“gold is gold, and they simply need gold” – Gold Smugglers (UN, 2020, P: 19).
Today on the 17th March 2022 the U.S. Treasury has sanctioned the African Gold Refinery and Alain Goetz. This is hitting the Government of Uganda (GoU) which has been proud of this refinery. They are directly hitting the profitability and ability to trade. As the AGR will be blacklisted and possibly make it harder sell it’s gold.
In the U.S. Treasury statement today, it said this:
“Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), sanctioned Alain Goetz, the African Gold Refinery in Uganda, and a network of companies involved in the illicit movement of gold valued at hundreds of millions of dollars per year from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The illicit movement of gold provides revenue to armed groups that threaten the peace, security, and stability of the DRC. Today’s action was taken pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13413, as amended by E.O. 13671, which targets, among other things, individuals and entities involved in activities that threaten the peace, security, or stability of the DRC or that undermine democratic processes or institutions in the DRC. Our action demonstrates the U.S. commitment to disrupt the illicit mineral trade and encourage mining sector transparency” (U.S. Treasury – ‘ Treasury Sanctions Alain Goetz and a Network of Companies Involved in the Illicit Gold Trade’ 17.03.2022).
Where it further states:
“Since 2016, AGR has sourced illicit gold from mines in regions of DRC that are controlled by armed groups, including the Mai-Mai Yakutumba and Raia Mutomboki that are involved in destabilizing activities in South Kivu, DRC. AGR has a refining capacity of 219 tons per year and is considered one of the largest gold refineries in Africa, after refineries in South Africa and Ghana. AGR and Goetz acknowledged that a share of the gold AGR refines comes directly from mines in the DRC and has taken over a significant portion of the market for gold trafficked from the DRC” (U.S. Treasury – ‘ Treasury Sanctions Alain Goetz and a Network of Companies Involved in the Illicit Gold Trade’ 17.03.2022).
The U.S. Treasury isn’t taking this information from nowhere. This has been recorded and proven through United Nations Experts reports over the years. The Entebbe Gold Refinery has been tracked and so has all the illicit minerals, which has gotten to it. It has been taken from conflicts and been a valuable commodity for the militias inside the Democratic Republic of Congo, which trough various of channels has traded it with the AGR. Who again has sold it to the world market.
Back in 2020, there was further proof of how it was operated as:
““The Group established that, on 9 February 2018, African Gold Refinery Ltd sold its shares to AGR International Ltd, a company registered in the Seychelles at Global Gateway, 8 rue de la Perle, Providence, Mahe, Seychelles (see screenshot below). The Group wrote to the authorities of the Seychelles, who confirmed that AGR International Ltd was registered in the Seychelles at the address listed in the Uganda Registration Services Bureau documents” (UN, 2020, P: 107).
So, this corporation will have international implications. It will not only go after Goetz or AGR. This will go even further with time. A Belgian report on the Refinery in 2019 said this:
“Sources in government refer to a speech by the Ugandan president at the ceremonial opening of AGR in 2017. Museveni then said that government agencies opposing the refinery would be ‘tackled hard’. ‘Goetz feels unassailable. And not without reason. He clearly has the protection of President Museveni himself’, says investigative journalist Haggai Matsiko of the Ugandan monthly The Independent. ‘Goetz has put a lot of money into its project (AGR says it has already invested $40 million, ed.). The president seems convinced that the refinery adds economic value by turning Entebbe and Kampala into a gold hub.’” (Kasper Goethals – ‘‘Gold is a dirty business, even if I do say so myself’ 20.04.2019, De Standaard).
With this in mind, this is a major blow to the wishes of President Museveni. The U.S. is sanctioning it and setting a precedence of which makes transactions with it questionable. Yes, at this moment it is about trading and association with U.S. businesses and citizens. Alas, the AGR is a prestigious part of the gold adventure Museveni wanted to have.
Let us not forget the June 2017 Global Witness Report “Under-Mined” on the AGR, which stated this:
“African Gold Refinery is run by a small group of Belgian and Ugandan businessmen, including former government minister Richard Kaijuka, who are managing to ship hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of gold out of Uganda without disclosing its origin and paying very little tax in the process. They are the owners and managers of a newly built gold refinery on the shores of Lake Edward near Entebbe airport. Remarkably, Barnabas Taremwa: brother-in-law to Salim Saleh, Museveni’s most famous brother and Uganda’s de facto number two, told Global Witness that he had helped negotiate the company’s huge tax breaks with the government (corroborated by documents seen by Global Witness) and set up supply routes for the refinery” (Global Witness, P: 27, 2017).
