US sanctions Ugandan gold trader, citing illicit Congo origin

A Belgian businessman sanctioned by the United States over allegations of illicit gold trading in Congo said on Friday the action undermined efforts to improve transparency in a region experiencing an increase in official mineral exports.

KAMPALA, Uganda — A Belgian businessman sanctioned by the United States over allegations of illicit gold trading in Congo said on Friday the action undermines efforts to improve transparency in a region seeing a rise in official exports of ore.

The United States on Thursday evening announced sanctions targeting Alain Goetz and African Gold Refinery, a Uganda-based company that has been in business since 2014. The company is among several Goetz-linked companies that are “involved in the illicit movement of gold valued at hundreds of millions”. dollars a year” from the Congo, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

The illicit movement of gold threatens Congo’s peace and stability, he said, accusing more than 90% of Congo’s gold of being smuggled to neighboring countries such as Uganda and Rwanda where it is “often refined and exported to international markets, particularly the United Arab Emirates”.

Congo’s vast eastern provinces have long been plagued by sporadic armed conflict, and watchdog groups say control of the mineral trade is fueling the violence.

The new sanctions include blocking US assets held by Goetz and his companies.

But Goetz denied the allegations in a statement emailed to The Associated Press, saying he had no recent business ties to Congo. “I haven’t been to (Congo) for over 20 years,” he said. “I haven’t kept any active contacts within (the Congo) either.”

He warned that sanctions against African Gold Refinery would undermine efforts to improve transparency in the gold sector by potentially once again offering informal traders “a safe haven”.

“International organizations can now easily verify information and quote numbers thanks to the transparency I laid the foundation on with the launch of African Gold Refinery,” he said. “That transparency is what the United States has just put at great risk with these sanctions.”

The African gold refinery, worth $15 million and the first of its kind in East Africa, has over the years drawn the attention of activists concerned that minerals from countries prone to conflicts in the region were among its raw materials.

The refinery, which was inaugurated by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, is located in the lakeside town of Entebbe, about 44 kilometers (27 miles) from the capital, Kampala.

The value of Uganda’s gold exports has risen sharply in recent years, although little is mined locally. Artisanal miners produce small amounts, but gold is regularly Uganda’s second most valuable export, after coffee, according to government figures.

Back To Top