Congo gold smugglers face charge in court

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Three suspects arrested after 2.5 tonnes of gold was stolen.

Three suspected gold smugglers from the Democratic Republic of Congo have been charged with fraud in a Kenyan court after their names appeared on a list of the DR Congo’s most wanted gold smugglers.

The accused are said to have stolen 2.5 tonnes of gold between July 2010 and February 2011. The men, arrested this week in Nairobi with 400kg of gold, deny the charges.

Congolese officials are said to regard Kenya as a major hub in the illegal gold trade, which in turn fuels ongoing conflict in the mineral-rich east of DR Congo. In March, Kenya and DR Congo agreed to jointly investigate the illegal gold smuggling in an attempt to crack down on ‘gold runners’.

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Congolese diplomat Bob Katamba has spoke BBC that one of the suspects who appeared in court on Thursday, Jean-Claude Mudeke Kabamba, was believed to the ring leader of the trade.

Katamba said that the suspect went by the alias "General Kabamba" and was believed to be gun-running for the Mai Mai rebel group in eastern DR Congo in exchange for gold.

Kenyan police say a computer with valuable information about the clandestine trade was also seized this week.

Two further suspects, Ruphin Kazadi Elumba and Jean-Claude Dyansangu Kanza, were charged with conspiracy to defraud a gold buyer of $1.4m by posing as legal gold dealers. Police say they expect to press more charges as their investigation is still going on.

In February, a Kenyan official investigating a suspected case of gold smuggling was shot dead in Nairobi.

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