500 kilos of gold, a war criminal and Gulfstream jet

It is a plot made in Hollywood – last Thursday, a Gulfstream jet arrived at the airport in Goma with two Nigerians, a Frenchman and an American on board. According to local sources, the plane was immediately received by guards loyal to ICC-indictee Gen. Bosco Ntaganda. These soldiers offloaded some boxes and headed towards town. According to one version of the events, the Republican guard followed in pursuit but were told to step down when they saw the boxes were headed towards Bosco’s residence. The crew was the arrested by Congolese intelligence officials, the engines of the aircraft still on.

So what was in the boxes? According to the governor of North Kivu Julien Paluku, $6,8 million. The Congolese authorities first suggested that Bosco might be behind it, but the head of intelligence for Amani Leo, Col. Wilson Nsengiyumva (also an ex-CNDP officer), said that Bosco had actually led the sting operation against unnamed Congolese businessmen who “were trying to steal the country’s riches.” According to other sources, however, Bosco was trying to sell up to 500 kilos of gold – that would be worth around $20 million on the international market if it is decent quality.

Where would Bosco get the gold from? It is true that many of his soldiers control mining areas, but the gold trade usually goes through Bukavu or Butembo, not Goma. And 500 kilos would be a huge amount, an eighth of the estimated gold trade in the Kivus, although those estimates are very approximate given the underground nature of that trade.

And who are his presumed business partners? The press suggests that they are American Edouard Carlos St. Mary III, Nigerians Adeola Alexander Ehinmola and Mukaila Aderemi Lawal, and French citizen Franck Stephane M’Bemba.

Interesting fact: an Arizona court ruled last year that two local businessmen were guilty of defrauding investors for over $640,000 in a pyramid scheme they had set up with a certain Edward Carlos St. Mary who runs a company called Axiom. (The court document suggests that the two convicted men had sued Mr. St. Mary, but do not mention the outcome of that case.) The investment? Buying diamonds. The company’s motto was “buy cheap, sell high.” Apparently it didn’t work out this time.