THE Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport is emerging as a gateway for mineral smugglers, particularly gold, with state security agents at the centre of the criminal syndicates.
In the latest case, police have arrested a Central Intelligence Organisation operative, Chamakandiona Nyahunde also known as Vincent Moyo, for assisting a former aide of Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation president Henrieta Rushwaya to smuggle 23 pieces of gold worth R11 million (US$782 712) to South Africa.
Tashinga Nyasha Masinire was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Saturday by the Hawks, South Africa’s serious organised crime investigation unit, after a scan of his luggage by the South African Revenue Service customs section at international arrivals.
South African police said Masinire failed to declare the gold and did not have any permit or licence authorising him to be in possession of the mineral. The Hawks were called in to effect the arrest and conduct further investigations.
Masinire appeared in court on Monday where he was granted R100 000 bail.
Following the arrest, police in Zimbabwe launched investigations to establish how Masinire smuggled the gold leading to Nyahunde’s arrest.
Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe earlier this week revealed that preliminary investigations and closed-circuit television images showed that Masinire walked into the airport without luggage.
This suggested that he could have been assisted by airport staff or security personnel.
National police spokesperson Paul Nyathi told The NewsHawks that local law enforcement are collaborating with the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) to investigate the latest case.
Airports Company of Zimbabwe boss Tawanda Gusha said work to enhance security at the country’s airports was in progress.
“We are however working on improving the monitoring and screening of passengers at the airports. Interpol installed facial recognition systems at the airport. We are working to ensure that those systems are monitored 24/7.”
In October last year, Rushwaya, was nabbed at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport trying to smuggle six kilogrammes of gold worth US$360 000 to Dubai.
She was arrested in the departure lounge after going through all formalities including security clearance after being assisted by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s security aide, Stephen Chenjerai Tserayi and Central Intelligence Organisation operative Raphios Mufandauya.
Rushwaya’s accomplice, Gift Karanda, also of ZMF, claimed that the gold belonged to First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa and her son Collins although Rushwaya later said it belonged to a Pakistani businessman, Ali Mohammed.
Investigations resulted in the arrest of two senior police officers from the Criminal Investigations Department’s Minerals, Flora and Fauna unit, Superintendent Douglas Shoko and Detective Chief Inspector Paul Chimhungu, who were accused of tampering with court documents that incriminated Mohammed, fingered by Rushwaya as the organiser of the smuggling attempt.
They were charged with criminal abuse of duty.
Smuggling through the country’s airports continues to be rife despite the heavy presence of state security agents among them the CIO, CID’s Minerals, Flora and Fauna unit and military intelligence.
Officials reveal that apart from state security agents, diplomatic passport holders are also involved in facilitating smuggling.
A report by a global research group, the International Crisis Group, estimated that Zimbabwe is losing at least US$1.5 billion a year through the smuggling of gold, mainly to Dubai.
Kazembe has previously said Zimbabwe loses US$100 million worth of gold every month through international smuggling rings and the country’s porous borders. –Bulawayo24