The Office of Presidential Envoy and Ambassador at Large (OPEAAL), has responded to the Al Jazeera documentary which alleged that Uebert Angel is involved in money laundering and gold smuggling and is part of the “gold mafia”.
A statement released by the Chief Investment Officer at OPEAAL Sobona Mtisi in response to the documentary reads:
RESPONSE TO ALJAZEERA DOCUMENTARY
1. Following the release of the Aljazeera documentary titled The Gold Mafia, there has been a lot of misinformation, speculation, and deliberate efforts to scandalise the Presidential Envoy and Ambassador at Large, H.E Ambassador Uebert Angel. This statement serves to clarify some of the issues raised. These “investors” called the OPEAAL office, were referred to me, and I met with them. I was present at all the meetings, I know what happened and speak in my own capacity.
2. To start with, this was not a secret investigation as portrayed to the public. For the record, our meetings with them were never secret as is now being portrayed to the public. We met in public places and never in hidden places. I am not at liberty to give reasons because of the legal ramifications if the Office of the Ambassador at Large decides to pursue the legal route.
3. Ambassador Angel was appointed by His Excellency President Dr Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa mainly to facilitate investments into Zimbabwe. The Ambassador At-Large’s Office receives inquiries from prospective investors and facilitates the formalisation of their investments. As the Chief Investment Officer, I engage with potential investors with the view to guide them on the policy and procedures in the sectors of their interest. I also help them to navigate government bureaucracy and facilitate meetings with relevant officials from the public and private sectors. The Ambassador is never the final port of call for any investor. Our office is one of the key starting points for any investor. The decision to invest or not invest is solely at the discretion of the investor. Importantly, all investments have to be registered via the relevant Government agencies.
4. The criminals in the Al Jazeera documentary approached Ambassador Angel fully aware of his position and integrity. They posed as investors from a company called Philips Long, Hong Kong, which represented high-net-worth individuals who were keen to invest outside of Hong Kong. The reason they gave for wanting to move their capital out of Hong Kong was their perceived political risk in Hong Kong. To mitigate their perceived medium to long-term political risk to their capital, they were considering investing in Zimbabwe. We welcomed the opportunity to bring that capital into Zimbabwe. This was the basis for the meetings that we had with “Lee Sin Tong, Investment Adviser for Philips Long “and “Mr Lee, the Fund Manager for Philips Long”, with the view to bring their planned investment to Zimbabwe. They presented a proposal for a casino and gold trading hub at Victoria Falls with the view to registering on the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange. As patriotic Zimbabweans, we thought their planned investment will enhance Victoria Falls as a prime destination for tourism and create much-needed employment. This was our view. They never presented themselves as criminals needing help to launder money or do something illegal.
5. Our preliminary meetings with investors are aimed at understanding broadly the sector(s) that they want to invest in, their capacity to invest, and previous investing experience. In short, it’s a light touch verification process to enable our office to facilitate meetings with relevant government agencies or private sector players. Part of my meetings with investors is to assess whether a meeting with the Ambassador is warranted. It is at the Ambassador’s discretion to arrange a meeting with the investors and His Excellency, the President, as a way of keeping His Excellency informed of new investments coming into the country in line with OPEAAL’s mandate and Vision 2030.
This is the context within which the meetings were held with the “potential investors”, whom we now know as Al Jazeera journalists. The documentary apparently edits out this context for the obvious reason of wanting to misrepresent facts with the intention of wanting to tarnish the Ambassador’s image and portray Zimbabwe in a negative image. I leave the fact that this documentary is aired prior to our elections to people more qualified than me.
6. In our meetings with these “investors” the discussion shifted to requests of meeting with His Excellency, the President. Ambassador Angel questioned the request. The Ambassador further told them that his word is as good as the President’s word, and it is not necessary to meet the President immediately. He then consulted with the security experts at the organisation’s disposal with regard to the strange request for a meeting with the His Excellency, the President. Ambassador immediately blocked the “investor’s” requests for a meeting with His Excellency, the President. Ambassador’s view was that it’s never standard practice, anywhere in the world, that each and every investor who wants to invest in any country meets the President of that country.
