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UN report: Uganda, Burundi are two major transit routes of smuggled gold from Congo

By Timothy Sibasi,

KAMPALA – A new the United Nations report on illicit smuggling of gold from the Democratic Republic of Congo to the United Arab Emirates has identified two East African member states of Uganda and Burundi as major transit routes smuggled gold from DRC.

The report has also slapped sanctions on two major leading Ugandan companies dealing in the export and importation of gold from Congo to the international markets in Dubai.

Gold packed ready for export

Oral interviews conducted from Seven different gold traders separately by the UN team of investigators in Butembo, Kampala and Dubai confirmed that the main personalities involved in orchestrating the laundering and smuggling of gold from Butembo onto Kampala and Dubai are RajendraVaya and family, and J.V. Lodhia (who is known by Congolese and Indian traders as “Chuni”) and his son KunalLodhia. These businessmen are Ugandans but of Indian origin are based in Kampala and have extensive family ties in Nairobi, Kenya according to the report.

MrVaya is the director of Machanga Ltd, and J.V. Lodhia is the director of Ugandan Commercial Impex Ltd (UCI Ltd), both of which face UN sanctions not to export gold to the international markets in UAE.

Gold traders confirmed to the UN team of experts that both MrVaya and the Lodhia family have been pre-financing cash to trusted intermediaries who then offer slightly above market prices in order to guarantee maximum interest from DRC local traders. MrVaya’s network reportedly handles more volume of gold than MrLodhia’s network.

The gold is then smuggled to Kampala by road or by commercial flight to Entebbe and finally onto Dubai, where it is handled by an associate of both families called Jigar Kumar. Mr Kumar was named as a gold supplier on the 2008 client list of Emirates Gold, a major gold refinery in Dubai. Kampala traders have also confirmed that Mr Kumar is a family relative of MrVaya. Mr Kumar works at a foreign exchange bureau in Dubai called Asia Exchange Centre, which employs workers whose presence have been noted by the UN team of experts at MrVaya’s Kampala-based foreign exchange bureau, VayaForex.

Congolese miners claim $1.2bn of unpaid tax

A DRC senate report published in August 2017 estimated that 40 tonnes, or 1.24 billion US dollars of gold, is smuggled out of the DRC each year through Uganda and Burundi. On the basis of that figure and other interviews, the UN team of experts estimates that armed groups, in particular the FDLR, derive several million dollars of revenues each year from the trade which therefore represents one of the most significant avenues of direct financing for them.

The Group has traced the flow of gold from sites exploited and taxed by the FDLR and other militia, and demonstrates in this section that significant amounts of gold are being trafficked through the region, particularly through Uganda and Burundi, and eventually sold in the United Arab Emirates.

The Group demonstrates that the networks in Uganda and Burundi are inter-related and both have commercial ties to individuals operating in the UAE.

According to the UN team of experts report, money from Uganda is given to Congolese mafias KahindoMuhiwa, Katina KambaleMbayahi and KambaleVikalwe, who control gold business in North Kivu town of Butembo who principally buy from suppliers on behalf of Ugandan companies.

These Congolese mafias MrMuhiwa, MrKambale and MrVikalwehave created a company called Glory Minerals, along with a fourth partner, NzanzuMbusa, the widow of Dr KambaleKisoni, who have been listed also by the UN team of experts for targeted sanctions.

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