The COVID-19 pandemic is a blessing in disguise to some people. The latest information gathered indicates that highly connected people in the East African region are taking advantage of the COVID-19 situation to make multimillion deals through smuggling gold from Congo and Burundi via Uganda to Asian and Arabic World.
Credible sources reveal that an estimated one ton of gold worth over US$50m (Shs189bn) is currently stuck at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya after Ugandan security whistle blowers leaked information late after the gold had already crossed Uganda to Nairobi last week.
We have also learnt that some of the whistle-blowers in the security circles at border posts have since been arrested and detained in Kampala coolers at the orders of merciless untouchable dealers.
It is worth noting that there has been a suggestion by Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development to scrap off and eliminate licensing of private dealers and award a sole contract to the African Gold Refinery (AGR) so that it is responsible for gold business in the country.
The AGR was launched in Uganda with the aim of adding value to gold from Uganda and surrounding countries, a development that has seen gold exports increase despite smuggling.
Uganda’s gold exports more than doubled in 2019 compared with the previous year, according to data from the Bank of Uganda.
The east African country shipped $1.25 billion worth of gold last year, compared with $514.8 million exported in the previous 12 months.
However, one of the concerns around the gold exports is where it was sourced.
AGR was once under scrutiny for the same reasons mentioned.
AGR business has been particularly to deal with refining, melting, assaying and logistics.
It’s a public secret that gold and other resources from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have for a long time been smuggled through Uganda.
Local, regional and international media have for many years reported extensively about the smuggling of gold from DRC.
There have been accusations, counter accusations and denials especially on how gold is smuggled, transported from the country of origin and the people involved.
What’s clear though is that both Uganda and DRC continue to lose revenue as the illegal act continues.
For Uganda, being branded a regional gold smuggling and trading hub isn’t good news for the East African country; it discredits the country regionally and internationally.
Uganda can hugely benefit if government comes up with stringent measures to lockup gaps through which gold is smuggled from DRC, a country that is eager to join the East African Community (EAC).
It’s worth noting that President Yoweri Museveni has been at the forefront of integrating East Africa and this can only happen when countries are cooperating with each other.
According to my research, gold is smuggled by unscrupulous dealers with the aid of private charter planes and diplomatic cargo, with the main transit routes being in Uganda through Entebbe International Airport by either means of connivance from airport officials or sheer negligence of duty from the same or from those whose responsibility is to man security at the airport.
We’ll keep you posted about new developments
By Amon Baita