Photo : Soraya Hakuziyaremye, the Minister of Trade and Industry, admires gold being processed at the new refinery in Kigali, June 19.
The airports in Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi are the only route for gold smuggled out of DR congo to reach international markets in the middle east, says a UN Group of experts report.
From Bukavu the capital of south Kivu province, smugglers enter Rwanda through Rusizi district, directly bordered, to Kigali. From here, the gold goes to Dubai, the experts say.
Some smugglers have been given transit access through Bujumbura, which those others prefer instead of Kigal.
The experts report that “several sources described corruption among officials” at the Rwanda border. In Bukavu, two middlemen working with two Bukavu-based gold traders told the UN Group that they crossed the Rusizi border at least twice a week and that officials never checked their vehicles, “because of an arrangement between their employers and border officials”.
However, traders from Butembo, in north Kivu and located 125km north from Goma, carry their gold supplies to Kampala, Uganda.
From these DRC regions, the experts say the gold is transported “usually in cars with carriers by road” to the three cities.
“The Group investigated cases of smuggling of artisanal gold and found that, as previously reported, most Congolese gold was smuggled through neighbouring countries to Dubai as the main destination. The absence of a traceability system for artisanal gold continued to hamper efforts to control the sector,” reads the group’s report
The report was submitted to the UN Security Council on June 7 but only becoming public.
Several sources associated with gold trade told the UN Group that wealthy traders in Butembo and Bukavu or buyers in transit countries and Dubai financed the smugglers, enabling them to buy gold and transport it to foreign markets.
Traders directly involved in such transactions with gold traders based in Butembo told the UN Experts that traders with no affiliation with the gold trade lent money to their bosses.
The latter used the money in order to buy gold in Butembo. Traders who lent money were paid back in cash, either in Kampala or in Dubai, by those who received gold.
The Group believes that circumventing the banking system through gold-based financial transactions generates a lack of transparency and violates the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force as reflected in Congolese legislation.
In February 2019, during a meeting in Kigali, unnamed Rwandan officials informed the experts that a new gold refinery (Aldango Ltd.) would officially launch its activities later in 2019.
The refinary opened on June 19, and there was even a media tour for select media.
“The Group believes that relevant government authorities and supply chain actors should monitor the activities of this company in order to ensure that due diligence standards are implemented,” say the UN team of the Rwandan refinery.