Mnangagwa’s name mired in underworld gold activities
FROM the Macmillan family and their gold-smuggling activities to the Kwekwe underworld mining adventures and Henrietta Rushwaya’s sensational arrest three years ago, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s name is always mired in controversial sagas — indirectly and through name-dropping — relating to gold networks.
His family and cronies are also linked to the Red Wing Mine looting, Pedzisayi “Scott” Sakupwanya’s minting of money from gold wheeling and dealing, and now the Al Jazeera undercover investigation exposing gold barons, their dark secrets and money laundering.
The Mnangagwa name is associated with and runs through the different yet overlapping stories, plots and sub-plots involving the Macmillans, Kwekwe mining activities, Red Wing Mine and Sakupwanya’s Better Brands Jewellery, Rushwaya and now the ground-breaking Al Jazeera investigative tour de force.
It is intertwined with these stories, sometimes solidly and through name-dropping. Government and police have previously warned people against name-dropping; leveraging his name for self-interest. The Macmillans — both Ian Hugh and his son Ewan Alexander — are said to be close to Mnangagwa, while his cronies are deeply involved in gold mining activities in Kwekwe.
Sakupwanya is associated with him and his sons, especially Emmerson Jr. Angel is a presidential envoy and Zimbabwe’s ambassador-at-large appointed by Mnangagwa. And Rushwaya is a relative, a niece. When she was arrested in 2020 at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare trying to smuggle 6.7kg of gold valued at US$330 000, people quickly linked her to the Mnangagwa family, with others saying the First Lady Auxillia and her son Colins were also involved.
They swiftly denied it. Since state institutions like the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, via its subsidiary gold buyer Fidelity Printers and Refiners, are said to be part of the gold-dealing networks, that draws Mnangagwa deeper into the vortex.
For a long time, Mnangagwa’s name has been associated with the Macmillan family, notorious for gold dealing and smuggling activities, as well as illicit trade and arrests. A report titled Mnangagwa’s Oligarchs: The heirs of Cecil Rhodes, published by the Daily Maverick in South Africa and other media platforms, has a section on the Macmillans.
“Ian Macmillan and his son Ewan have built a business milling and buying gold around the country from their base in southwestern Zimbabwe. The elder Macmillan is among a small but influential group of white businessmen that supports Mnangagwa’s government,” it says.
“Although the elder Macmillan is retired, he remains influential with his vast contacts in Zanu PF, cultivated over the last four decades. The Macmillans, like other white business tycoons, are not immune to the factional battles that consume the ruling party.
“They have been arrested in the past for illegal possession of bullion and gold smuggling, but acquitted or released after paying small fines. Ruling party sources say the arrests are always linked to factional fights in the governing party.
“When one faction believes another is receiving more than its fair share of ‘bribes’, it usually uses the police and the courts to send a message, the sources say. It is a game that white Zimbabwean businessmen are well aware of. In 2003, Macmillan and his son were arrested and charged for smuggling gold worth about US$68 million to South Africa through a syndicate. They were acquitted but have remained in the gold buying business.”
Kenyan tycoon and pastor Paul Kamlesh Pattni, who was implicated in the 1990s Goldenberg scandal which involved unusual government subsidies for gold exports, is also close to Mnangagwa.
He is a major gold dealer. On Goldenberg, Pattniwas acquitted in 2013. Pattni, Ewan Macmillan, Rushwaya, Angel and state institutions are involved in the Al Jazeera exposé which features people around Mnangagwa bragging about their proximity to power and access to him.
The interlocutors say they can easily launder dirty money — US$100 million — from outside using what they call their laundromat — gold and the central bank. Smelling money and sometimes in the midst of quaffing whisky, they reveal how it is done.
Besides this, there are stunning revelations in the court case involving Bulawayo tycoon Mohammed Zakariya Patel and his former righthand man Ismail Moosa Lunat which exposes gold dealing, illegal currency transactions and money laundering.
The evidence of criminality contained in court documents and chats between Patel and Lunat covers the period from 24 May 2018 to 14 January 2019. The President’s Office is named in some of the communications between them.
The bulk of the evidence consists of WhatsApp messages between Patel and Lunat, records of local and international money transfers, memorandums, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe intelligence memos, a series of transactions that egregiously violate the Exchange Control Act, gold deals and money laundering statutes.
Lunat was Patel’s accountant for a period stretching from May 2018 to July 2019, hence intimately involved in his finances. When they fell out, they took each other to curt while exposing their dirty linen in public.
At the time, former Zanu PF MP and minister Jonathan Moyo latched on the issue and upped the ante against Mnangagwa.
