Will US sanctions put an end to Museveni’s quest for Congolese gold?
Uganda’s president hoped that the Democratic Republic of Congo’s accession to the East African Community would improve Congolese gold exports to his nation. However, US sanctions on Kampala’s largest gold refinery may put an end to such hopes.
The United States Treasury Department has sanctioned Uganda’s biggest gold refiner, its owner, and a network of firms for smuggling millions of dollars’ worth of gold from the Democratic Republic of the Congo each year.
The penalties, which were imposed last week, are Washington’s first significant punitive measure against African Gold Refinery (AGR) and its Belgian creator Alain Goetz. This is the latest attempt to deprive dozens of armed groups operating in Congo’s mineral-rich but lawless gold heartlands of a critical source of revenue.
“Conflict gold is the primary source of money for armed organizations in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they control mines and exploit miners,” said Brian E. Nelson, the Treasury Department’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. “Alain Goetz and his network have facilitated armed conflict by accepting gold from the Democratic Republic of the Congo without examining its provenance.”
AGR could not be contacted for comment immediately. Previously, the corporation has denied handling smuggled or conflict gold.
Mr. Goetz is the owner of the refinery, which began operations in Uganda in 2015, as well as other firms in the United Arab Emirates that acquire illegal gold from rebel-controlled mines in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Treasury said.
Gold from AGR has found its way into the supply chains of US companies including General Motors Co., General Electric Co., and Starbucks Corp., according to the firms’ 2018 Securities and Exchange Commission filings. This is despite US efforts to discourage the use of conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Treasury said that all property and interests in property held by Mr. Goetz, AGR, and its affiliates have been frozen as a result of the penalties.
“The ultimate purpose of penalties is not punishment, but to effect good behavioral change,” the Treasury said.