- RBZ lifted assets freeze on individuals implicated in Al Jazeera's "Gold Mafia" documentary.
- FIU found no evidence of money laundering or related financial crimes.
- RBZ absolved the four parties of wrongdoing regarding the trade of gold.
The RBZ has lifted an asset freeze on select individuals implicated in Al Jazeera's documentary on Zimbabwe dubbed the "Gold Mafia." Assets belonging to Uebert Angel, a charismatic preacher based in London who also doubles as the Presidential Ambassador to Europe and the Americas, and Simon Rudlands, who runs a vast business empire stretching beyond Zimbabwe's borders, were also unfrozen. Kamlesh Pattni, a controversial pastor running a jewelry business and gold trading deals, as well as motor mouth Ewan Macmillan, a seasoned gold trader in Zimbabwe, capped the list of alleged "gold mafia" whose assets were frozen, while the RBZ's Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) carried out investigations.
In a statement, the Bank's FIU said it had concluded its analysis of the four episodes of the Al Jazeera documentary and had also analyzed the financial assets and transactions of the persons implicated in the documentary. The FIU determined that there is no good cause for the freezing order to remain in place. The FIU said it had not identified any transactions or assets linked to money laundering and related financial crimes connected to the allegations in the documentary.
The explosive four-series documentary involved Al Jazeera's undercover journalists and the implicated persons. The journalists went undercover for over two years and unearthed how Zimbabwe was used to launder illicit flows through the trade of gold. The process of trading gold is a preserve of a few dealers who until recently enjoyed the exclusive mandate, which was at the discretion of the RBZ.
Beyond laundering, the trade of gold came with steep commissions for the few agents and facilitated massive side marketing of the mineral by the same parties. Zimbabwe is estimated to lose about US$100 million a month through the side marketing of gold.
In concluding, the FIU said it has directed financial institutions to unfreeze all accounts and other financial assets that had been frozen pursuant to the directive of March 31, 2023. The unfreezing action is without prejudice to any further investigation by law enforcement agencies, either local or international. This means that the RBZ is ready to cooperate or allow any other authority carrying out similar or related investigations to fulfill their mandates.
Effectively, what the Bank has done is to absolve any of the four parties of wrongdoing regarding the trade of gold and illicit movements of money. There are no other investigations that may arise out of Zimbabwe that may yield any more meaningful results primarily because the RBZ is responsible for the trade of gold and the integrity of the financial sector, meaning they hold primary documents and a paper trail of all transactions done the financial system.
Before the statement was issued, Parliament Speaker Mudenda wrote to parliamentarians advising them that any investigations on the matter are suspended. He said the directive is informed by the need to avoid duplicity in investigation. He said other entities such as RBZ and IPEC, who are more specialized in their mandates, are carrying out investigations that may be prejudiced by Parliament's investigation.