“I’m uploading herewith raw evidence which exposes Mnangagwa & his wife Auxillia as the barons & beneficiaries of money laundering & gold smuggling by one Mohamed Zakariya Patel. The evidence covers the period from 24 May 2018 to 14 January 2019!,” Moyo tweeted.
“As is often the case in such matters, the main enabler tends to vary either their name by use of different spellings or even use of different names. So, here you get Mohamed Zakariya Patel, or Mohamed Zakaraya Patel or Mohammed Zackaraya Patel commonly known as ‘Zaks Patel’!
“The raw evidence consists of WhatsApp chats between Mohamed Zakariya Patel & Ishmael Mossa Lunat; along with key documents that backup the content of the chats. The chats specifically refer to ‘Number 1’ (Mnangagwa), ‘First lady’ (Auxillia) & ‘Pres (President’s) Office’.”
Moyo added: “The evidence is uploaded here as raw data to enable citizens, especially the media, civil society, churches, political parties & academia to do their own investigations to draw their own conclusions to inform their own interventions & praxis to tackle the crisis. Study it!
“The complete WhatsApp chats are uploaded; but highlighted here are Mohamed Zakariya Patel’s clear & unambiguous mentions of money laundering transactions for ‘Number 1’ (Mnangagwa) & a ‘fuming first lady’ (Auxillia); as well as visits to ‘Pres Office’ ( President’s Office)!
“Attached is the verbatim record of WhatsApp chats from 24 May 2018 to 14 January 2019 between Mohamed Zakariya Patel & Ishmael Moosa Lunat; implicating Mnangagwa (Number 1) & his wife (first lady) Auxillia, in money laundering and gold smuggling!
“It’s also clear from Mohamed Zakariya Patel’s Dossier that the biggest loser in the scam is Fidelity Printers & Refineries, meaning the people of Zimbabwe, who only get paid 45% of the value of the gold in RTGS local currency. It’s an untold story of shocking grand looting!
“What emerges is that Mnangagwa’s so-called anti-corruption campaign is fake. Mnangagwa has weaponised corruption, not to fight it but to criminalise his opponents and has used that criminalisation to cover up his & his family’s corruption as captured in the ‘Zaks Dossier’.
“The facts & the implications of the WhatsApp chats between Patel & Lunat speak for themselves; exposing serious crimes. The people must hold Mnangagwa & his wife Auxillia to account, without fear or favour. State House is now a looting haven!”
Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba refused to comment, saying he could not respond to snippets.
“What do you want from The NewsHawks, I don’t want to talk to you. What do you want to ask? Get lost, I don’t want to engage you on something which is not yours and secondly which has not yet played. You want me to speculate on a documentary which has not yet played? I don’t know about it because snippets are decontextualised. You think a snippet is a programme. I don’t respond to snippets,” Charamba said.
In the Al Jazeera case, the allure of making millions of dollars overnight through providing money laundering services — including a promise to provide a US$10 million payment to one of the gold dealers — and peddling proximity to power while quaffing fine whisky got Zimbabwe’s underworld gold barons into the Qatar-based international broadcaster Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit’s net.
The Investigative Unit’s mission is to act in the public interest in order to expose wrongdoing and speak truth to power. It operates under codes of practice of Britain’s Office of Communications which supports the finest traditions of public service journalism.
In its exclusive report titled Unveiling Zimbabwe’s Dark Secrets, Al Jazeera, judging by the film’s trailer and the threaded together snippets, exposes dirty money around gold dealing and laundering, as well as greed and looting.
Also subtitled Gold Mafia, the investigative news documentary has managed to whet Zimbabweans’ appetite, becoming the talk of the town this week. The trailer or preview advert trended in the country for days. Gold Mafia features Zimbabwean politicians, their cronies, government officials and gold dealers, as well as businesspeople caught in the crossfire, some of them ending up as collateral damage. In terms of structure and presentation, it is a four-part series film initially set to be released on March 2, 9, 16 and 23 2023.
The series looks at how society’s obsession with gold and its vanity through the ages underwrites a global shadow economy and underworld criminality. Since the dawn of civilisation, this shiny yellow metal has seduced inhabitants of every continent and every age.
In the process, the film exposes the complicity of politicians, state institutions, global financial institutions, regulators and governments in the criminal underworld.
Through thousands of confidential documents and exclusive interviews with whistle-blowers from within the underworld, investigators obtain the blueprints of billion-dollar money laundering operations that service the political elite and their cronies. The interface between politicians, underworld criminal networks and dirty money is laid bare.
Al Jazeera uses undercover investigative techniques to unearth the issue, a form of journalism in which a reporter or reporters infiltrate a group posing as somebody friendly as a ruse to gather information and evidence.
