Zimbabwe freezes assets of 4 implicated in gold smuggling, money laundering Aljazeera investigation

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has frozen assets of four men who told the al-Jazeera television

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has frozen assets of four men who told the al-Jazeera television

Zimbabwe’s central bank has frozen the assets of four individuals who said they assisted a long-running gold smuggling and money laundering ring.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe said Thursday it froze the assets of Cleopas Chidodo, David Chirozvi, Mehlululi Dube and Fredrick Kunaka, who told the al-Jazeera television channel they accepted money to assist a gold-smuggling and money laundering ring that has operated for the past 23 years.

The four men, all Zimbabwean nationals, made the statements in a four-part documentary series called ‘Gold Mafia’ that first aired last month.

Prosper Chitambara, a senior researcher and economist at the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe, said the move is a good one in renewing the fight against corruption in the country. Corruption, he said, contributes to the high cost of doing business in Zimbabwe.

“It also then affects the development of other critical sectors because resources are being diverted to productive spending into a few individuals’ pockets,” he said. “So I believe there is need to obviously do more.”

Chitambara stressed the need to take steps.

“We need stronger disincentives, we need stronger penalties, stricter penalties to disincentive, to dissuade and discourage corrupt tendencies,” he said. “But there should be no sacred cows. Every person who is accused to have been involved in any corruption must be brought to account and be prosecuted.”

On Thursday, both the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission refused to comment on the freezing of the assets or on the Gold Mafia documentary series until all four episodes are screened. But Monica Mutsvangwa, Zimbabwe’s Information minister, said the government had instructed responsible departments to take action.

“Government takes the allegations which are raised in the documentary seriously and has directed relevant organs to institute investigations into issues raised therein,” said Mutsvangwa.

“Any person found to have been engaged in acts of corruption, fraud or any form of crime will face the full wrath of the law. Government remains seized with the matter and the nation will be kept appraised of any new development with the matter.”

Zimbabwe’s government has been accused of ignoring corruption that is associated with senior officials of the ruling ZANU-PF party. Critics say that corruption is a big reason why the country’s economy has stayed in the doldrums for years.

Last year, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission spent about $33 million investigating corruption but to date no convictions have been made.

Authorities have not said if they are looking for the four suspects in the gold smuggling case. On Thursday all their phones were not reachable, raising suspicion that they might have eluded arrest.

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