The net is closing in on a sophisticated gold smuggling syndicate allegedly involving processors, buyers and corrupt officials from Fidelity Printers and Refiners — a gold buying arm of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
This comes as Fidelity has said that gold smugglers could have creamed the country of almost US$1,6 billion since dollarisation .
Gold is the second largest foreign currency earner in the economy after tobacco. RBZ Governor Dr John Mangudya told Business Weekly yesterday that Zimbabwe is being prejudiced of millions of dollars as smugglers are attracted by huge incentives offered by dealers mainly in neighbouring countries.
Investigators seized with the matter say a probe into the gold smuggling racket was opened after a whistle blower lifted the lid open on how Consha Syndicate, Carbon Processors and some Fidelity officials who are suspected of having diverted 115 kilogrammes of gold (almost $4 million) to the black market.
Consha Syndicate is a Matabeleland gold buying agent while Carbon Processers is understood to be the owners of an elution plant, again in Matabeleland. The charge sheet details shown Business Weekly indicate that an official with Consha Syndicate, Mr Shasha Gomez, who operates a few metres away from Carbon Processors, was allegedly failing to account properly for over 60kg of gold. The 60kg of gold have a value of almost US$2 million.
It is also alleged that Consha delivered 70kg of gold valued at about US$1,5 million to Fidelity in June last year2017. The agent was allegedly paid 2 percent commission on the gold which was supposed to go directly to Government.
Sources also say between January and December last year, 31kg of gold could not be accounted for from Carbon Processors, and investigators suspect that the company could be violating the Gold Trade Act. Documents seen by Business Weekly show that Carbon Processors also processed 25,1kg of gold but it was not delivered to Fidelity.
Analysts have raised questions on why Consha was buying gold from Carbon Processors, when the move contravenes Statutory Instrument 63 of 2006, Gold Trade (Elution Plants Control) Regulations, 2006 which directs processors to directly sell gold to Fidelity.
SI 63 of 2006 reads; “Effect of registration of the elution plants; 4 (1) Upon registration of an elution plant, the operator thereof shall, for all purposes of the Gold Trade Act (Chapter 21:03) be deemed to be operating a gold recovery works plant.
“(2) As soon as the operator finishes smelting the gold, the operator shall enter it into the register.
(3) The operator shall sell all the gold to Fidelity Printers and Refinery.”
Carbon Processors representative Mr Nicholas Donovan denied he was conniving with Mr Gomez. “We don’t sell gold to Consha Syndicate but they get it from our customers. All we do is gold processing for miners,” he said.
However, Mr Donovan could not explain the implications of customers selling gold through an agent given that SI 63 of 2006 directs that all gold from the elution plant be sold to FPR.
Mr Gomez declined to comment and referred questions to FPR general manager Mr Fradreck Kunaka.
Mr Kunaka said: “I am not really aware of that matter but thank you for alerting me. I will look into the matter and we talk next week.”
This is despite the fact that Gomez said he had discussed the matter with Mr Kunaka.
Investigators in Bulawayo said another round of checks on reconciliation figures of gold which was processed at Carbon Processors, compared to what was sold to FPR revealed glaring discrepancies.
Mr Gomez said he had “a special arrangement with Fidelity Printers through its head of gold operations Mr Mehluleli Dube”.
Plans to net smugglers
Government is working on measures to curb gold smuggling through the establishment of a commercial crimes court to deal expeditiously with the scourge of growing leakage of potential gold revenue through smuggling.
Dr Mangudya said while its sole authorised gold buyer, Fidelity Printers, offered a 5 percent incentive above the price to producers, foreign dealers offered up to 15 percent as a premium.
He stressed that there was need to guard against smuggling and contain the “ugly” headed aspect of indiscipline, pointing out that part of the solution was meting out punitive sentences through the courts.