South Africa has launched an investigation into several people involved in a gold smuggling and money laundering scheme exposed by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit.
In a speech to South Africa’s Parliament, President Cyril Ramaphosa said this week the investigation was at the “inquiry stage”.
“We are committed to preserving the integrity of our financial system in the interests of the wider economy and ordinary citizens,” Ramaphosa added on Thursday. “Details of the steps taken cannot be disclosed at this stage without compromising the investigation.”
The investigation is a direct result of Gold Mafia, a four-part series by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit) on gold smuggling and money laundering in southern Africa.
In it, Al Jazeera revealed how a group of money launderers and gold smugglers effectively took over several South African banks by bribing key members, allowing the criminals to send large amounts of illegally obtained money abroad without raising the suspicions of the authorities.
The key person in this process is a man named Mohamed Khan, nicknamed Mo Dollars.
“He’s kind of held up as a sort of shadow figure who controls money laundering in South Africa,” money laundering investigator Paul Holden told Al Jazeera.
Among Khan’s biggest clients is Simon Rudland, a Zimbabwean millionaire who owns one of the region’s biggest tobacco companies, Gold Leaf Tobacco. South African revenue officials accused Rudland of evading taxes by selling his cigarettes on the black market.
Rudland authorized Khan’s company SALT Asset Management to carry out foreign exchange transactions for Gold Leaf. Khan, who also owns another company called PKSA Group, then used a complex web of fake invoices, front companies and bank accounts to launder hundreds of millions of dollars into bank accounts around the world, from Dubai to Mauritius to Switzerland.
Companies controlled by Rudland and several business partners.
To ensure that this process did not raise any red flags in the South African financial system, Khan hired top officials from two of the country’s largest banks – Standard and Absa – as well as Sasfin, a banks that focus on small businesses.
Ledgers accessed by Al Jazeera show that thousands of dollars in cash are paid each month to these officials. Other documents and interviews reveal that bad, bad transactions are processed only when hired employees are in the office.
People in the bank’s compliance departments are paid to ensure that PKSA and SALT Asset Management’s paperwork appears clean and obtains the necessary approvals. And in Sasfin’s case, a member of the IT department received a bribe to delete fraudulent transactions from the online banking system.
Request for investigation in the UK
Last week, a member of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom requested a similar investigation into members of the Gold Mafia by the UK authorities.
Three of the people featured in the investigation – Uebert Angel, Rikki Doolan, and Kamlesh Pattni – have British citizenship.
“I hope that the National Crime Agency is investigating the activities of these individuals and others named in the documentary and the sources of their wealth, and that the authorities will not hesitate to freeze their funds while this investigations are being pursued,” Baron Jonny Oates of Denby Grange said during a discussion on the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill.
Uebert Angel is a pastor and self-proclaimed prophet who was appointed Zimbabwe’s ambassador-at-large for Europe and the Americas by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Doolan is Angel’s number two. Angel was secretly recorded agreeing to smuggle $1.2bn of dirty money into Zimbabwe using his diplomatic status. He told Al Jazeera’s undercover reporters, “[The plane] will land in Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe will not touch it either until I reach my home. So, there may be a diplomatic plan.
Kamlesh Pattni is a gold smuggler who in the 1990s nearly bankrupted Kenya through a gold smuggling scheme. Since then he moved his gold smuggling and money laundering operation to Zimbabwe. He also offered to help Al Jazeera journalists launder money and smuggle gold, a deal he said Mnangagwa would protect.
YouTube account taken offline
In response to the investigation, Angel said that he was really hiding himself when he offered to break the law. Angel, who claims to be able to predict the future, said that he always knew that reporters were undercover reporters, and he created an elaborate scheme to reveal the true nature of the meetings even though he was not present. provides any evidence that he is working in disguise.
Since the release of the investigation, Angel’s YouTube channel has been taken offline, although it is unclear whether the account was removed by YouTube or whether Angel himself took the account offline.
A second account, also belonging to Angel, remains online.
Simon Rudland told Al Jazeera that the allegations against him were made as part of a smear campaign by an anonymous third party. He denied any involvement in the sale of illegal cigarettes and gold or other smuggling.
He accepted that he dealt with Mohamed Khan, who he agreed “appeared” to be a money launderer. He acknowledged that Gold Leaf and another of his companies allowed Khan’s SALT Asset Management to act as their agent but denied that any form of money laundering was done for him or any other businesses.
Gold Leaf Tobacco denies any involvement, past or present, in money laundering, illegal gold trading and related matters. No “untaxed” or “illegal” cigarettes can be “attributed” to Gold Leaf, it said. Gold Leaf’s limited transactions with Mohamed Khan and SALT Asset Management have always been lawful and proper, it said.
Mohamed Khan told Al Jazeera that all the allegations against him are false and based on speculation, conjecture and fabricated and doctored evidence. He confirmed that he is the owner of PKSA Group and SALT Asset Management and that Gold Leaf are clients of SALT, but he denied that he was involved in money laundering or other criminal activities. He denied bribing anyone working in the South African banking sector.
Sasfin Bank told Al Jazeera it was taking strong action against suspended and former employees and clients of its foreign exchange unit and said it no longer has ties to any of the businesses named in this article.
Absa Bank said it had passed Al Jazeera’s findings to its Forensic Investigative Unit, while Standard Bank said it has a zero-tolerance policy in relation to fraud and criminality and will report and assist with any legal investigation.
Kamlesh Pattni has denied involvement in any form of money laundering or bribery and has denied communicating with Mnangagwa or having any dealings with him.
Others featured in this report did not respond to our questions.