““Alain Goetz, who is also the CEO of the company, a Belgian national, is one of the most famous dealers of Congolese gold in recent history. During the 90s the Alain and his father Tony, who died in 2005, were reported as dominating gold exports from the Congo through their networks to Belgium and later Dubai” (…) “Mr Barnabas Taremwa, who previously worked for AGR is the brother in law of Salim Saleh, the President’s brother. AGR told Global Witness in a letter dated January 2017 that Taremwa’s sister and Salim Saleh had divorced three years ago, seemingly in an attempt to distance themselves from the General. However, Salim Saleh told Global Witness that “Barnabas Taremwa is still my brother in law and it is false and an insult to me for you to state that I divorced his sister.” (…) “Richard Henry Kaijuka is the Chairman of AGR.160 According to an article in Africa Energy in June 2011, Mr Kaijuka is “a childhood friend of President Yoweri Museveni, who fell out with the regime after he opposed a controversial constitutional amendment in 2005 that removed presidential term limits.” (Global Witness, P: 73, 2017).
So, if you know all of this. You know the AGR is hitting home. This will hit the State House and the Presidency. Not only the pride of selling illicit minerals from militias in the DRC. No, he will not earn profit on the tears and suffering of the DRC anymore. At least not at the same scale or have the possibility of trading it to the United States. This is a proof of the possible damage it can do. This is million of dollars of exports that can be hit by this sanction. Because, AGR is a tainted business…
That is the truth here and it is about time. Reports about it from it’s inception should have been the warning sign. Yes, the official date was back in 2017, but it was operating from 2014. So, there been lost years and the AGR haven’t really complied with proof of where the gold came from and therefore, this is well deserved. Finally, a place which is a hot-spot for conflict minerals get hit with sanctions. Peace.
Today, the Government of Tanzania have together with the Government of Uganda signed off to a Host Government Agreement (HGA), also together with Total, the supposed builder of the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).
Today, all the years of waiting, stalling and finding measures of taxes pays-off. We can still wonder what is basic fee structure and what is the price of taxation of the extraction of oil exploitation in the Lake Albertine basin. In the same regard, we can wonder is the specific route for the pipeline and what consequences it will have to nature, reserves and national parks. Because, the drill itself is just in the near proximity of Murchinson Fall National Park. Before it will continue or pass through other untouched areas of both Uganda and Tanzania.
There is still not answers or openness about the deals in the regards to the Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) and the Tanzania National Oil Company (TNOC), in combination to the ownership and licences of China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) and Total. Therefore, there are plenty of stakeholders and everyone wants to profit on the resources.
With both Republics signing of the HGA agreement and preparing for the Final Investment Decision (FID). The building of the pipeline and the industry can start off. This has also been stopped by taxation and the questionable acquisitions of exploitation licences in Lake Albert. Therefore, the whole Heritage and Tullow taxation case and the costs it had for Total to pay off that. Is still not shown to the public or if the Government of Uganda has forgiven the past company to give way. While Tullow surely wanted profits for their time and the valuable licences they had gotten rights too in earlier rounds.
What is also worrying to me? Well, the deals are not public. The agreements between the Corporations and the Republics are practically unknown and only mere fragments is out. Just like the power-sharing of 60% to Tanzania and 40% to Uganda. Is still not saying much, considering this will be still carved up by Total and CNOOC too, also some sort of deal with UNOC and TNOC. These will not operate on charity, but as a benefactor of the Republic itself.
The public should know this, because it is public resources, state resources and oil exploitation on public land. The companies are using licences and also the same licenses to transport the crude oil in the pipeline from Lake Albert to Port Tanga. Therefore, it is needed to get this knowledge to show the price, the agreements and the possible perks. Because, we don’t if they even have strings or not.
We should wonder why its confidential and kept a secret. The companies should also be displeased, unless they like to exploit without any transparency. Because, these deals and arrangements haven’t been made transparent or with accountability. It has been done in the chambers of Entebbe and in Tanzania. The general public will only see a fraction and not know the full extent.
That is a deliberate action by Presidents and their handlers. The UNOC, TNOC, Total and CNOOC can operate without to much scrutiny and just enjoy the cheers. There is a need to know, but don’t expect it. Since, the GoU and GoT haven’t delivered this in past, neither has the GoU showed anything from the previous deals with Heritage/Tullow. Why should they suddenly change of heart?
I don’t think so… unless there is a sudden miracle. If not … if there is a shady deal and one company feels used and will take it to an international court. Then, we will see some evidence of what went down. However, until then… we only know the bits and pieces. Peace.
