The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and law enforcement agencies have intensified the probe on eight individuals implicated in the Al Jazeera Gold Mafia documentary series to save Zimbabwe from violating strict regulations of the global money laundering and terrorist-financing watchdog.
Zimbabwe has since made the necessary reforms to address its money laundering and terrorist financing weaknesses and has been removed from the grey list by the Financial Action Task Force (FAFT).
The combined probe comes as part of the country’s efforts to combat money laundering and expose corrupt activities related to gold smuggling, bribery, and other illegal practices.
FIU director general Oliver Chiperesa said his organisation and the law enforcement agencies working together have been using this opportunity to identify assets and analyse transactions to establish possible links to crime.
“The interim measures were also taken while monitoring and analysing the documentary episodes as they came out to see if there was further information that could potentially be used in criminal investigations.
After all the episodes, we are now sitting down with other relevant agencies and evaluating what is available, and deciding on the next course of action.
“The FIU will not make a decision alone but in close consultation with law enforcement agencies as we always do,” Chiperesa said.
FIU has ordered the freezing of assets and accounts belonging to Ewan McMillan, Kamlesh Pattni, Uebert Mudzanire (also known as Angel) and Simon Rudland.
The Unit said it is awaiting police and Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission to pursue further action both against those whose accounts we have already frozen or anyone else.
He said freezing was done given some serious allegations made in the documentary against certain individuals suggesting they may have been involved in serious financial crime.
“The freezing is not a seizure of the funds or assets but simply an interim measure and a precaution to ensure that potential proceeds of crime are not disposed of or transferred before law enforcement agents can commence possible investigations. It is important to emphasise that what is there at the moment are largely allegations and suspicions,” Chiperesa said.
The FIU boss said financial crimes are committed across the world but local and international authorities demand a course of action after the perpetration of wrongdoing.
“FAFT will not worry about the fact that a crime has been committed in Zimbabwe, they worry about what the authorities have done with the issue. It has no consequence at all as it will draw us back to the grey list.
“We have put in place systems to investigate the purported crime and that is the most important thing. We will not be taken back to the grey list because of these allegations. That’s why we have taken action on the allegations raised,” Chiperesa said.
He also said there is a need to publicise the outcome of these investigations and analysis.
It is believed that the rationale behind the probing of bank accounts will help to trace how the money was moved or laundered.
This will help to investigate if there was laundering taking place.
If someone was laundering money, FIU will see it through the checking of anomalies in the bank accounts.
Banks everyday monitor accounts and after the intelligence gives them the information they may see suspicious transactions.
The probing of accounts will help with allegations against the criminality that one has committed with the funds and prohibits one to dispose of the assets before the investigations are carried out.
This helps to recover the proceeds of the crime.
A source close to the developments told this publication that some of the gold mafia kingpins could face international probes.
“The likes of Mudzanire, McMillan, Pattni and Rudland could face international probe as various authorities in South Africa and the United Kingdom are asking for financial trials from FIU for these people as they may have violated money laundering laws in these countries.
“It is not surprising to see their assets being frozen outside the country’s borders,” a source said.
Chiperesa said FIU is not aware of the commencement of investigations in other countries.
“If that is the case that would be normal. Money laundering can often have transnational dimensions. That’s often the case when proceeds of crime are moved from one country to another,” he said.
Mudzanire, a well-known figure, and the self-proclaimed prophet was captured in an Al Jazeera documentary offering to use his diplomatic cover to launder large volumes of cash into Zimbabwe as part of a gold smuggling operation.
He was also seen repeatedly name-dropping President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s name.
Rudland, along with McMillan, were portrayed in the documentary as smugglers who had dealt with Fidelity Gold Refinery to deliver gold purchased from small-scale miners to the refinery.
Pattni was featured in the documentary offering to help the undercover reporters launder more than US$100m.
The combined probe comes as the UK’s upper house of Parliament, the House of Lords, wants the British government to probe the allegations of criminal activity against its citizen, Angel.
In questions tabled on Monday, Lord Oates asked His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of allegations of corruption and money laundering contained in the Al Jazeera documentary Gold Mafia, and what steps, if any, they will take to freeze assets held in the UK or dependent territories by those who have been (1) alleged to have engaged in, and (2) found guilty of, financial crime.
Lord Oates asked His Majesty’s Government what steps they would take, if any, to investigate alleged discrepancies in the application that Uebert Angel, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador at Large, made for British citizenship
Lord Oates asked His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of allegations against British citizens named in the Al Jazeera documentary, Gold Mafia; and what steps they will take, if any, to investigate the activities of companies whose named directors are alleged to have been involved in conspiracy to commit financial crime.
Lord Oates asked His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of whether British citizen Uebert Angel should retain diplomatic status as Zimbabwe’s Ambassador at Large.
The questions are due for answer by May 2.