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U4 Helpdesk Answer

Illicit gold flows from Central and East Africa

Main typologies, actors, and associated harms

Gold attracts illicit actors, mainly due to its inherent characteristics such as its ease of movement and high return. Evidence shows that within Central and East Africa, the main routes for illicit gold flows include: from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi; from the Central African Republic (CAR) to Cameroon, Chad, and Sudan; and from South Sudan to Uganda and Rwanda. Dubai, a city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is an important regional hub for illicit gold from Central and East Africa. From the UAE, gold is then mainly distributed to India, China, and Switzerland. The main actors involved in these illegal gold flows include political elites, businesspeople, armed forces, and foreign nationals. The negative impact of illicit gold activities in Central and East Africa include environmental damage, human rights abuses and undermining of the rule of law.

30 August 2021
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Illicit gold flows from Central and East Africa

Main points

  • Due to its ease of movement and global exchangeability, gold tends to attract illicit actors.
  • Criminal culpability in illicit gold flows ranges from small-scale informal activities to grand corruption by political elites. While it differs based on context, political elites, military, non-state armed groups, businesspeople and foreign nationals comprise the key actors in illicit gold supply chains.
  • Between 10 and 20 tons of gold, worth between US$300 and US$600 million, is smuggled out of the DRC annually, based on an estimate of the UN Group of Experts from 2013.
  • Evidence show large discrepancies between gold imported into the United National Emirates from African countries, and the amount of gold reported in these countries in their exports.
  • Harms associated with illicit gold flows include: environmental damage, human rights abuses, undermining the rule of law, strengthening of armed groups in conflict zones and negative effects on countries’ economies.

Cite this publication

Resimić, M.; (2021) Illicit gold flows from Central and East Africa. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Helpdesk Answer 2021:19)

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Miloš Resimić


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