7. Given this strange request, Ambassador Angel suspected something was amiss. He consulted with the Security Experts attached to the OPEAAL, who further advised against arranging a meeting with the President. There was a consensus among the OPEAAL team and security experts that these individuals might not be genuine investors. The challenge was what if the team’s suspicions were wrong, and the country loses billions in investment. On the other hand, what if the team’s suspicions were proved right, what were the implications of meeting these “investors”?
8. After these suspicions, the team switched to ‘red’ protocol, with the decision to proceed with extreme caution, be in the middle, and play along, and never to facilitate a meeting between the “investors” and the His Excellency, the President. With this knowledge, and at the insistence of the “investors” Ambassador Angel made several calls to decoys working with our office. It is these decoys who posed as Henrietta Rushwaya, the First Lady, and the First Son.
9. The calls to the decoys were made in light of the leading questions asked by the “investors”. They kept pushing to have the First Family in the discussion, especially the First Lady and the President. They even threw in figures to help in the charity organisation which Ambassador Angel refused and even told them he had his own money; this part was omitted from the documentary. It’s just amazing how people are made to believe what has been propagated as gospel. The best these people got are the audios from the decoys, they never got the chance to film the President or the First Lady because the Ambassador was already informed by the security agents prior to getting in the meeting that they didn’t have the money they claimed to have. However, as aforementioned, we battled with what if the intelligence is wrong and the country loses the much-needed investment. The decoys helped in asserting that if they were real investors, we would be able to get it from their reactions after the call.
10. There is no way Ambassador Angel could get hold of the First Lady and First Son without pre-arrangements and standard security clearance procedures in place in meeting with the First Family. Moreover, the Ambassador has never met the First Lady. They never met and never had any direct dealings. It would have been prudent for these “investors” to verify if the calls were indeed made to the people that Ambassador claimed to be calling.
11. In the meetings, figures were thrown around for arranging meetings, and Ambassador played along, with the full knowledge that there is no fee required to meet with the President. When we reconvened and reviewed our discussions with these “investors” we noted that the discussion has shifted from investment to other issues that had nothing to do with the proposed investment in Zimbabwe. The Ambassador was already informed by the security agents prior to the meeting that they didn’t have the money they claimed to have. The “investors” failed to produce a confirmation of funds to back their financial capacity to invest in Zimbabwe. Consequently, Ambassador Angel swiftly and immediately called off any further meetings and engagements with these “investors”. He was certain that these are not genuine investors and that these people had another agenda other than investment. This had nothing to do with their failure to pay a “fee”.
12. The utterances made by Ambassador Uebert Angel in the documentary appear to suggest that the Ambassador carried out illegal activities involving gold trade and the movement of cash, but the reality is that the Ambassador has never traded in gold or moved cash for anyone. All his flights are through commercial airlines, not private jets. It is clear from the documentary that Ambassador Angel and his team were never shown trading gold. In this regard, the Ambassador would be right to challenge anyone with evidence that he once traded gold or moved cash to come forward. He also never travelled into or out of Zimbabwe on a private jet. This information is available to the public. These utterances were made with the aim of getting the true picture of these fake investors and it became clear that the intelligence operatives were 100% correct.
13. Honestly, it should be common sense that it’s physically impossible for Ambassador Angel to carry US$1 billion in a bag. The reactions of these fake investors to this suggestion cemented our view that these “investors” were not genuine. It is important to note that as much as they said they had US$1 billion in cash, they did not say it was dirty money that needed to be cleaned. The Ambassador simply wanted to see if they really had the money they claimed to have.
14. It should be noted that Ambassador Angel deals with citizen or people-to-people diplomacy. His office is all about individuals making their own independent decisions to invest in the country. This has seen many investors visit Zimbabwe and some invest in the country. It should also be noted that these investors were all directed to relevant State Institutions for formalisation of their investments. No investment starts and ends with meeting the Ambassador. The investors are always referred to the relevant authorities and Government institutions. The Ambassador has been in business for a long time and knows his way around investors. He helps them to see the truth in the great nation of Zimbabwe. In his engagements, he focuses more on Economic Diplomacy, not Political Diplomacy. The Ambassador pushes all the necessary buttons to convince investors that Zimbabwe is a safe investment destination. He does this by using his own integrity and reputation, at no point does he projects himself as a criminal or shady businessman.
