Inside the shady world of gold scams Part II

Sunday March 31 2019

(LEFT) Malong while appearing at Buganda Road

(LEFT) Malong while appearing at Buganda Road Magistrates Court last week. (RIGHT) Tycoon Malong displays his dollars during his heyday.  

By Eriasa Mukiibi Sserunjogi

Click here to read Part I of this story: Inside story of gold scams

....If they paid the taxes in Nairobi, Owino told the duo, they would get a gold origination certificate for Kenya and forget about Uganda and Congo. Dessie and Abebe had already spent way beyond their limits by that time without getting anything back, and they just couldn’t raise the money that Malong and Owino said was needed to pay the taxes in Nairobi.

Because Dessie and Abebe said they had no money, Owino offered to help them by applying for a quick loan, a bond, to get the $450,000 required. He presented to the duo what he called application documents for the bond, and filled them. But before the bond could be approved, he said he needed to facilitate the process. So Dessie and Abebe had to raise $100,000 for that purpose.

The duo flew back to South Africa and returned with the $100,000 that Owino said was needed for facilitation. Shortly afterwards, Malong told them that only a loan of $150,000 had been approved for Owino, and so Dessie and Abebe had to look for the extra $300,000 to pay the taxes. If they could not raise the money, Dessie says Malong told them, they could as well accept to lose whatever they had invested until that time and go back home.
Dessie and Abebe chose to fight on. They flew back to South Africa and Dessie mortgaged his house for $500,000, which he says he all sent to Malong because Malong said he also needed $200,000 for his expenditures while in Nairobi working on the duo’s issues.

Road to Hong Kong
When the duo returned to Nairobi, Dessie says Owino was optimistic that all would be fine, but he had a fresh piece of advice. Instead of taking the gold to Dubai as the original plan had been, they should fly it to Hong Kong. A week later, Dessie said, Owino was ready with the documentation that would help the duo fly their gold to Hong Kong.
But before they would fly, another problem cropped up. The Congolese General who was the owner of the gold, Malong told Dessie and Abebe, had grown suspicious that after selling the gold in Hong Kong, the duo could disappear without paying the rest of his money.

Malong told the duo that the General had appointed a lawyer to represent him in the transaction, and that they needed to first fly back to Kampala to meet with the lawyer before they travelled to Hong Kong. In Kampala, Dessie says they met a man who introduced himself as Tony, whose real name he says he later found out to be Hannington Tayoba. The meeting happened at BMK House near Hotel Africana, Dessie says, in an office tagged as a law firm.
Dessie says Tony told them that he had instructions from General to travel with them to Hong Kong, but that he would do that at the duo’s expense because he was going to help them and they were holding high value merchandise belonging to his client. The duo bought for Tony a business ticket worth $3,000, and had to cater for his hotel and other expenses while in Hong Kong. In total they, Dessie says, they gave him 10,000.

Tony told them that he did not know them and did not trust them, so he could not disclose to them which flight he was taking and when he would fly to Hong Kong. He only told them the day they would meet him at the Sheraton hotel in Hong Kong.
Dessie says they travelled and slept in a much cheaper hotel because they could not afford the Sheraton, and went to see Tony on the appointed morning. Before they left Kampala, Tony took the paperwork for his “client’s” gold and Dessie and Abebe were to find him with it in Hong Kong. The duo were not required to fly back to Nairobi because Owino told them that he had already sent the gold to Hong Kong.

On meeting Tony at the hotel, Dessie says, the law in Hong Kong required them to get the gold tested and have a testing certificate before it would be sold. Tony called agents of the shipment firm Fedex and asked them to deliver the consignment to his hotel. The box was delivered by two Chinese men and a Ugandan national who said he was working in Hong Kong with Fedex, Dessie says.
Dessie and Abebe were relieved to see the container that they had last seen at Entebbe airport months earlier, with their own padlock still intact. Tony asked Dessie and Abebe to open the box and pick a gold bar of their choice which they would take for testing. On opening, Dessie says he saw the same gold bars that he had seen when they locked the box. Dessie picked one of the bars and locked the box again.

After picking the bar, Dessie says, he asked the men and Tony whether they would leave the box in Tony’s hotel room so that they would sell the gold after testing. Tony - “the lawyer” – and the Ugandan on the delivery team, Dessie says, spoke to each other in a language Dessie and Abebe did not understand, perhaps Luganda, and Tony later told the buying duo that that would not be possible.
Tony explained to Dessie and Abebe that the Ugandan man had just broken the Fedex rules by smuggling out the box because the box could only be released to them after they paid everything to Fedex, including $45,000 for storage. Dessie and Abebe were in Hong Kong, and did not have the money to pay for storage. But they had to deal with the testing aspect.

