary, Sarah Yeo, said it was Angel, and not the journalists, who persistently pushed for the meeting with Mnangagwa, to make profit out of it.
“We had not asked for a meeting with President Mnangagwa. We just wanted to meet Ambassador Angel, and he kept pushing for us to meet him,” she said.
“Very quickly, we learnt that there was a price to pay to meet the President. So we kept on saying: ‘No, no, no! We need to meet the President’. We were going to meet him, of course, but we just wanted to know if we could make investments the way we want and if we can easily clean our dirty money through Zimbabwe.
“But then, he said: ‘Now you need to meet the President. It will be a very rare opportunity, but we can open this door for you.’ They do that time and time again just to make it clear that [if] you stick with us, you get direct access. You get guarantees. You fly in not as criminals, you’re not smuggling things, and you’re invited in as presidential guests.”
As previously reported by The NewsHawks, Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) bosses say Angel (real surname Mudzanire), a self-styled prophet, dangerously misled the public when he claimed that what people saw on Al Jazeera’s investigative documentary “was not real; it was acting” as part of “a classified national intelligence assignment”.
Senior CIO officers who spoke to The NewsHawks categorically dismissed Angel’s assertions — which were delivered by his lawyer Madhuku at a media briefing in Harare — saying they were fiction.
The same claims were initially made through a convoluted statement attributed to Angel’s chief investment and projects officer, Dr Sobona Mtisi, although there was later an attempt to distance the Office of The Presidential Envoy and Ambassador-At-Large to Europe and the Americas from it.
An intelligence boss reiterated that Al Jazeera’s corruption-busting film was “a reality” and Angel’s response was “fiction”. The spy chiefs said there was no CIO operation of the nature Angel claims.
“What Angel said through his lawyer is fiction. There was no such intelligence operation. In any case, even if it was there, he would not be the one to speak about it. He doesn’t work for CIO and knows nothing about how it operates and its internal dynamics,” a senior CIO officer said.
“He doesn’t know what he is talking about, but what he said is being viewed and taken seriously. It will be acted upon. There will be an internal process to deal with that.”
Another CIO boss said: “He was just waffling. How would he know of our operations that we who work don’t know anything about? There is no such thing. It’s just a smokescreen to cover his tracks and protect the chefs (Mnangagwa and Auxillia). In fact, the whole thing is ridiculous. If that was an intelligence operation, it would be more serious, clinical and sophisticated, not mahumbwe aya (child’s play). Intelligence operations of that nature are not child’s play.”
If anything, sources said, the CIO is interested in investigating Angel’s behaviour and utterances in the documentary, which put Mnangagwa and his wife Auxillia, as well as others, into disrepute, sources said.
Angel is already being investigated by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).