Addis Abeba -Security and Intelligence Joint Task Force announced detaining more than 90 foreign nationals and their local associates for allegedly engaging in “illegal exploitation” of gold and other minerals in the resource rich Gembella and Benishangul Gumuz regional states.
The unnamed foreign nationals are suspected of entering Ethiopia illegally and engaging in the “illegal” activities of mining together with their local associates, who are also unnamed in the statement released late Thursday.
Accordingly, the task force said that 45 foreign nationals who entered Ethiopia without “valid travel documents, entry visas and residence permits” were detained along with with three Ethiopians for allegedly engaging “in illegal exploration of gold and various minerals in the Gambella region.”
Similarly, 47 unnamed foreign nationals who “entered Ethiopia without valid travel documents, entry visas and residence permits” and are suspected of engaging in “illegal gold exploitation and production of other minerals” in the Benishangul Gumuz region were detained, the task force said, adding that nine private limited companies and seven Ethiopians were also among this group to have been detained together with exhibits of the alleged crimes.
The task force says that based on its surveillances and tips received from local communities it was able to discover that the suspects were not only engaged in the illegal extraction of minerals, but also “smuggle them out of the country,” denying the country the benefits from its mineral riches in the two regional states.
Similar measures will be taken in other regions as well, the task force said, adding that “in order to prevent and control such criminal activities against the economy” local communities should strengthen cooperation with the security agencies by making proper coordination and providing information.
On 13 March the Joint Task Force said that in an operation it conducted in different parts of Addis Abeba city, five unnamed foreign nationals suspected of “illegal dollar circulation”, “counterfeit dollar printing”, and “illicit weapons circulation” were detained and being investigated.
Thursday’s announcement came just days after the the Benishangul Gumuz regional state said it would take legal actions against booming illicit gold trade in the region, which is causing a notable decrease in the region’s gold supply to the central bank of Ethiopia.
In November last year, the Benishagul Gumz regional government issued a directive to all gold mining companies, Small Enterprises and associations to sell their gold products only to National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) aiming to control illegal gold trafficking and contribute in stabilizing the country’s economy. AS