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Gold Mafia: RBZ says there is no evidence supporting Al Jazeera allegations

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has directed financial institutions to unfreeze all the accounts and other financial assets belonging to individuals who were implicated in alleged smuggling and money laundering by Al Jazeera’s documentary series that was premiered in March and April this year.

The central bank said it froze the assets of Cleopas Chidodo, David Chirozvi, Mehlululi Dube and Fredrick Kunaka, who told the undercover Al Jazeera reporters that they accepted money to assist a gold-smuggling and money laundering.

The four men, all Zimbabwean nationals, made the statements in a four-part documentary series called “Gold Mafia”.

State media reports in early April indicated that the RBZ had directed that accounts belonging to Ewan McMillan, Kamlesh Pattni, Uebert Angel, and Simon Rudland should be frozen.

But in a statement issued on Monday, 15 May 2023, FIU director Oliver Chiperesa said the Unit had not identified transactions linked to money laundering connected to the allegations in the Al Jazeera documentary. Reads the statement:

Following the broadcast of Al Jazeera’s documentary series titled “The Gold Mafia,” the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) issued a directive on 31 March 2023 directing financial institutions to identify, freeze and report bank accounts and other financial assets owned and/or controlled by individuals who were alleged to have played key roles in alleged acts of money laundering and other financial crimes.

The FIU exercised its temporary freezing powers to ensure that any illicit proceeds connected to the allegations in the documentary would not be dissipated or disposed of by the persons concerned and prejudice potential future investigations.

The FIU, working in close collaboration with law enforcement agencies, has since concluded its analysis of the four episodes of the Al Jazeera documentary and has also analyzed the financial assets and transactions of the persons implicated in the documentary and has determined that there is no good cause for the freezing order to remain in place.

The FIU has not identified transactions/assets linked to money laundering and related financial crime connected to the allegations in the Al Jazeera documentary.

In view of the above, the FIU has directed financial institutions to unfreeze all the accounts and other financial assets that had been frozen pursuant to the directive of 31 March 2023.

The unfreezing action is without prejudice to any further investigations that law enforcement agencies may wish to commence or continue against any of the persons involved.

Some of the allegations in the documentary relate to money laundering and financial crimes alleged to have taken place outside Zimbabwe’s borders.

The FIU, if so requested, stands ready and is indeed mandated to cooperate with any international investigations against any of the persons or entities mentioned in the documentary. – (Pindula)

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