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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 August 2007, 00:02 GMT 01:02 UK
UN troops 'helped smuggle gold'
By Martin Plaut
BBC News

Congolese police walk past a United Nations position 15 March 2007 in Kinshasa
Pakistan is the largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping effort
The BBC has obtained an internal UN report examining allegations of gold smuggling by Pakistani peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It concluded that Pakistani officers provided armed escorts, hospitality and food to gold smugglers in east Congo.

The confidential report recommended the case be referred to Islamabad for appropriate action against the troops.

An earlier UN report, published in July after an 18-month inquiry, found only one man involved in the illicit trade.

The Pakistani battalion at the centre of the claims was based in and around the mining town of Mongbwalu, in the north-east of the country, in 2005.

They helped bring peace to an area that had previously seen bitter fighting between the Lendu and Hema ethnic groups.

But witnesses claimed Pakistani officers also supplied weapons to notorious FNI militia commanders in return for gold.

As the trade developed, the officers allegedly brought in the Congolese army and then Indian traders from Kenya.

'Like old friends'

The internal report, marked strictly confidential, was produced by the UN's own office of Internal Oversight Services.

Weighing gold
Human Rights Watch raised its concerns with the UN in late 2005
While the report did not support allegations that the Pakistanis provided weapons to the militia operating in the area, it provided detailed evidence of the trading network established in the gold mines of eastern Congo, involving Pakistani troops, Congolese army officers and Indian traders.

The report quoted witnesses as saying that Indian gold traders were at the Pakistani camp in Mongbwalu "on a regular basis... consuming meals in the officers' mess and socialising with UN personnel".

Others said that when the gold traders landed at the airstrip they were greeted by the Pakistanis "as if they were old friends" and that they were transported from the airfield in UN vehicles.

Details of the flights used by the smugglers were not entered into the Civil Aircraft Register maintained by the Pakistanis, and the investigators concluded that they considered it likely this "was a deliberate cover-up of this group's arrival in Mongbwalu, whose mission was to purchase gold".

Gold mining
The battle for mining concessions has cost countless lives
Human Rights Watch, which first raised these concerns in late 2005, described the gold smuggling operation as a mafia-like organisation.

Although the UN investigators found local people and UN staff who testified that weapons and ammunition were sold to the FNI militia operating in the area, they said this could not be substantiated.

The investigating team made no reference to the evidence of a Congolese army officer whom they interviewed, and who later spoke to the BBC.

He said he had seen evidence that the Pakistanis were re-arming the militia.

Nor does the UN team refer to a letter from two former militia leaders - known as Dragon and Kung Fu - in which they admitted receiving arms from the Pakistanis to control the gold mines.

In reality the report raises as many questions as it lays to rest - and no-one has yet been arrested or held to account.


SEE ALSO
UN attacked over DR Congo report
23 Jul 07 |  South Asia
Peacekeeper 'smuggled Congo gold'
13 Jul 07 |  South Asia
UN probing DRC smuggling claims
23 May 07 |  Africa
Gold rush fuels DR Congo's pain
01 Jun 05 |  Africa

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