15. To add to this, of all the investors who were facilitated by the OPEAAL, none can claim to have paid a fee to the Ambassador. If anyone out there was made to pay a fee by the Ambassador, may he/she come forward with the evidence, The Ambassador does his work in the noblest and most transparent manner. The recorded episode with the fake investors was clearly a well-crafted ploy to trap the Ambassador and tarnish his image. Indeed there are people who are falling for the propaganda, but time will reveal that there is not a single criminal activity that can be attributed to the Ambassador in his capacity as an Ambassador or as a private citizen.
16. There was never direct communication with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. None of the people working at the Central Bank at airports communicated with the team. In fact, there is never a need for that. All genuine investors follow the formal processes used by local and foreign investors. Given that the ‘investors’ had not indicated any criminal intent, there was never a motive to cut corners or engage in illegal dealings.
17. Throughout the engagements with these fake investors, and indeed in all other engagements, there was never any link with airport authorities or military bases. There was never anytime the President told us to tell them anything. We used our own modus operandi. If anything, everything said and done during the engagements was meant to assure the investors that they were in good hands and that their investments are safe. All this, and more, was taken out of context and scandalised.
18. Ambassador Angel’s role is to market the country with the view of attracting investors to Zimbabwe. His job involves convincing investors that Zimbabwe is indeed open for business and a lucrative investment destination of choice. On top of this, Ambassador Angel is a well-known Prophet and Preacher, he does not present himself as a criminal to investors. As a Prophet, Ambassador Angel is accessible to the public through his live broadcasts and there is nothing in those live broadcasts that suggest he is a criminal. In fact, Al Jazeera drew on his TV content in an attempt to discredit him.
19. In the entire documentary, Ambassador Angel spoke glowingly of the trust the President put in him and his work as a man of God. It is from this background that the Aljazeera operatives presented themselves as investors, not as criminals. There is no incentive for Ambassador Angel to present himself as a criminal to potential investors. In fact, it does not make any sense to say Zimbabwe is open for business in one line and in the next instance present Zimbabwe as a haven of corruption. All the people making crude allegations against the Ambassador cannot provide any evidence showing the Ambassador carrying cash or gold. They are relying on statements that were manipulated and taken completely out of context. As a matter of fact, when gold was mentioned, he resorted to decoys as our ‘red’ protocol demands when intelligence fails to give a conclusive check of the concerned people.
20. Further to this there seems to be an inference that there is money being demanded to see the president. That assertion is false. It further shows the manipulation of the clips to say exactly what these people want to come out. It should also be noted that in bringing the investors, I was responsible for this team. I can categorically state that no one in the OPEAAL team asked for a facilitation fee of any sort.
21. People working in our office are allowed to partner with investors. The documentary left out this for obvious reasons. We don’t receive anything from investors to facilitate their investments. However, anyone who is not connected directly to OPEAAL is at liberty to do so. In this documentary, they are involving the comments of Mr Doolan who is not and has never been, an employee of the OPEAAL office.
22. The Aljazeera documentary was heavily edited to cut out some of the words that the Ambassador said. The documentary also negates the context in which these discussions occurred. The discussion was supposed to be a meeting prior to meeting with the President. It was, in many ways, the opportunity for the Ambassador to gauge the seriousness of the investors and the authenticity of their claims. When it became clear that they had nothing, the Ambassador blocked them from ever meeting the President. If the Ambassador did not use his own tactics to probe them and expose their fakery, the President could have met them and recorded them as part of this documentary. In hindsight, I believe that it would have been better if we had taken them to the President because all this narrative of tarnishing the President would have not succeeded. We have taken several investors to the President and his conduct around investors is always exceptionally professional and transparent. I firmly believe that if we had taken them to the President, they would have left with no toxic narrative to spread.
23. In conclusion, it should be noted that what we initially assumed were criminals that we were vetting before meeting the President, turned out to be undercover journalists. The OPEAAL respects the role of journalists in society as they help to bring accountability. However, the use of “entrapment” and deception is a very poor form of journalism that mostly relies on asking leading questions and trying to put words into subjects’ mouths. In the end, the Aljazeera journalists have all the power to control the narrative by selectively removing some of the statements from the people they “investigated.” There is a lot of material that they omitted which could have provided a better view of the real motives and intentions of the Ambassador when he made some of the statements being used to scandalise him.