Golden deals in Africa: US secret services take action against the Wagner Group

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Golden Deals in Africa
US secret services are taking action against the Wagner Group

By Roland Peters

For years, the Russian mercenary group Wagner has been earning money in African countries, for example with gold and wood. At the same time, it acts as a protection force. The US is trying to reduce Moscow’s influence with its secret information tactics.

In several African countries, Russia and in particular the Wagner Group have a growing influence. They want to establish themselves there economically and militarily. The United States is taking a coordinated stance against reported “Politico” with reference to several informants: with transparency towards the African countries, Russia and the public. The tactic had been the basis for a clear alliance in the run-up to the large-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The US media writes that Washington is convinced that the Wagner Group will be sent forward as Moscow’s representative to initiate cooperation with Russia. The United States therefore wants to ensure that African countries are aware of the imminent dangers if they get involved with Moscow’s actors and curb Russian influence. At the same time it is a warning to them: Beware, we know what is going on.

Three Wagner mercenaries (right) arrive in Mali.

(Photo: AP)

With the help of their mercenaries, the Wagner Group has grown into a lobby and corporate network in Africa. The United States fears the group is helping fund the war in Ukraine. US officials told African countries that Wagner’s presence was bad for their economies.

In several countries on the continent, Wagner acts as a security force and propaganda assistant who protects and supports politicians. It is also economically active, acting like a multinational corporation and is thus the most influential Russian actor On the continent. At the same time, the Russian government arranges military cooperation and arms deals, or supplies food and fertilizer. Fifteen African countries abstained from passing a UN resolution in February condemning Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. Anti-Western ruled Mali voted against.

Gold, wood and protection

In the Central African Republic, for example, according to Russian information, there are almost 2,000 Wagner mercenaries on site and supporting the local government in the civil war. In return, the group is allowed to according to the magazine “The Africa Report” mine uncontrolled gold in the Ndassima mine. Accordingly, they then pour it into bars and bring it to Russia by plane.

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A photo from the Ndassima Gold Mine in 2014, when no machines were in operation.

(Photo: REUTERS)

Since 2018, the operators have massively expanded the mine. Machines dig deep into the earth in eight open pits to extract the estimated 50 tons of gold stored there. In the past, a maximum of 15 kilograms was mined by hand every year. With the gold mine alone, the Wagner Group could make a profit of up to 1 billion dollars a year, writes “Politico”. The operators put up a fence around the site, installed bridges and positioned anti-aircraft guns in several places. Several United Nations flight reconnaissance planes have been fired upon.

The Wagner Group is also active in the timber trade in the Central African Republic and owns logging rights for 187,000 hectares. Up to 180 truckloads a week bring them in protected convoys to a port in Cameroon, reports The Africa Report. According to the research, up to 400 other trucks from other transport companies pay to protect the mercenaries every week. Transport associations would recommend the Wagner convoy to their members, writes the magazine. The convoy is twice as expensive, but also twice as fast as another United Nations.

Russian representatives had negotiated that the trucks would not be checked at the border between the Central African Republic and Cameroon and that Wagner would not pay any customs duties. Wagner is also preparing to enter the country’s coffee and sugar business. At the same time, in Mali, 3,000 kilometers away, the anti-Western military government is being supported by hundreds of Wagner fighters. And further north, in Libya, 1,200 Wagner mercenaries are under arms with the forces of the rebel Khalifa Haftar.

Sudan borders the Central African Republic, and the Wagner Group has also been represented there for many years. Under the dictator Omar al-Bashir, a company allegedly controlled by Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin received the prospecting rights for several gold mines. They are secured by his fighters. There is an “elaborate plan to exploit Sudan’s wealth to support Moscow’s war in Ukraine,” CNN wrote in July 2022, based on a extensive research. Many tons of gold have already been camouflaged and brought out of the country by plane. Wagner also owns mining rights in neighboring Chad.

Information instead of weapons

When the US intelligence services repeatedly received information about a possible assassination plot by the Wagner group against the President of Chad in recent months, they shared their findings with the African country and the media. According to Politico, Sudan and the Central African Republic have been informed of the group’s attempts to gain control of more natural resources, in addition to gold such as manganese and silicon. US officials also held talks with governments in Rwanda, Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and shared intelligence information with them.

Accordingly, the USA emphasized to African governments how the Wagner Group would cause the opposite of what they promise in the long term: more chaos instead of peace and security in countries where political instability and violence prevail. “When we find reliable information that undermines Wagner’s bad influence, we want more people to know about it, and that includes our partners and the public,” said a government official. “The best way to fight Wagner is with the truth.”



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