How the Gold Mafia points out the nexus between money laundering and political finance.

A recent four-part investigation titled “Gold Mafia” by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit) has revealed how a network of gangs with the help of high-ranking officials in power in Southern Africa are engaged in a practice of turning dirty money (obtained illegally or dishonestly) into sparkling clean, seemingly legitimate money through the smuggling of gold. This practice commonly known as money laundering has now become a norm used by most kleptocrats in Africa to rob their countries with the help of their created networks.

One of the things that the Gold Mafia series exposes is how proceeds from corruption (dirty money) end up being used by kleptocratic regime for power retention projects such as financing their re-election into political office. This should not come as a surprise because money is the oil that keeps the wheel of kleptocratic regimes moving, and they need it in huge sums to buy off political opponents, sustain the patronage networks and as well bribe voters. A big portion of the money hugely spent by kleptocrats for their political expediency doesn’t come from clean sources, they rely mainly on dirty money to finance elections because this would not have grave economic shocks.

In the Gold Mafia series, one of Zimbabwe’s top ambassadors, Uebert Angel, appointed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to attract investments from Europe and North America, revealed to the Al Jazeera team how much it cost to run an election campaign for the president. He revealed that running an election campaign for Emmerson Mnangagwa costs about $240 million. So for any money laundering scheme to go through you need to always have the king with you (president) and this can only be happening with a meeting that has to be facilitated with a fee of $200,000. SecretsKnown has learnt that it has become a trend to source for money for campaigns or regime retention projects in the pretext of facilitation fees.

Alistair Mathias, one of the money launderers who met with Al Jazeera’s undercover reporters, told them “as long as you grease the wheel in Africa, there is no issue” meaning that you can carry on with your business as long as you make some payment to those in high ranking political positions to do your business.

This is a clear testament that gangs and crooks who are engaged in money laundering activities do bankroll election campaigns of an incumbent political party and/or candidates so that upon assuming political office, they can protect their illegal businesses. It is also not uncommon for crooks to use campaign finance donations to capture the state and exert influence on the legislature with a view to sabotage or avoid investigations into their illegal activities.

The lack of openness and transparency in sourcing campaign funds by political parties and candidates has created a dark cloud that allows the proceeds from predicate financial offenses to end up financing election campaigns. This is largely why political parties and candidates are by default, classified as Politically Exposed Persons (PEP).

With this kind of corruption on the rise, it is high time we make the fight against kleptocracy and international corruption a key priority.  This is because corruption—and its weaponization by antidemocratic forces—harms effective governance, undermines economic growth, weakens the rule of law, and corrodes public trust.

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