Kenyan police probe gold syndicate

In the latest incident, some 2.5 tonnes of the mineral, with an estimated value of Sh8 billion, was stolen from Eastern Congo last month. Photo/FILE

Police are investigating a multi million-dollar gold smuggling syndicate in Nairobi.

Detective say the precious metal is stolen from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and smuggled to overseas markets through Kenya.

The mineral-rich country has requested Interpol to track suspected smugglers and seize any consignments on transit in Kenya.

Two top officials from the war-torn state visited Kenya seeking cooperation in the matter, the Nation learnt.

In the latest incident, some 2.5 tonnes of the mineral, with an estimated value of Sh8 billion, was stolen from Eastern Congo last month.

It is suspected that the consignment was headed for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

The DRC officials requested local authorities to arrest the culprits, intercept the haul and surrender it to Kinshasa if found in Kenya.

Consequently, a senior Criminal Investigation Department officer has been instructed to lead the hunt for the precious consignment.

The illegal trade raises security concerns because of the huge amount of money the mineral attracts in the black market, with authorities fearing that unscrupulous traders could use the wealth to purchase weapons and fuel fighting in an already volatile region.

DR Congo’s Regional and International Cooperation minister, Mr Raymond Tshibanda, and his Mining counterpart, Mr Martin Kabwelulu, visited Kenya in a bid to foster relations and in turn help stop the trade.

Sources from the Foreign Affairs ministry said the two met President Kibaki at Harambee House and delivered a message from President Joseph Kabila on the issue.

President Kibaki is said to have pledged support to end the illegal trade. Already, the government has enhanced screening of imports at points of entry. Customs officials have also been put on alert over illegal shipments.

It was not immediately clear whether the loot was smuggled by air or road. Sources say gold and other precious metals are sneaked into the country using false declaration forms at check points.

The DRC’s director-general of the Centre for Quality Control, Evaluation and Certification of Precious Minerals has been in Kenya to create awareness on the inspection of minerals.

Recently, regional ministers in charge of minerals met in Nairobi to discuss the logistics of exporting mineral resources. A similar meeting held in Zambia ratified laws to curb mineral smuggling.

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