Global Financial Integrity

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Tagged ‘Transnational Crime’

Good as Gold? South Africa’s Problem with Illegal Gold Mining Is Severe and Growing

Whether South Africa’s Illegal Gold Mining Problem Is Measured in Revenue, Security Risks, or Human Lives—in the End, Everyone Loses

South Africa is the world’s fifth largest producer of gold, with the gold mining sector representing approximately two percent of South Africa’s GDP. Yet the country’s mineral wealth has proved to be a growing source of illegal activity and conflict.

There are approximately 14,000 illegal gold miners in South Africa, many of whom are illegal immigrants from Lesotho, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. Illegal gold miners are known locally as “zama zamas,” which is variously translated as “We are trying” or “He who seizes the opportunity” or “Take a chance.” They operate in the estimated 4,000 to 6,000 abandoned mines in the Witwatersrand basin, but will also bribe security guards, policemen, or mine employees to gain access to active mines and/or to steal equipment. Credible estimates of the value of the illegal gold mining industry vary widely, ranging from US$500 million to US$2 billion annually.

Not included in these figures is the tax fraud involved in these activities. According to Naomi Fowler, criminal syndicates exploit the fact that value added tax (VAT) is not charged on mined gold whereas it is on processed gold. These syndicates then use techniques like trade misinvoicing to fraudulently certify illegally mined gold as legitimate second-hand scrap gold, which enables them to claim back VAT that they never paid.

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Why Wildlife Trafficking and Anonymous Companies Are Mutually Inclusive

Elephant ivory is a key product in wildlife trafficking

Any Effective Effort to Save Rhinos, Tigers, and Pandas from Extinction Must Tackle the Anonymous Companies that Propel the Illegal Wildlife Trade

Wildlife trafficking is more than illegally killing exotic animals; it is part of a complex criminal network that makes use of anonymous companies to illegally transfer both goods and money.

The illegal wildlife trade consists of the poaching, sale, and trade of exotic wildlife. Animals are used for food, medicine, commercial products, and even as pets. The illegal trade hosts a bevy of clientele in both developing and developed countries.

We probably all know that wildlife trafficking can be grisly and disturbing. Rhino horns are hacked off, turtles are stuffed into suitcases, and bear gall bladders are milked from living animals. The impact on biodiversity is astounding. According to our 2011 report, Transnational Crime in the Developing World, only 500,000 elephants exist today compared to a population of 1.2 million in the 1970s. The world’s tiger population has plummeted to just 3,200—down 95 percent since 1900, and an entire species of Rhino went extinct in 2009.

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