In February this year, a few days later Russia Start the invasion UkraineKhartoum Airport Staff, in Sudan, a Russian cargo plane was spotted and reported a unique cargo, “cookies”, something the African country does not have on its traditional export list. After a heated debate, terminal officials decided to board the plane for inspection. What they discovered in the cellar, hidden among the colorful cookie boxes, surprised them: a ton of gold that was being illegally mined.
The revelation was published by CNN, which was confirmed by several official Sudanese sources. The American chain maintains that February one There have been 16 known Russian gold smugglers in Sudan – Africa’s third-largest producer of the precious metal – in the past year and a half alone.
CNN notes that its investigation is revealing An elaborate Russian plan to loot Sudan’s wealthIn an effort to bolster Russia against ever-tightening Western sanctions and to support its military campaign Ukraine.
But none of this can be done without the complicity of local authorities. So, CNN points out, the evidence suggests Russia is allied with Sudan’s military leadershipThis allows billions of dollars of gold to bypass the Sudanese government and cost the poverty-stricken country huge revenue losses.
in return, Russia has provided powerful political and military support to Sudan’s unpopular military leadersA violent suppressor of the country’s pro-democracy movement.
Sources consulted by CNN said Russia actively supported the 2021 military coup in Sudan It overthrew an interim civilian government, a devastating blow to Sudan’s pro-democracy movement that ousted the president. Omar al-Bashir Two years ago.
“We have known for a long time that Russia is exploiting Sudan’s natural resources”A former US official familiar with the matter told CNN. “[Los rusos] They gain a lot from this relationship with the Sudanese generals and help them stay in power.The former officer added. “That ‘help’ ranges from training and intelligence support to joint use of stolen gold Sudan”.
Putin’s point man
At the heart of this process Sudan gold heist This is Evgeny PrigogineA Russian oligarch is the president’s point man Vladimir Putin.
The 61-year-old, sanctioned by the West, controls a shadowy network of companies. WagnerThe paramilitary group is said to be linked to Moscow and has been accused of torture, mass murder and looting in several war-torn countries. Syria and the Central African Republic.
in Sudan, according to invoices reviewed by major vehicle CNN Prigogine A US licensed company called Mero is gold A subsidiary of M-Investment, owned by Prigogine– It mines gold while arming and training the country’s military and paramilitary forces.
“Through Mero is goldor other organizations associated with employees PrigogineIn return for his support to the governments of the day, he developed a strategy to plunder the economic resources of the intervening African countries.said Denis Korodkov, a researcher at the London-based Dossier Center, which tracks the criminal activities of various individuals linked to the Kremlin. The center was founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, now living in exile in London.
CNN has verified that at least one top Wagner director has been named Alexander Sergeyevich KuznetsovOversaw operations at major gold transportation, processing and mining sites Sudan In recent years.
The US network describes Kuznetsov as a convicted felon who fought in Libya and headed Wagner’s first strike and spy agency in 2014. He is a four-time recipient of Russia’s Order of Valor, and in 2017 was photographed with Putin and Wagner’s founder Dmitry Utkin. The European Union approved it in 2021.
According to official Sudanese sources, flight data reviewed by CNN in conjunction with flight tracker Kerjon’s Twitter account, At least 16 of the flights intercepted by Sudanese authorities last year were operated by military aircraft flying to and from the Syrian port city of Latakia, home to Russia’s main air base..
Gold exports too Follow the land route to the Central African RepublicSeveral official Sudanese sources and the Dossier Center have reported that Wagner propped up a repressive regime and used some of his brutal tactics against the country’s people.
How did it start?
CNN maintains that Russian plunder of Sudan’s gold After him started in 2014 Invasion of Crimea (Ukraine) triggered a series of Western sanctions. “Gold exports have proven to be an effective way to accumulate and transfer wealth, bolster Russia’s state coffers, and circumvent international financial control systems”American chain says.
“The disadvantage of gold is that it is more physical and more complicated to use than international exchanges, but the other side of the coin is that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to freeze or confiscate.”Daniel McDowell, a sanctions expert and associate professor of political science at Syracuse University, tells CNN.
The center of gold mining activity is deep in the northeastern desert SudanMiners work in extreme heat.
Miners gather every morning from those remote artisanal mines Al-Ibaitiyahcalled “City of Gold”, reports CNN, pulling sacks of gold in carts pulled by donkeys. Many of them say the highest bidders for their goods are traders sent from a nearby processing plant known to locals. “Russian Company”.
CNN sources identified the location as the nerve center of the gold diversion Russia. About 85% of Sudan’s gold is sold this way, according to official figures from the US chain.
For at least a decade, Russia has hidden its Sudanese gold transactions from the official record. An insider at Sudan’s Central Bank showed CNN a photo of a spreadsheet showing 32.7 tons unaccounted for in 2021. Using current prices, that’s $1.9 billion worth of missing gold at $60 million.
However, many former and current officials say the amount of missing gold is much higher, arguing that the Sudanese government grossly underestimates the amount of gold produced in informal artisanal mines, distorting the true figure.
Most CNN insiders say About 90% of the production Sudan gold Transmits. If true, this would be roughly equivalent $13.4 billion in gold is exempt from tariffs and regulations, potentially losing hundreds of millions of dollars in government revenue.
A Sudanese anti-corruption investigator who has tracked businesses oro of Russia Inside Sudan For years it provided CNN with coordinates of a major Russian processing plant. When CNN arrived at the site near al-Ibaidiya, the Soviet flag was flying over the compound. A Russian fuel truck was parked outside.
A chance encounter with the guard, who confirmed that the facility belonged to a so-called “Russian company,” soon turned into a tense confrontation.
The guard spoke by walkie-talkie, issuing CNN’s request to speak to a “Russian manager.” A group of Sudanese ran to the scene and ordered the CNN crew to leave before the security team followed the CNN car.
“You have to go”another employee told CNN Sudan of the plant. “It’s not a Russian company. It’s a Sudanese company Al Solaq“.
CNN maintains that Al Solaq A Sudanese front company Mero is goldA Russian mining company sanctioned by the United States.
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