Gold Mafia: Refinery linked to Simon Rudland suspended in Dubai and London

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A gold refinery reportedly linked to Zimbabwean businessman Simon Rudland has been suspended in the United Arab Emirates and in London, following claims of its role in money laundering.

Emirates Gold DMCC — which has operated in Dubai for more than 30 years — was last week suspended from the UAE’s Good Delivery List, according to a government website. The bullion committee, which is chaired by the Economy Ministry, removed the refinery due to concerns its owners were connected to alleged money launderers, Bloomberg reported, citing sources.

On Friday, the London Bullion Market Association, which regulates the UK capital’s precious metals market, also announced that it had suspended the refinery’s affiliate membership after a due diligence review.

“As the independent authority for precious metals, LBMA sets standards and upholds trust in the global market. Our rules are an essential part of this function. It is a condition of continued LBMA Membership that these Rules and obligations are accepted and observed. We, therefore, take very seriously any breaches of the Rules,” LBMA said in a statement. “Due to the outcome of the recent LBMA due diligence review, Emirates Gold’s Affiliate Membership has been suspended until further notice.”

A spokesperson for Emirates Gold said earlier this week the company operates to the highest industry standards for responsible sourcing and anti-money laundering, and has a long history of compliance audits to show that. Any matters relating to the authorities remain private, the spokesperson said. 

The decision by UAE and the London market show the increased international scrutiny on Zimbabwe’s gold, following an Al Jazeera investigation in April that revealed how gold channels are used to launder money out of Zimbabwe.

According to the people familiar with the UAE decision, two of the ultimate beneficial owners of Emirates Gold are relatives of Zimbabwean businessmen Simon Rudland and Howard Baker. The Al Jazeera documentary alleged that the two men were involved in money laundering through the UAE’s gold sector. It didn’t name any specific UAE refiner in connection with them.

The suspension of one of the most storied names in the UAE’s gold business comes as authorities crack down on suspected illegal practices in the sector. The Gulf nation has been implementing tough new laws to curb money laundering, levying large fines on non-compliant firms.

The UAE created its Good Delivery list as a standard for top firms. To maintain that accreditation, refiners must undergo annual audits to ensure they’re complying with anti-money laundering and responsible sourcing laws.

The clean-up of the gold sector is part of the UAE’s bid to rehabilitate its financial reputation, after being added to a watch-list by a money laundering watchdog last year. The Paris-based Financial Action Taskforce named the UAE’s gold industry as a cause for concern before adding the country to its “grey list.”

Emirates Gold was sold last year to a consortium that included relatives of Simon Rudland and Howard Baker, after the death in 2021 of its founder Mohamad Shakarchi, an Iraqi-born precious metals merchant, according to the people familiar with the situation.

The firm was one of just three UAE-based refineries with the nation’s Good Delivery accreditation, making it a top player in the Middle East’s biggest gold market. Other accreditation programs are also used by other refiners in the country. 

Bloomberg (additional reporting: newZWire)