Last year in September 2019, the Farm Down Agreement of Tullow Oil was supposed to be traded to Total E&P Uganda. This was a long and prolonged negotiations, as the British Tullow Oil has been in dispute of taxation and payments of fees the Government of Uganda, which was deemed as the “Presidential Handshake”.
What happen yesterday with the Financial Investment Decisions (FID) of Total, as it has taken over the stakes of Tullow Oil. While agreeing on added terms in combination with the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) to drill after petroleum in various of blocks on Lake Albert, also build the petroleum pipeline from Hoima to Port Tanga, Tanzania.
The Port Tanga and Pipeline agreement was sealed in 2017 between the Government of Uganda (GoU) and Government of Tanzania (GoT). That after lots of meetings and consultations between the parties. There was some who even tried to get it Port Lamu in Kenya, but that was ditched. Also, causing a rift between Dodoma and Nairobi.
Now, the next step is that Total and CNOOC is able to get a Host Government Agreement (HGA) for the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project. That was agreed by the parties in Entebbe for the territory of Uganda, but it is not sealed with Tanzania.
Though it should be in the interest to sign an agreement with President Magufuli and the CCM. Now, that they have fixed the first part and the licences to drill on Lake Albert. Total and CNOOC needs the HGA in Tanzania too. That will be beneficial for the Republic there too.
This has been a long time… the first reports of agreements and production licenses to blocks on Lake Albert in early 2000s. This was agreements being made between the government and the Tullow/Heritage and ENI as well. Which later has caused rift between the companies and the Republic, as the Oil Companies wasn’t willing to pay taxes and the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) needed to win a Court Case in 2014 to get taxes owned paid by Tullow, as they had to cover the loss of taxes from their acquisition of Heritage Oil.
So, the news today is big. Maybe, the President got another Presidential Handshake, as the Tullow Oil Taxes case brought a lot of kickbacks. The deals sealed between Museveni and Total is a secret. Therefore, only the agreement of what it does is in public, but not the costs, the tax-grade and the limitations of it. Total and CNOOC can have gotten it for cheap for all we know.
That is something for the time to tell. Now, the Lake Albert Basin, the Lake Albert Blocks for drilling is sealed, which has been in question and awaited a verdict for years. The same has the years of a agreement for a company to build the pipeline and pay the rates for having the operation going.
Now, there is one final agreement that needs to be sealed in Tanzania. By all means, the Republic’s needs also to settle the routes, the land-acquisitions and other arrangements too. While the other HGA is necessary to get started. As the process is now moving. The initial agreements are made, but the companies still needs goodwill elsewhere to make this pop-off. This will be years in the making. As the state of Uganda is scheduling a Oil Refinery in 2023, but that depends on everything else goes as planned at this point.
And in this business, at this point, everything that can be stalled and discontinued can happen. Even, if one of the companies stops seeing the financial viability and lack of profits. Than, they might suspend and try to sell the Producing Licenses Agreement to someone else again.
I wouldn’t be shocked, if Total bails out or something. There been so many companies involved and we are still not starting production. This being in the works since the early 2000s with the modern day deals and new arrangement for petroleum activity in the Lake Albert basin. That is why I am reluctant. Because, at any given moment, someone gives way and it sto
“gold is gold, and they simply need gold” – Gold Smugglers (UN, 2020, P: 19).
The newest UN Group of Experts Report on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was just recently published. This article here will focus on the gold smuggling operation and the amount of smuggled gold to Uganda from the DRC. This report really states the amount and the way the Ugandan exporters are trading the gold from there. The direct connection between these Republics are clear. This has been stated before, but not to these levels.
If your thinking this sort of business is clean and done after protocol. Then this report will shatter and break the glass. This report is explaining and showing more intelligence on how its done. We can easily see that the Ugandan authorities and the Entebbe Gold Refinery are only having its ability to be trading and minting the gold on the basis of gold smuggling from the DRC.
“The Group estimated, using information published by the Ugandan authorities, that over 95 per cent of gold exports from Uganda were of non-Ugandan origin for 2019” (UN, 2020, P: 20).
The next part is a proof of a way of illegal export and gold smuggling. Where there is one company operating doing so and how they are registered. While other bodies are claiming they are fraud. This shows what sort of ways the traders, smugglers and exporters are doing to be able to deal with the gold. What is really striking is the way the supposed fraudulent corporation are using all sorts of means to operate. They are even using bank accounts for other companies, which in the end might be a sign of illegal activity. As they are keeping everything of the books.
