According to shocking new disclosures, convicted gold smuggler Ewan Macmillan has admitted to Al Jazeera that President Emmerson Mnangagwa is a business associate.
After being contacted by the TV network’s undercover reporters to assist them in repurchasing millions of funds they claimed were stranded in Hong Kong, Macmillan made the sensational assertion.
I started mining gold when I was 19 years old. 1991 would be the year I spent my first night in prison because I was 21 at the time. According to a recording made available on Tuesday, the twice-convicted gold smuggler told Al Jazeera Investigations Unit, “I went to do a lot of jail in the 1990s.
The president is my collaborator, which you won’t believe. I spent 60 days behind bars, and my new companion is the new president.
Al Jazeera’s investigation spanned at least three years, ZimLive has been told. The Qatar-based network will on Thursday release the second instalment of its four-part series, revealing how cartels connected to Mnangagwa have been pillaging the country’s gold resources and laundering money with the help of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe unit, Fidelity Printers and Refiners.
The apex bank denies the allegations.
Macmillan told Al Jazeera that between 1998 and 2000, he served a prison sentence after agreeing to protect Mnangagwa, then the state security minister in charge of the country’s dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation.
He told the undercover journalists: “I got sent two ginormous black guys, and they said ‘you know who your partner is, don’t mention it, or your life will get so much worse’.”
Macmillan has a licence from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to buy and export gold, despite his criminal history. He told reporters he could leverage his licence to held Al Jazeera’s reporters clean their dirty cash.
Alexander James, one of the lead investigators, said the encounter with Macmillan was a “chance meeting in a bar” of a safari lodge.
“We knew that was the sort of place he would go to. He introduced himself as Mr Gold and the rest flowed from there,” James said in the podcast which described Macmillan as a “large man with tussled hair who likes to drink and likes to talk, and is all charm.”
Macmillan told the reporters there was “a big opportunity, a hell of an opportunity” in Zimbabwe before telling them he could move their millions in Hong Kong to Zimbabwe where it would be used to buy gold, which would then be sold in Dubai in the United Emirates.
Said James: “When Macmillan lands in Harare, he will declare that cash and say is the proceeds from this gold export that we have just done, and at that moment a customs form is signed and stamped, and that cash becomes clean, because it has an origin.”
Macmillan picks up from James, explaining: “And when they come and say where did this money come from, there’s a contract back to Dubai, back to Zimbabwe, and the profit is US$3 million a week of gold which is coming legitimately, paperwork and everything into Dubai.”
James said “the only place that you could do this scam, the only place this could work” in the world is Zimbabwe, because the country is a “cash US dollar economy.”
Macmillan said he was exporting 200 kilogrammes of gold weekly to Dubai, about US$12 million, telling Al Jazeera he buys the mineral from artisanal miners “and I don’t have to produce any paperwork.”
The Al Jazeera investigation has ensnared several officials, including Zimbabwe Miners Federation boss Henrietta Rushwaya and ambassador at large Uebert Angel.
Angel, a self-styled prophet whose assignment covers over 50 countries including the Europe and the Americas, was seen on undercover video offering to launder US$1.2 billion to the reporters using his diplomatic bag.
In a statement attempting to refute some of Al Jazeera’s findings, Angel – who was filmed discussing laundering money with Rushwaya – let slip that the TV network apparently will also show him talking to Zimbabwe’s first lady Auxillia Mnangagwa and her son, Emmerson Junior.
Angel’s statement – apparently issued under pressure from the first lady – claims that the individuals who will be identified as Mrs Mnangagwa and her son are in fact decoys he created after sensing that Al Jazeera’s undercover journalists were fake. He also claims he has never met her. The narrative has found few takers.
Macmillan was also filmed speaking disparagingly of Zimbabwe’s vice president Constantino Chiwenga, the former Defence Forces commander who led a military coup that ousted the late president Robert Mugabe in 2017 and installed Mnangagwa in his place after he had been fired as vice president and fled to South Africa. The military said it was targeting “criminals around the president,” but critics say corruption is worse under Mnangagwa, who allegedly has over two dozen kids – all with state benefits or involved in name dropping or alleged cash-for-access corruption.
George Charamba, the spokesman in the presidency, on Tuesday flew into a wild Twitter rant threatening journalists with arrest for reporting Al Jazeera’s explosive allegations.
“Some people we will bring them food in prison, continue getting over-excited,” he wrote on Twitter, responding to the news website NewsHawks which reported Al Jazeera’s allegations.
He added menacingly: “You will entertain yourselves with Job Sikhala very soon. There is a limit to nonsense and provocation we can take.”
Job Sikhala is the Member of Parliament for Zengeza West, held without bail since June 2022 for allegedly inciting violence against Mnangagwa’s regime. Over a dozen bail applications have been turned down by the courts, which his party says are captured.
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