August 24—African Gold Refinery (AGR) have jumped onto a recent United Nations report highlighting the collusion between dealers and some airline officials to smuggle gold out of the country much of it in transit from countries neighboring Uganda.
In 2016, although Uganda’s gold deposits are not spectacular, the country exported nearly $300 million worth of the precious metal.
AGR, who set up operations at Entebbe three years ago, want the police and other government security agencies to step up surveillance. ‘AGR takes note of the very serious issues raised by the Panel with respect to the issue of the trafficking of hand held gold on international airlines. This deprives countries of much needed tax revenue and it also presents clear safety and security issues’ the company said in a statement.
The report published on August 13 by a UN Group of Experts, points fingers at the way some commercial airlines operating between East Africa, the Middle East and Europe, are acting with complacency in regards to the smuggling of gold and other minerals. The UN report called for stringent policies by airlines to restrict the carrying of minerals in hand luggage.
It is indicated that some airline officials connive with passengers to check in a sizeable amounts of gold as hand luggage. Furthermore, it stated that it was common practice for smugglers to purchase additional ‘empty seats’ in order to maximize the amount of gold smuggled on a single trip. The report states, “Airlines play an important role in enabling the transport of unwrought gold.”
Referring to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the report cites a single passenger identified as Ms. Chibalonza who smuggled up to 3.6 tons of gold valued at approximately $440 million in a period of two years via one of the major airlines from DRC to Dubai, by way of hand luggage. This smuggled gold resulted into loss of 3% in tax and other revenues to DRC. Estimates put the lost revenues in would be taxes at over $100 million over a period of 10 years.
AGR processes about 300 kilogrammes of pure gold every week bought from within Uganda and the neighboring South Sudan and Eastern DRC. The company wants the government, industry and civil society groups to work constructively together to produce practical, cost-effective and credible systems for monitoring the flow of gold in the region.