Vaya Forex Bureau forgery:
“The Group found however that during the reporting period, sanctioned entity Uganda Commercial Impex (UCI) Ltd (CDe.009) retained an active business registration according to publicly available Uganda Registration Service Bureau information. The Group also noted that, according to an official ICGLR gold export certificate, Vaya Forex Bureau in Uganda acted as an intermediary in an official gold export (see para. 87 of this report). Incorporated in 2007, the two shareholders of Vaya Forex Bureau were Vaya Kiran Rajendra and Vaya Vipal Kumar Maganlal, family members of Rajendra “Raju” Vaya, owner of sanctioned entity of Machanga Ltd (CDe.007) (see S/2015/19, annex 63). The Group wrote to Vaya Forex Bureau but did not receive a response by the time of writing this report. Finally, the Group noted that, according to publicly available Uganda Registration Service Bureau information, Sameer Bhimji was a signatory on the bank accounts of The Bullion Refinery Ltd (see S/2018/1133, para. 97) until 23 April 2019” (UN, 2020, P: 72).
“AGR told the Group that “a so called Vaya Forex Bureau” was unknown to the company and did not hold an account with AGR. The company further stated that they considered that the ICGLR document may be a “forgery” or “fraud” and that the company had already been the target of several such attacks. The company further committed to preventing forgery or fraud, and to reporting such activities to relevant Ugandan authorities and to relevant authorities abroad, as well as “instituting criminal and civil proceedings against the perpetrators”” (UN, 2020, P: 101).
What is more interesting is that the AGR in Entebbe has switched owners and is also registered in the Seychelles. What is known about the Seychelles in this manner is that they usually is confidential and tax-exempt to a degree. This means the AGR is run most likely in a tax-haven by its owners. While they are earning their profits. That is how I crack this one down. They wouldn’t have registered the company there after selling its stakes. If there wasn’t any benefits in doing so. Right?
Here is the information about AGR:
“The Group established that, on 9 February 2018, African Gold Refinery Ltd sold its shares to AGR International Ltd, a company registered in the Seychelles at Global Gateway, 8 rue de la Perle, Providence, Mahe, Seychelles (see screenshot below). The Group wrote to the authorities of the Seychelles, who confirmed that AGR International Ltd was registered in the Seychelles at the address listed in the Uganda Registration Services Bureau documents” (UN, 2020, P: 107).
We already know the AGR has connections to the President and his family. Therefore, the move of liabilities to Seychelles is to safeguard the profits in a tax-haven. There is no other way to see it. This is so the future state will be in more trouble to follow the money and also get the accounts frozen by authorities.
This is it for today. Peace.
You want another rap? Nah, didn’t think so. Even if President Museveni wants a BOP. Not a DaBaby track or anything. His just approved the US$500 million dollars to the Republic. This was reported earlier this month and he approved it on the 6th of May 2020, but stamped by the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MoFPED) on the 11th of May 2020.
What is unique here is that this loan is given on the idea of “Balance of Payments”. Economist would know that this to cover the deficit and the balance the budgets. This is to ensure the state has enough revenue to already cover the deficit it has. That is why grants and loans comes to ensure the levels of revenue covers the spending. This means that the state has spend a hundred dollars, but only had 50 dollars in liquidity. So, to ensure the accounts are balanced, the BOP comes in and fix the shortfall.
Museveni writes this in the letter:
“The money that goes to the Bank of Uganda is for “balance of payments support”. “Balance of Payments supports” does not only mean helping the country to “import more” but must also mean helping the country to “import less” by manufacturing these products here. With this undertaking, I approve the loan” (Museveni, 06.05.2020).
Because what the support does in the instance of the hundred dollars budget with a shortfall of 50 dollars revenue. The BOP support is the missing 50 dollars and makes it zero. Meaning, the accounts and financial flows should turn into zero. That means with the budget with its expenditure and its revenue its should be a nil or zero sum game. Therefore, when the President claims this helps local industry and less imports. I don’t see it.
Especially, if this is a BOP. Because, a BOP is a fixated way of balancing the budgets, not secure more trade. Its to cover deficits between expenditure and revenue. This isn’t a magical sphere of happiness and joy. This is budgetary measure to cover the shortfalls and lack of domestic revenue. To cover expenses that appeared or was already budgeted. Therefore, the need of Balance of Payments from the IMF to cover those.
This can be seen as a Financial Inflow to cover the deficit.
