Gold Mafia: Smuggler takes out $40m of Ghana’s gold every month

Gold has been mined in Ghana for over 100 years. But communities in Ghana where the gold is mined are spectacular examples of the country’s poverty index. Littered with poor road networks, inadequate infrastructure and chronic unemployment for local people, particularly the youth, the country has very little to show for its precious metals.

Yesterday March 23, 2023, the Investigative Unit of Al Jazeera broadcast the first episode of a four-part investigation into gold smuggling in Africa titled Gold Mafia. While the first episode focuses on southern Africa, particularly Zimbabwe, Ghana popped up.

One of the main characters, one Alistair Mathias, told undercover journalists posing as Chinese criminals that he is able to smuggle $40 million worth of gold out of Ghana every month, and that is only one smuggler, and there are many of them.

The activities of gold smugglers are well known in Ghana. But there is little known about effective state action to curb them. Occasional arrests of suspected gold smugglers happen at the Kotoka International Airport, but generates very little interest among the population and the conclusions of most of the cases in court are not well covered by the media.


There is however evidence that Ghana is losing billions of dollars from gold smuggling. Added to that, the activities of illegal miners, known as galamsey have polluted water bodies and destroyed farmlands across the country.

In a 2017 article, Ghana Business News cited the then Minister of Lands and Natural Resources saying, an estimated $2.3 billion worth of illegally-mined gold left Ghana in 2016, while Ghana earned $3.2 billion from official gold exports in 2015.

In that article, Channing May of the Global Financial Integrity (GFI) told by email that, “Because illegal mining is unregulated, it is difficult to determine how much it generates, particularly from illegal Chinese miners. Minister John Peter Amewu recently estimated stated that $2.3 billion of illegally-mined gold left Ghana in 2016, which is a significant amount considering that approximately $3.2 billion of gold was officially exported from Ghana in 2015. This would suggest that illicit small-scale mining (galamsey) represents more than 70 per cent of all gold production in Ghana. Even if, for example, illegal Chinese miners were responsible for only 10 per cent of the illegal mining in Ghana, that would still be worth $230 million.”

Last year at a public forum organised by the Media Foundation for West Africa to discuss illicit financial flows, Mr. Abdulai Bashiru Dapilah, Head of Organized Crime and member of the illicit financial flows unit of the Ministry of Finance, who also gave the keynote address, indicated that investigations conducted by the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) on eight gold exporting companies in Ghana for the period 2019 to 2021 found a total of over $ 1.1 billion illicitly flowed out.

An investigation by Ghana Business News, part of the global FinCEN Files, by the ICIJ found that five Ghana gold exporters, some of them with no identifiable office locations contributed to Kaloti of Dubai’s $2.8 billion gold deals.

Ghana’s economy is in crisis. The public debt has exceeded sustainable levels, and the country has defaulted on its debts, with no one willing to lend to the country, the government has been forced to eat back its words and pride, after claiming it won’t ever go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it is now back on its knees, begging the IMF and urging other international partners to intercede on its behalf to get a $3 billion extended credit facility.

While at it, the country, as the Al Jazeera investigation shows, and according to allegations by the former Minister of the Environment, Prof Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng government officials are conniving with smugglers and illegal miners to steal the country’s gold.

By Emmanuel K Dogbevi

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  1. NAK says

    I have read this article with immense shock. My heart is full of pains for my motherland, Ghana.

    Anyway, how do I get in touch with you for something I want to share with you?

  2. Paul Elvis Dziku says

    It’s looks like the youth does not fore see the future periles of gold mining community.I look at tarkwa ,obuasi,wassa okropong, and other mining community which only fight for lifehood of the day but never stop to think about the immerse exposure their generation will face interms of poverty and famines . instead of fighting for institutional ownership and policies for future of their community, kings who suppose to be protectors for the community rather join hands with the greedy ones to finish the community and the country as awhole.

  3. Kwadwo Owusu Acheaw. says

    If Anas did it and any big man’s name popped up, Ghanaians are the same people who will attack him as baiting the culprits.

  4. Branden Elvis Anuka says

    Aaaaaah, my fellow countrymen and women, no fingers can be pointed to one person, we should all bow down our heads in shame. From the president to the least of us. There is no sense of patriotism. We are always at the mercy of the foreigners simply because we trust less in ourselves. A politician, pastor, business person or public worker just to mention a few is more concerned about how much he makes of every damning deal that further sinks the country than opposing wrong doing to the benefit of mother Ghana. Our water bodies are polluted with impunity, our lands are rendered impotent and our air polluted beyond repair but we say we have a environmental protection agencies, national security, military and other institutions that are just at the manipulative fingers of one big man or the other. Ow Ghana where are the real meanings of our national anthem and pledge. We are losing both young and old to strange and avoidable diseases meanwhile we are all glorifying that which killing us “ill and unsubstantiated wealth”. Meanwhile those at the helm of affairs are packing the country’s resources to other countries that less than us in many regards to either buy properties they will never get to live in or opening banks in foreign countries simply because of their ill intentions and lack of trust in the mother land.

  5. Boro says

    This nonsense can only happen to a country whose leaders are greedy, corrupt and clueless.
    And USA is all over the place because of just 100 million dollars which can be made within three months in Ghana.
    Oh God Almighty, where did we go wrong???. It is about time Ghanaians sit down and analyse the 16 years each for the NPP and the NDC governance. We will realise no project of theirs will pass the litmus test of ever voting them back into power if not for creating, looting and sharing of Ghana’s wealth among themselves and family.

    The have made Ghana a banana state.

    I think Ghana have reached a point where we don’t have to allow these two parties to stand in any election in Ghana.

    They are wicked criminals who don’t deserve the citizenery to queue and vote for them to lead the country in anyway.

    Every single member of these two parties deserved to be hoot at wherever we find them. They are the nation wreckers and the country’s enemies. How can we sit down and watch for somebody from another country to rob this nation like this if not because of greed at the expense of the state.

    Fellow Ghanaians this menace is the tip of an iceberg, trust me. The nation is missing billions of dollars through other means. God Almighty will expose all of them one day.

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