[credit provider=”Wikimedia Commons”]
Throughout his long NBA career, shot block artist Dikembe Mutombo was well known for his post-block finger-wagging celebrations and his numerous humanitarian efforts.But Mutombo’s great reputation is likely to be tarnished if the latest allegations against him are proven true.
The former All-Star centre is alleged to have tried to smuggle $10 million worth of gold, a conflict mineral used to fund African militia groups, from his Congo homeland to the U.S., according to The Houston Chronicle (via SB Nation).
The Chronicle’s story cites a United Nations report stating that Mutombo needed a buyer to smuggle 1,000 pounds of gold out of Congo.
Due to the country’s ban on mining and mineral exports “imposed to try to stop the main revenue source for the mafia-like militias that controlled them” Mutombo enlisted the help of Houston energy executive Kase Lawal. Lawal had done business in Africa before and is close friends with Carlos St. Mary, a man with experience dealing in third world minerals. The entire deal was botched early on, though.
There were, however, no profits to be had. In truth, the deal was an elaborate scam that ended at an airport in Goma with the seizure of the Gulfstream V jet and the arrest of St. Mary and several CAMAC [Lawal’s company] employees, all suddenly facing accusations of money laundering and attempted smuggling.
More than 1,000 pounds of gold pulled from the cargo hold was taken away by Congolese officials. Two bags containing $6.6 million in cash were gone as well, into the pockets of a local general whose loyal troops oversee much of the nearby mining operations.
To make matters worse, Lawal had to pay millions more to recover his plane and his people. St. Mary said Lawal later told him the entire ordeal cost him around $30 million.
The story is corroborated by records kept by St. Mary, but both Mutombo and Lawal have yet to comment.