The Investigative Unit of Al Jazeera in the first episode of a four-part investigation into gold smuggling in Africa titled Gold Mafia has revealed that a gold smuggler, Alistair Mathias, smuggles around $40 million worth out of the country monthly.
The first episode mainly focuses on Southern Africa, particularly Zimbabwe where a niece of President Mnangagwa is mentioned as the kingpin heading the alleged gold smuggling scam.
Alistair Mathias, a Canadian national, allegedly launders money for people all over the world, from Russians to African politicians.
Mathias, who is based in Dubai, according to the Al Jazeera report uses a web of companies and refineries to make sure money “gets moved around”.
“You’ve sold it to a refinery and the money got paid in the bank account. So, it’s very clean that way,” he told Al Jazeera’s undercover reporters.
Mathias works for Ewan Macmillan a loud and loquacious gold smuggler. Macmillan was first jailed for gold smuggling in the early 1990s when he was just 21 years old. By his own account, he has been to prison on several occasions since then.
Now, he partners with the same Zimbabwean state machinery that once used to arrest him. Also known as Mr Gold, Macmillan is among a set of smugglers — including Pattni — who each work with Zimbabwe’s state-run refinery, Fidelity. He is also an acquaintance of Simon Rudland, a Zimbabwean millionaire who has been accused by South African authorities of money laundering.
According to Mathias, he “moves” gold valued at between $70mn and $80mn around every month. Apart from Zimbabwe, he listed Ghana, South Africa and Zambia among the countries that Macmillan and he can “export” gold from. Macmillan told Al Jazeera reporters that Mathias also works with “the Russians”.
Mathias, initially uncomfortable about Ewan Macmillan’s boastful attitude in front of Al Jazeera reporters, then explained what they needed to do in order for him to help launder their cash — set up a company in Dubai that they could claim was involved in the gold trade.
When asked for a formal comment about the findings of Al Jazeera’s investigation, Mathias denied that he designed mechanisms to launder money and said that he had not laundered money or traded illegal gold for Russian clients or anyone else. He told us he had never had any working relationship with Macmillan.