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US targets Wagner Group finances, sanctions gold operations in Africa

The U.S. alleges Wagner raised money off gold-selling schemes in Africa and the United Arab Emirates.
US targets Wagner Group finances, sanctions gold operations in Africa
Posted at 5:17 PM, Jun 27, 2023

On Tuesday the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced new sanctions against four companies and one individual for connections to the Wagner private military group and to its leader, Yevgeniy Prigozhin.

The Treasury says groups in the Central African Republic, in the United Arab Emirates and in Russia have been trading gold to raise money for Wagner Group, which it has used to "sustain and expand" its fighting force in Ukraine and in Africa. 

The Treasury alleges these groups blocked officials from inspecting gold mines, shipped diamonds mined in Africa to buyers abroad, and knowingly carried cash from the sale of gold to Russia after the U.S. started sanctioning Russian financial institutions. 

The individual the Treasury sanctioned is connected to Wagner Group activities in Mali. The Treasury alleges he worked directly for the Wagner Group to make weapons deals and other agreements with the Malian government.

SEE MORE: What is the Wagner Group and what happens to the mercenaries now?

Meanwhile, the State Department issued a new warning to businesses who deal in gold in sub-Saharan Africa, encouraging them to do their due diligence to make sure they're not benefiting Wagner Group or other such actors.

"This advisory highlights how illicit actors such as Wagner exploit this resource to gain revenue and sow conflict, corruption, and other harms throughout the region," the State Department said. "Death and destruction has followed in Wagner's wake everywhere it has operated, and the United States will continue to take actions to hold it accountable."

These sanctions are the latest against the Wagner Group, which the U.S. has designated as a "transnational criminal organization" that operates as a paramilitary group for Russia, and whose members the U.S. says have committed harassment, intimidation, rape and other human rights violations.

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