Across the world, undercover investigations, carefully balanced with ethics, have produced extraordinary, impactful journalism. In countries without public record transparency rules or strong source protection laws, going undercover can be one of the few tools reporters have to investigate public interest stories.
In the Al Jazeera case, undercover reporters pose as criminals possessing more than US$1 billion in the underworld which needs to be cleaned. The team is led by a fictitious character, Mr Stanley, a Chinese gangster with links to the Triads, which are Sino organised-crime networks. His undercover reporters befriend members of rival gold mafia gangs.
Mnangagwa’s envoy and self-styled cleric, Angel, who is also Zimbabwe’s ambassador-at-large to Europe and the Americas, takes the bait and explains how money is smuggled and laundered using his diplomatic passport.
In other words, how the diplomatic passport has now become a passport for money laundering.
“I am the second-largest diplomat in the country,” Angel tells undercover reporters.
“Right now I can have a bag like this with US$1.2 billion and put red tape written diplomat. Nobody can touch it. It is a very, very easy thing.”
Ewan Macmillan, who has been arrested several times before over gold activities, talks of how he smuggles gold using private planes through airstrips with the help of politicians and officials. Macmillan, a member of the well-known Macmillan family which has had so many brushes with the law, apparently reveals a lot.
Macmillan even describes Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga as a “dunderhead”.
The allure of money paid for laundry services and expensive whisky apparently played a part in spilling the beans.
Born Ewan Alexander Macmillan on 3 January 1971 in Chinhoyi, in the then Rhodesia, and a former rugby scrum-half, the gold baron is the son of Ian Macmillan, a retired businessman with interests in minerals.
The Macmillans were arrested several times. Ewan Macmillan was in 2007 arrested for illegal possession of 1.207kg of gold, but then escaped a five-year jail term when a magistrate’s court fined him on a technicality.
In 2003, Ian Macmillan and his son were arrested and charged for smuggling gold to South Africa through a syndicate. They were acquitted, but remained in the risky yet money-spinning gold trading business.
Ian Macmillan, his son Ewan, Clare Lynn Burdett and Collen Rose were arrested in South Africa at the time trying to smuggle gold worth about US$161 000. The Macmillan family is said to have made a fortune through gold milling and buying around Zimbabwe.
On Al Jazeera, Mr Stanley and his team get invited to closed-door meetings with Pattni, notorious for devising a gold export scam that siphoned US$600 million from Kenya in the 1990s. They also sit down with Pattni’s competitor and Ewan Macmillan, the convicted gold smuggler.
“There is an opportunity, a hell of a big opportunity to wash money here,” Ewan Macmillan says.
Both men are licensed gold traders in Zimbabwe and Dubai. They offer Al Jazeera’s undercover team lucrative deals to launder over US$100 million through government gold export schemes. The rival crime bosses reveal their proximity to the state banker laundromat.
The investigation reveals the gold mafia are employed by Zimbabwe’s ruling elite to export bullion on government’s behalf as a sanctions-busting measure. Mr Stanley speaks to Rushwaya, president of Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation and Mnangagwa’s niece.
Within minutes, she offers them a laundry service that can clean US$10 million of dirty cash a week, showing her 2020 ordeal has not deterred her.
Research says at least 60kg of gold worth millions of dollars is smuggled from Zimbabwe to Dubai monthly. As a result, more than US$100 million is lost monthly, or US$1.5 billion of gold is smuggled out of Zimbabwe every year, much of it to Dubai.
Tellingly, Zimbabwe’s government officials reacted with panic to an investigative documentary they have not even watched. Al Jazeera surprised its audiences when it announced at the eleventh hour that it was delaying airing the investigation.
The network sent emails to some Zimbabwean journalists advising the report had been put on hold.
“The report we were planning to release will no longer be released this morning. Bear with us as we arrange the release time,” Al Jazeera said.
After that, The NewsHawks later heard there were people interviewed or some sources no longer comfortable with being on record. Later it was said the film delayed because Dubai — a gold-trading hub — is pressuring neighbouring Qatar to change the narrative which makes it appear like it is a centre of illicit gold trade.
Although their relations were previously frosty over terrorism issues and at one time were severed, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are now trying to find each other with neighbours in the region involved.
There are fears in Zimbabwe, which is abuzz with talk of the investigation, that the state-owned Al Jazeera might be backtracking under legal, diplomatic or mafia pressure.
Mining, especially gold, is central to Mnangagwa’s economic revival plans and his Vision 2030, but at this rate Zimbabwe will continue to suffer the paradox of plenty or poverty amid vast natural endowments — the resource curse.
While political elites and gold barons mint millions, all that glitters is not gold for the majority of poverty-stricken Zimbabweans.