Zimbabwe: gold smuggling unions denounced
A new report has illustrated the scale of the scourge of gold smuggling in Zimbabwe, estimating that more than 70% of the country’s production has found its way behind the scenes of international markets.
Entitled ‘Illicit Gold Markets in East and Southern Africa’, the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime report said 10-30% of authorized buyers still sell bullion to printers and refiners State Fidelity (FPR) were only doing this to retain their licenses.
Global Initiative has estimated that around 50% of Zimbabwe’s roughly 1.5 million artisanal and small-scale gold miners (ASGMs) have hunted for the yellow metal.
The magnitude of the losses becomes apparent after considering that these miners produce around half of the gold traded in Zimbabwe each year, after a bloodbath in major gold mines since the turn of the century.
“Smuggling is rife,” Global Initiative said in the report.
“Gold buyers revealed in interviews that they sell between 10% and 30% of their gold to the RPF just to keep their gold licenses, with the rest being sold on the illicit market.
“Major foreign buyers, often from South Africa, are teaming up with Zimbabwean dealers to buy large amounts of gold on the illicit market.
“While Bulawayo’s reach is limited to gold mined in areas near the city, Harare attracts gold from all over the country.
“Bulawayo buyers generally have fewer resources and lack the US dollar purchasing power of their competitors in Harare.”
The report adds: “Miners or buyers can also bring gold directly into South Africa, especially from Matabeleland province in the south.
“It is believed that around 40% of the gold mined in Matabeleland is smuggled directly into South Africa.”
Global Initiative has made surprising revelations that the official crossing point, the Beitbridge border post, handles more contraband than any illegal crossing points in South Africa, where Johannesburg markets are the main beneficiaries.
The United Arab Emirates, China, India and Russia are said to be among Zimbabwe’s biggest gold destinations.
In 2015, the Reserve Bank (RBZ) of Zimbabwe also declared that Beitbridge had become the hotspot for smuggled gold.
“The ease with which it can be moved across the border makes it difficult to capture smugglers,” the central bank said.
“It is reported that a smuggler will only be arrested if the police have received an information, but they can easily pay a bribe to allow them to continue crossing the border.”
Global Initiative gave graphic details of a complex smuggling ring involving Sadc countries where Zimbabwean gold is shipped before ending up in Johannesburg, among political elites and powerful merchants at the center of vice.
“There are also small flows of gold between Zimbabwe and Mozambique in border areas, but the direction of the flow is unclear,” the report said.
“The involvement of foreign buyers has increased official gold deliveries, but it is also believed to fuel the illicit trade.
“If 17.5 tonnes, the official 2019 small-scale gold production figure, represented only this small share of actual ASM production, it means billions of dollars of gold are lost every year. for the benefit of the illicit market. “