By Our Reporters
The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has impounded 50 kilograms of gold from smugglers at Entebbe International Airport, which was en-route to the United Arab Emirates.
A notice about gold smuggling issued on Friday, September 23rd, 2022, indicates that the impounded gold was smuggled from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) by Nelson Konga to Uganda on August 7th, 2022, who was trying to smuggle it to the U.A.E through another smuggler identified as Ashraf Ahmad Mohammed, before it was seized by URA operatives after they detected discrepancies in its paperwork.
According to the notice, the impounded gold bars weighing 50 kilograms were received from the Democratic Republic of Congo through Nexent Mining Sarlu by Konga Nelson to Uganda on August 7, 2022, consigned to Platinum Mineral Limited, and meant for export to the United Arab Emirates under Consignee Ashraf Ahmad Mohammed.
The gold was captioned to provide valid documents as per the various dates of the cargo receipt in Uganda, which documents were found lacking by customs officials.
That was after customs officials discovered that an ICGLR certificate No. CEEC6747/09/291 regarding the consignment did not correspond to the goods dates, which led to the conclusion that the document had been submitted with intention of smuggling the gold.
The customs officials therefore based on the forged ICGLR certificate No. CEEC6747/09/291 to impound the gold from the smugglers.
The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region is a regional body that issues certificates to miners and mineral companies dealing in precious minerals like gold, and diamonds, among others in a bid to regulate the smuggling of these minerals to and from across the Great Lakes Region.
According to sources who are well versed in the gold market, a kilo of gold for export is valued at about US$57,000 (UGX 219 million); which would put the value of that consignment at US$2.85 million (UGX10.75 billion).
This means that the government would have lost the billions worth of revenue in evaded taxes had the gold been smuggled out of the country.
It should be noted that a 2017 report by the Financial Intelligence Authority (UIA) indicated that gold from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was being rebranded in Uganda and exported as Ugandan gold mostly to the UAE.
In 2020, Uganda signed an agreement with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), to adopt the certification mechanism and audit of minerals termed as ‘blood’ or ‘conflict’ minerals.
An authentic ICGLR certificate is therefore meant to prove that the mineral consignment is conflict or blood-free and can therefore be sold at a good price on international markets.
“Conflict minerals” or “blood minerals” refer to minerals that contribute to armed conflict, risks, child labor, corruption, violence, and human rights abuses in the region.
Regional member states set up 2010 the ICGLR Regional Certification Mechanism on the Fight against illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources to issue certificates, and audit mining companies, and mineral exporters of tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold.
Entebbe Airport has been listed as a notorious transit route for gold smuggled as hand luggage.
Another 2013 report compiled by the United Nation indicates that gold worth at least US$400 million was smuggled out of the Democratic Republic of Congo to Uganda and other East African countries.
The latest United Nations report assessing the gold smuggling racket points out that this money is being used as a source of financing the wars raging in the eastern DR Congo.
Following the rampant gold smuggling, Activists and UN investigators have over time accused Uganda and several of Congo’s neighbors of being complicit in the plundering of the country’s gold and smuggling it to the United Arab Emirates via Entebbe International Airport.
To curtail this rampant smuggling, the United States has since pushed electronics firms to prove that minerals used in products from laptops to smartphones are not from rebel-held mines in DR. Congo and other impoverished African countries, the reason why most of it is being smuggled to the U.A.E, from where it is rebranded, before being shipped to America and Europe.