-100 dollars budget/Import
+50 dollars revenue/Export
+50 dollars Financial inflow (BOP Support)
That is why, when the man says like this. Its a game of balancing the budget. Not putting a wand on the thing and swiftly changing things. This is just a financial measure to cover a deficit. A short-term solution to a shortfall. That will not solve anything, but by time. Not cover debt, not create a market nor make a big difference. Its just covering expenditure. Nothing else.
The President can make it seem so, but that wouldn’t be a BOP. That would be another instrument and another measure. Where the funds was actually meant for investment. This is covering the basics.
Let me end with DaBaby: “I needed some shit with some bop in it (Let’s go)” (DaBaby – ‘BOP’ of KIRK, 2019). Peace.
Back in the day, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in the end of the 1990s the World Bank let the Republic of Uganda the opportunity to join their Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) to cut the debt of the Republic. However, even with the massive amount of debt relief done in 1998 and later never stopped him from taking up more debt.
That is why the amount of interests paid on every single budget is debt burden, which is created by the President himself and his extensive cronyism. The President has ensured that the state owns so much money, while he stills continues the drill by financing half of it by more debt. Which has been method the National Resistance Movement (NRM) and Mzee has used in the recent years.
That is why such a big amount of funds is going into interest payments. Also, why the Republic are going in a negative spiral, while the lack of domestic revenue isn’t following the projections of growth that the state always promises.
With the knowledge of this, as the President is asking for a debt relief now. His using the Coronavirus or COVID-19. The whole world are into a recession because of this. It is the perfect smokescreen. The President had the 2000s and 2010s to fix issues, but instead the plunge the economy anyway. He just need an excuse for a bailout.
Last time it was Universal Primary Education, a empty campaign promise and now there are plenty of dilapidated schools. They played and tried to focus on it, but gave it up along the way. Because, doing this properly would actually cost time and effort. The President and his big convoy would actually have invested more, than they wanted too. More promising spending on proxy-wars, than on proper education for everyone.
So, knowing that the Multi-National Organizations, Bretton-Woods Organizations and donors gave way to the Uganda in between the late 1990s and early 2000s. They offered billions in various of schemes, not only HPIC and Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP). This has been done already and still the state is bound by loans and grants to function its government. Therefore, the bullet of debt relief has been wasted.
The amount of US Dollars spent on the debt relief earlier in the reign of Museveni. The Head of State has misused this in the past. Not like he will change now. He has used the system to pimp his budgets and his wealth. His enriched himself and his cronies. While the Republic is still poor and the revenue isn’t growing like the economic recovery of the 1990s said it should have done. If the cure of the past would have worked, than the need for debt relief now would be unnecessary.
In 2020, the Republic shouldn’t get debt relief. It will be only spoils for the elites and the cronies around the President. It will be used buying tear-gas and SUVs. The WaBenzi will eat the spoils and only give away beans to the ones in need.
That Museveni says the continent needs debt relief. He means that himself needs it now. Even if his a wealthy guy in an impoverished republic. A republic he has run for three decades. Which already got special treatment and had a controlled Consultative Group. So, its not like this man hasn’t pimped the system already. He has tricked it and promised to juice up vehicle, but instead continue to run it to the ground. Hoping he could trick some new leaders to do the same mistake. Trusting him and his “high above” leadership.
They already spent millions of dollars to cut of the debt of the Republic under his control. The leadership is the same and they will misuse this if they get it again. When he had the opportunity to use it the last time. He instead wasted it and has ensured the state is more addicted to loans. That is why he hopes someone else can bail him out. While his paying ghosts, fake tenders and whatnot.
So, the IMF and World Bank should know this, but they are maybe more afraid of their image, than the result of letting go of some funds. These funds will not help anyone directly out. Only ensure the President longer life in office. This will not help the ones in need. Than he would have already ensured that. Instead his continuing this ballad and serenading the international community. While he hopes that no one knows history.
He has failed the last debt-relief and misused his chance. That is why his continued to grow the debt, addicted to grants and not created a space for more development. Unless, they give the President some handshakes at the State House. This is the way it goes.
The President of the Republic has had all the time since 1986 and we are still here. There are still opposition Members of Parliament who are tortured, there are still lack of free space and militarization of politics. That has never changed, but he hopes nobody notice. That is why he hopes he can pimp the International Community another time. He already did the trick and hope he can get them buzzed by a few buzzwords.
I know for some this is a moment of nostalgia, but for some its deja vu’. We have been here before and we shouldn’t need to repeat the same bad tune, again and again. However, I expect nobody to listen to me. Peace.