Russia looted Sudan’s gold before solving Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Vladimir Putin (Reuters)
Vladimir Putin (Reuters)

It’s been a few days since Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine when the agents of the international airport of Khartoum found themselves in an uncomfortable situation: a Russian cargo plane aseguraba transporter galletas… Pero Sudan rara vez -en relaidad, nunca- export galletas. En el interior de la bodega, debajo de las cajas de galletas de colores, there were chests of wood with the most precious resource of Sudan: gold. Aproximadamente una tonna.

Este incidente de febrero, relatado por multiples fuentes oficiales sudanesas a la CNNes uno de los 16 Russian gold smuggling flights known from Sudan, the third major producer of this precious metal in Africa, in the last year and a half.

La cadena cita multiple interviews with high-level Sudanese officials and high-level documents. “La investigation pinta un cuadro de un elaborate Russian scheme before looting the riches of Sudan in an attempt to strengthen Russia against the increasingly stronger western sanctions and before reinforcing the war effort of Moscow in Ukraine”, he reveals CNN.

Las pruebas también sugiguen que Russia has actuado en connivencia con la asediada military coup de Sudan, permitiendo que thousands of millions of dollars in gold pasen por alto el Estado sudanés y privando al país, asolado por la pobreza, de cientos de millones en ingresos estatales. On the other hand, Russia has provided unpowerful political and military support to Sudan’s increasingly unpopular military leaders, who violently repress the country’s pro-democratic movement.

At the center of this negotiation between Moscow and the military junta of Sudan is Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch and key ally of President Vladimir Putin.

This 61-year-old man, sanctioned by the western powers, controlled an obscure network of companies that included Wagner, the paramilitary group linked to alleged torture, mass killings and looting in several war-ravaged countries, such as Syria and the Central African Republic .

The United States announced on March 3, 2022 the imposition of sanctions against Russian oligarchs, including Yevgeniy Prigozhin (REUTERS)
The United States announced on March 3, 2022 the imposition of sanctions against Russian oligarchs, including Yevgeniy Prigozhin (REUTERS)

In Sudan, the principal vehicle of Prigozhin is a company sanctioned by the United States called Meroe Gold – subsidiary of M-invest, property of Prigozhin – which extracts gold at the same time that it provides weapons and training to the army and the country’s paramilitaries, according to invoices vista por la CNN.

“A través de Meroe Gold, o de otras empresas asociados a empleados de Prigozhin, éste ha desarrollado una strategy para sequear los recursores economicos de los países Africanos en los que interviene, como contrapartida a su apoy a los gobiernos de turno”, said Denis Korotkov, investigator of the Dossier Center, based in London, which traces the criminal activity of various persons associated with the Kremlin. The center was founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, en su día el hombre más rico de Rusia, que ahora vive exiliado en Londres.

In this photo from the archive of Monday, September 20, 2010, businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin and Russian President Vladimir Putin (AP)
In this photo from the archive of Monday, September 20, 2010, businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin and Russian President Vladimir Putin (AP)

According to Sudanese official sources, as well as flight data reviewed by CNN in collaboration with the Twitter account of flight tracker Gerjon, at least 16 of the flights intercepted by the Sudanese authorities last year were operated by military planes that came and went from the Syrian port city of Latakia, where Russia has an important air base.

Los envíos de oro también follow a terrestrial route to the Central African Republic, where Wagner has apuntalado un régimen repressive y, al parecer, ha applied algunas de sus tácticas más crueles a la población del país, según multiple fuentes oficiales sudanesas y el Dossier Center.

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Gold bars seized from a plane by Sudan's Rapid Support Forces at Khartoum airport (Reuters)
ARCHIVE PHOTO: Gold bars seized from a plane by Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces at Khartoum airport (Reuters)

The Russian looting of Sudan’s gold began in 2014 after its invasion of Crimea provocara una serie de sanctions occidentales. Los envíos de oro demonstrated ser una forma eficaz de acumular y transferar riqueza, reforzando las arcas del Estado ruso while eludía los sistemas de supervisio financier internacional. “La desventaja del oro es que es physico y mucho más engorroso de usar que las transferencias internationales, pero la otra cara de la moneda es que es mucho más difícil, si no imposible, de congelar o confiscar”, said CNN’s Daniel McDowell, specialist in sanctions and associate professor of Political Sciences at the University of Syracuse.

During at least a decade, Russia has hidden its Sudanese gold transactions from the official register. An informant from the Central Bank of Sudan showed CNN a photo of a spreadsheet showing that 32.7 tons were unaccounted for in 2021. Using actual prices, this equates to 1,900 million dollars of missing gold, or 60 million dollars la tons

Sin embargo, various previous and actual officials say that the amount of gold that is missing is even greater, arguing that the Sudanese government greatly underestimates the gold produced in informal artesanal mines, distorting the real figure.

The majority of CNN’s internal sources affirm that around 90% of Sudan’s gold production is smuggled. De ser cierto, esto equivaldría a unos 13,400 million dollars in gold that eluded customs and regulations, with a potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in government revenue.

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