The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) says it has set up a special team of investigators to probe gold smuggling.
Loice Matanda-Moyo, the ZACC chairperson, told Grazers News that the commission recently recruited more than 20 investigators “who are experts in busting gold smuggling”.
This would add up with the Zimbabwe Republic Police’s minerals section and a Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) unit dedicated to smuggling.
Gold smuggling is rife in Zimbabwe despite the existence of the police and intelligence units.
Last Sunday, South African’s Hawks organised crime unit arrested Nyasha Masinire at the OR Tambo airport after finding him in possession of 23 pieces of gold worth an estimated US$700,000 that was stuffed in his luggage.
Masinire, a 33 year-old Zimbabwean national who was on Monday granted R100, 000 at the Kempton Park regional court, had sneaked through the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport with the gold.
Fresh reports say he was an aide and driver to Henrietta Rushwaya, the president of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation who is currently being tried in court for allegedly trying to smuggle six kilogrammes of gold through the same airport in October last year.
Rushwaya did not respond to whether or not she is linked to Masinire.
Masinire allegedly had no permit to enter South Africa with the gold, nor documents authorising him to trade in the precious metal.
He will go back to court on 1 July.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) recently published a report that estimated that some US$1.5 billon gold was being smuggled from Zimbabwe annually.
Matanda-Moyo said manpower shortages had constrained investigations of gold smuggling.
“We are indeed concerned with the cases of gold smuggling. In the past, as ZACC, we investigated the cases but stopped on the way due to lack of manpower. But I can confirm that we will soon resume,” she said.
ZACC recruited experts from various fields like financial intelligence, data analysis and engineering who took them through a rigorous one-month long training stint on investigating smuggling, added Matanda-Moyo.
“We hope that this team will help us a lot in ending corruption done through smuggling. The investigators that we recruited were already experts and we widened their capacity through the one-month long training,” she said.
While Zimbabwean airports are suspected to be active routes for gold smuggling, illegal syndicates have been using the country’s porous borders too to take the mineral out.
Trafficked Zimbabwean gold is finding its way to various destinations, among them South Africa, Dubai, India and Europe, with local smugglers believed to include powerful politicians and businesspeople, their proxies and dealers in the countries of destination.
A United Nations (UN) report produced in late 2019 noted that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had become the biggest importer of Zimbabwean gold.
Investigative research carried out separately by other agencies showed that there was a variance between the gold exported from Zimbabwe and the amounts receipted in Dubai.
There was more gold receipted as imports than what the Zimbabwean government declared as exports, indicated that a significant amount was being smuggled into Dubai, whose lax laws allow for illegal importation, according to experts.