Mali to Dubai: artery for West Africa’s booming illegal gold commerce – Institute for Security Analysis


West Africa’s worthwhile gold commerce has a dear darkish aspect. Discrepancies in data on gold manufacturing and commerce between Mali and Dubai inside the United Arab Emirates (UAE) expose a big illegal enterprise, considerably inside the artisanal mining sector. These illicit dealings not solely strip West African nations of billions of {{dollars}}, nevertheless gasoline battle by means of the financing of violent extremism.
Rising world gold prices have attracted essential curiosity inside the metallic’s extraction from native and worldwide merchants, significantly in rural small-scale mining. Mali is Africa’s third largest gold exporter, and spherical a third of its full manufacturing comes from artisanal mining. In 2016, the nation exported 67 tonnes of gold valued at US$2.2 billion. Of that, 46.9 tonnes had been mined by industrial producers, with the remaining 20.1 tonnes extracted by means of artisanal means.
Nonetheless although the UAE imported US$1.52 billion in gold from Mali in 2016, Bamako recorded solely US$216 million in exports. Likewise, in 2014, Mali declared a gold manufacturing of 45.8 tonnes in opposition to the UAE’s import from Mali of 59.9 tonnes.
Mali taxes solely the first 50 kg of gold exported per 30 days, incentivising gold smugglers to ship the metallic from Mali for an enormous tax break. This makes the nation a magnet for the illegal gold commerce in West Africa, which lacks a regional tax coordination framework.
Mali applies export taxes to solely the first 50 kg of gold exported per 30 days
An estimated 80% of the artisanal gold in Mali’s present chain is produced in Senegal. Porous borders, geographical proximity, transboundary ethnic affinity, safer routes by means of illegal entry elements and years of instability in Mali facilitate the illicit commerce. And although Senegalese customs authorities require gold retailers to supply an official gold purity analysis certificates, most native retailers rely upon informal transactions and sometimes produce such paperwork.
Mali can be utilized as a gateway to UAE gold markets by its neighbours and previous. Libya and Venezuela not too way back used Mali as a platform to export their gold illegally to Dubai. In 2020, gold trafficking to Mali apparently launched in about US$1 billion to the federal authorities of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.
Armed groups and terrorists in Africa are moreover using the illegal gold commerce with Dubai to finance their actions, an anonymous educated on Africa’s gold commerce suggested the ENACT mission. In 2021 two terrorist groups engaged in a fierce battle to administration gold mining web sites in Mali’s Gourma space. And Swiss agency Valcambi sourced essential parts of the metallic from Kaloti, a Dubai gold smelting company, which was attainable linked to armed groups in Sudan in 2012.
Gold illegally traded between Mali and Dubai is hand-carried by couriers transporting a median of 10 kg per journey. Flights between Mali and Dubai value spherical US$500, the equal of about 10 g to 12 g of gold, making a single journey worthwhile. Some traffickers switch as a lot as 40 kg of gold to Dubai every week. That’s facilitated by corrupt airport workers, harking back to customs officers and police authorities in Bamako.
Libya and Venezuela not too way back used Mali as a platform to export gold illegally to Dubai
Inside the UAE, licensed loopholes, weak import procedures and questionable practices by UAE-based customers and the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) facilitate illegal commerce. For instance, passengers arriving inside the UAE are exempted from customs declarations for gold carried in hand baggage. So smugglers coming from Mali to advertise their wares in Dubai’s Gold Souk need solely present customers with the UAE customs variety that merely proves ‘the gold was legally declared to customs officers.’
There are moreover points with how the DMCC traces the origin and supply chain of gold launched into the nation. UAE customs don’t require particulars in regards to the gold’s origin. Lots of the illegally traded gold is purchased first inside the Dubai Gold Souk after which onward to refineries and jewellers. The id of worldwide firms shopping for the metallic from Dubai-based refineries is unknown.
Moreover, auditing of the DMCC is reportedly weak. Ernst & Youthful has been accused of ‘unlawful, unprofessional and unethical’ conduct over its relationship with the commodities centre. The accounting company is believed to have helped an Emirati gold refiner rewrite its compliance report for the DMCC to modify the audit findings.
On account of many West African artisanal miners battle to finance their actions, they take loans from Emiratis that will solely be paid once more by means of exporting their gold to the UAE. This isn’t basically illegal, nevertheless most of this gold could be exported by means of illicit channels.
Inside the UAE, licensed loopholes and weak import procedures facilitate the illegal commerce
Mali and the UAE ought to strengthen every residence strategies and procedures, and bilateral and regional cooperation to close the gaps that permit the illegal gold commerce. Dubai’s airport authorities must intently administration and monitor the hand-carried gold arriving from Mali and Africa. Travellers ought to current actual certificates authenticating the nation of origin and tax receipts inside the exporting nation.
Mali’s tax incentives are participating for neighbouring smugglers. West African states should harmonise their tax insurance coverage insurance policies and guidelines on gold, starting with greater coordination amongst nations inside the Monetary Neighborhood of West African States. Smugglers would then have fewer industrial route alternate options.
Lastly, traceability is hard as a result of informal nature of artisanal mining. One technique to restore that’s to find out all actors inside the shopping for and promoting chain. On account of most illegally traded gold from Mali is purchased inside the Dubai Gold Souk after which onward to refiners and jewellers worldwide, customers’ identities have to be revealed. Worldwide political and monetary companions should stress UAE authorities to be additional clear on this regard.
Abdelkader Abderrahmane, Senior Researcher, ENACT mission, ISS Regional Office for West Africa, the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin

This textual content was first revealed by ENACT.
Image: © Sebastien RIEUSSEC / AFP
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One thought on “Mali to Dubai: artery for West Africa’s booming illegal gold commerce – Institute for Security Analysis

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