Using the Google search engine, Dessie said they found a contact of a refinery that dealt in gold testing and purchase. After picking the bar, they headed to the refinery for testing. At this moment, Tony asked to be the one to hold the gold bar, to which Dessie and Abebe yielded because they saw no reason to object. They got to the refinery and the bar, on being tested, turned out to be 97.6 pure gold and 23 karat, says Dessie.
The people at the refinery liked it and wanted to buy it. They were prepared to pay $41,000 per kilogramme of gold, Dessie says. Tony refused to sell it to them. Asked why, Dessie says, Tony said they had to return it to Fedex and have the box cleared with all its contents intact. The refinery people gave them the testing certificate and they left.

Dessie and Abebe now had to clear the hurdle of paying the $45,000 to Fedex for storage before they would at last be able to sell the gold the following day. Dessie says he called his Chinese friend and asked for a one-day loan of that amount. The Chinese friend, Dessie says, did not have the money ready, but said he would give him the money the following morning. Dessie and Abebe went with Tony to his hotel, had dinner and finally retired to their low-end hotel in the knowledge that their pursuit of many months would mature the following day.

Abandoned in Hong Kong
Early on the appointed morning, at 9am, Dessie and Abebe were at the Sheraton Hotel in Hong Kong, having already picked the $45,000 from Dessie’s dutiful Chinese friend. They were ready to pay Fedex, get their merchandise and proceed to the refinery to sell it.
They did not find Tony at the hotel, however. The phone number by which they had been contacting him was switched off. They tried to contact the room in which he had been booked and he was not there. Hotel staff later informed them that he had checked earlier that morning.
“We cried; we did not know what to do,” Dessie says. They rushed to the airport hoping to get a hold of Tony. No chance.

In panic, Dessie and Abebe called Malong, who had stayed back in Kampala, and explained what had happened. Ever the calm actor, Dessie says, Malong told them that they needed not worry. He was the son of a General; and the gold belonged to another General. No one could cross the two Generals because it is very dangerous, Dessies says Malong assured them. They flew back to Kampala to meet Malong and his group for a solution.
Dessie says that he and Abebe, in the company of Malong and Gavana, met Tony in the office they had first met him on BMK House. Tony told them he had abandoned them in Hong Kong because he did not trust them and “did not want to waste time with us”. Dessie says Tony told them he was busy at the moment but that he would be available to travel with them again in two weeks’ time now that there had been more confidence building. The duo spent the two weeks at Speke Resort Munyonyo waiting for Tony.

After the waiting period elapsed, Dessie says, Tony informed them that the paperwork they had from the revenue office in Nairobi had a spelling error that had to first be fixed before they would travel back to Hong Kong. It would cost $100,000. He showed them the document that needed to be fixed. They wondered how he would get paperwork made in Nairobi fixed from Kampala. Tony said that is what he is good at. Dessie and Abebe travelled back to South Africa and mobilised the $100,000, which he says they sent to Malong to pass on to Tony.
On returning from South Africa, Tony also informed Dessie and Abebe that t6he General, the owner of the gold, was short of money and the deal was moving at creeping pace. He needed $100,000 to feed his fighters. The duo returned to South Africa, got the money and passed it to Tony, after which he said he now trusted them enough to travel with them again.

Pending business in Nairobi
But before they would travel to Hong Kong again, Tony told the duo that the bond Owino had contracted in Nairobi on their behalf to support their tax payment had expired, and Dessie and Abebe had to pay the $150,000. Dessie and Abebe, devoid of cash, turned to Malong for advice on how they would proceed. He says Malong told them that he would call the wife of the Congolese General, who he called “Madem General”, and ask for help.

‘Madam General’ did not have cash when Malong called her, however, but she offered them 50kgs of gold to sell in Uganda so that they would raise money to get by. Dessie says they told Malong that they did not know any gold buyers in Uganda, so the 50kgs of gold would not help them. Dessie says Malong told them he knew gold buyers in Uganda.
With the issue of market now disposed of, there remained the issue of how the gold would leave Congo for Uganda. Malong asked Dessie and Abebe to raise $30,000 for transport, which they did. After this money was available, Malong also said he would have to go to Congo and needed $10,000. That too he was given, Dessie says. After ‘returning’ with the gold, Dessie and Abebe now looked to Malong to have it sold. Malong said he would invite Owino to come over and take it to Nairobi for sale.

