Zimbabwean Ambassador-at-large Uebert Angel is at the center of a major scandal after an Al Jazeera undercover investigation revealed that he had offered to launder millions of dollars through a gold-smuggling scheme using his diplomatic status. The pastor, who runs the Good News Church with branches in 15 countries, suggested a plan by which unaccounted money could be traded for Zimbabwe’s gold, which could then be sold for real money to clear the funds. Angel also claimed that Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa had given his approval for their money-laundering operations.
The “Gold Mafia” investigation against multiple gold-smuggling gangs in Southern Africa, with Zimbabwe and South Africa serving as important hubs, revealed how these criminals used Western sanctions intended to punish the government of Zimbabwe as an opportunity to transport large amounts of gold and launder hundreds of millions of dollars through a convoluted network of businesses and bribery. Al Jazeera reporters were given a variety of options to clean up the traces of corruption from their shady money while posing as Chinese citizens seeking to launder large quantities of money.
Using Angel’s influence on the international stage was one of those methods. The pastor-official diplomat’s mission is to recruit investors for Zimbabwe, but he made it clear that he was ready to assist in the smuggling of gold and money laundering. Zimbabwe desperately needs dollars due to hyperinflation causing its currency to lose value in international commerce. While a commodity like gold is a lucrative way to generate money, greater scrutiny placed on government officials due to international sanctions makes it challenging for the government to export gold.
The Al Jazeera investigation has exposed Angel and others as part of a wider gold-smuggling network, including the niece of Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Henrietta Rushwaya. Angel’s involvement in such a scheme is a significant blow to Zimbabwe’s image, which has been seeking to attract investment from abroad. The country’s reputation has already been tarnished by political instability, corruption, and a history of human rights abuses. The investigation highlights the need for greater transparency and accountability in Zimbabwe and other countries where corruption and money laundering are pervasive issues.