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Top Zimbabwe ambassador involved in gold smuggling scheme


One of Zimbabwe’s most influential diplomats, Uebert Angel, offered to use his status to launder millions of dollars through a gold smuggling scheme, during an undercover operation by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I unit).

Angel, appointed Ambassador General and Presidential Envoy by Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa in March 2021, told reporters that his diplomatic status would allow him to carry large amounts of black money into the country.

The 44-year-old, who claims to be a prophet and heads a congregation – the Good News Church – with branches in 15 countries, said he would facilitate a scheme whereby unexplained money could be exchanged for Zimbabwe’s gold. Recipients of the gold could then sell the precious metal for legitimate money, effectively making their money clean.

Angel and his business partner Rikki Doolan also claimed their money laundering operations had the approval of Mnangagwa, who has been in power since November 2017, when Zimbabwe’s controversial former leader Robert Mugabe was ousted in a military coup.

“You want gold, gold, we can do it now, we can call now and it’s done,” Angel told Al Jazeera reporters. ‘It will land in Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe can’t touch it either until I get to my house. So there may be a diplomatic plan.”

“So it’s very, very easy,” he said.

Golden mafia

Angel made the offer during an operation that was part of “Gold Mafia,” an investigation into several gold smuggling gangs in southern Africa, with Zimbabwe and South Africa as key hubs.

The investigation shows how these gangs have turned Western sanctions designed to hit the Zimbabwean government into an opportunity to smuggle large amounts of gold and launder hundreds of millions of dollars through a complex web of corporate and bribery.

Al Jazeera reporters, posing as Chinese nationals seeking to launder large sums of money, were offered several ways to remove all corruption stains from their dirty money.

One such mechanism was the use of Angel’s diplomatic influence. Officially, the minister diplomat is in charge of finding investors to come to Zimbabwe. However, Angel made it clear that he was willing to assist in gold smuggling and money laundering.

Zimbabwe needs dollars because its own currency has lost its value in international trade due to hyperinflation. A commodity like gold is a good way to earn dollars, but international sanctions imposed on the country make it difficult for the government to export gold due to the extra supervision of those in power.

“So you have to think of other ways to do that,” Karen Greenaway, a former FBI investigator who follows international money laundering, told Al Jazeera. One way: individual prospectors, who don’t have to deal with those restrictions.

This scenario makes Zimbabwe a fertile ground for money launderers who can help the country earn dollars in exchange for gold.

Uebert Angel and Rikki Doolan discussed money laundering with undercover reporters (Al Jazeera)

The president’s niece

At the center of Angel’s gold-for-dirty operations is Henrietta Rushwaya, president of the Zimbabwe Miners Association. Rushwaya, who is also President Mnangagwa’s niece, told Angel and reporters in a phone call that smuggling 100 kg of gold every week would be no problem.

The scheme would require an initial investment of $10 million in black money into the government’s gold refinery, Fidelity. Of that, $5 million would be held in reserve by Fidelity for the duration of the scam, and the rest would be used to buy gold on a weekly basis.

Once the gold is bought, another $5 million would be brought in to buy more gold until all the money was laundered into the precious metal – which would then be sold internationally for legitimate, clean money.

Do you have information about money laundering or do you want to share another tip? Contact the Al Jazeera Investigation Unit on +974 5080 0207 (WhatsApp/Signal), or find other ways to contact us on our Tips page.

“They can buy the gold directly in cash because we are the only industry in the country that pays cash in foreign currency,” Rushwaya said during the call.

Rikki Doolan, Uebert Angel's No. 2, says
Rikki Doolan discussed how Uebert Angel’s diplomatic status could be abused (Al Jazeera)

‘Number one’

At the meetings, Angel and Doolan, also a British pastor and music artist, said that everything they did had the blessings of “number one,” referring to Mnangagwa. Doolan even offered to arrange a face-to-face meeting with Mnangagwa on the sidelines of the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow in 2021.

The gang also offered to help launder money by building properties near the tourist town of Victoria Falls. This, Angel said, would be appreciated by Mnangagwa as it would allow him to “cut a ribbon” and build his legacy as a leader who brought visible infrastructure investment to Zimbabwe.

“A politician wants to open something,” Angel told Al Jazeera undercover reporters. “Gold is easy, but you can’t cut a ribbon anywhere.”

Tendai Biti, former Zimbabwean finance minister, told Al Jazeera that while gold trade is supposed to be under central bank supervision by law, the vast majority of gold is smuggled out of the country.

“We have world-class gold deposits, but we have nothing to prove for it,” Biti told Al Jazeera. “I think we’re losing about a billion dollars on illegal gold exports — which is a euphemism for gold smuggling.”

“The biggest challenge Zimbabwe now faces is the existential threat posed by this mafia, the gold mafia.”

When asked for comment on Al Jazeera’s investigation, Fidelity denied any involvement in money laundering or smuggling. Mnangagwa, Angel, Doolan and Rushwaya did not respond to our questions.


Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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