When they contacted Owino, the 2017 election campaigns were at their peak. Owino claimed to be related to Raila Odinga, who was running for president, and that he was too involved in his campaign to spare time to come to Uganda. He needed more time. Malong then advised Dessie and Abebe to first go back to South Africa and look for money.

Return to Hong Kong
The duo returned from South Africa with $100,000 and handed it over to Gavana to facilitate a return to Hong Kong to sell the 50kgs of gold. The documentation was prepared and soon they were on a flight back to Hong Kong. At Entebbe airport, they were given a tracking number to follow the 50kgs of gold that they were told was on its way to Hong Kong.

On reaching Hong Kong and checking using the tracking number, however, the consignment of 50kgs of gold was in Dubai headed for Brussels, Belgium. The panicky duo called Gavana to find out what was happening. Gavana told them that the consignment had been held by the United Nations in Dubai and they needed $30,000 to facilitate the process of having it released.
From Hong Kong, Dessie says he called a family member in South Africa to send $30,000 to Gavana in Kampala. By the time the money was sent, the tracking system showed that the gold had reached Brussels. Gavana told the duo that the UN had held the gold again. It was coming to December 2017.

Dessie says Malong told them that was a bad time because General, the owner of the gold, was sick in hospital but would have the gold released in the new year (2018) when he gets well and after the festivities. The duo had stayed in Hong for two weeks waiting for gold that did not reach them. Malong advised them to go back home to South Africa and that since the 50kgs of gold was stuck in Brussels, the more convenient thing was to mobilise $150,000 and facilitate the selling of the 150kgs of gold which was already in Hong Kong.

Tony does it again
Dessie and Abebe decided to fly to Kampala instead and get a clearer picture of how they would proceed in the new year. They met with Malong’s group and Tony at his office, again. They wanted Tony to break down the costs that stood in the way of the Hong Kong deal being completed.
Tony said they needed to pay the $150,000 for the bond in Nairobi; $100,000 which was the accumulated bill due to Fedex for storage; and $50,000 for Tony’s facilitation. Dessie says he returned to South Africa and mortgaged his rental residential building to a money lender, who gave him $300,000. They returned to Uganda and he handed the money to Tony, he says in the presence of Malong and the entire group, at his office at BMK house. He also gave Tony $10,000 for transport and other costs for the trip to Hong Kong.

Like before, Tony would travel separately and would meet the duo at the Sheraton Hotel in Hong Kong. They got there on the appointed day and Tony was not there. The telephone number he had given them to contact him on was switched off. Dessie and Abebe contacted Malong about Tony’s absence in Hong Kong, and Malong later asked them to fly to Nairobi, where he said he had discovered Tony had gone instead.

Back to Nairobi
In Nairobi, the duo met with Owino, who told them that there had been another problem. In Hong Kong, Owino said, the authorities had found out that the gold had originated from DR Congo yet the paperwork showed that it had come from Nairobi.
Owino told the duo that to get out of the situation, they needed to give him $50,000. Dessie says they told Malong that they did not have that money and only managed to give him $5,000.
“He took the $5,000 and started teasing us that we had only given him $5,000,” Dessie says.

Perhaps realising that the duo had spent to the last penny, Owino now lost interest in them and eventually told them that the gold had been returned to DR Congo. When the duo turned to Malong about the way forward, Dessie says Malong confirmed to them that the General had indeed received the gold in Congo. It was already Christmas time and Malong advised them to return home to South Africa and resume the business in the new year.

In early 2018, Dessie says they contacted Malong again, who then said he had contacted General’s wife and would help them to take the gold to Lusaka, Zambia. They were again required to spend money while in Lusaka. Dessie sent $10,000 to facilitate the business in Lusaka, but he says they later got upset when they were asked for another $60,000.
In the meantime, players kept disappearing off the scene, with Owino and Tony now unavailable. When Dessie met Malong again, he says Malong claimed that he was angry with Tony for crossing him, and that he was looking for him. Dessie tried a hunt for Tony of his own, returning to the office on BMK House, but in vain.
After all options were exhausted, Dessie opened a case against the group in Nairobi, and was later referred to Uganda because most of the activity and players were here.