Dikembe Mutombo: Rogue gold trader?
Dikembe Mutombo's finger wag always deserved a tip of the hat, but with all the revelations about his gold trading schemes finally coming to light, the man probably deserves a taste of his own medicine.
Mutombo was recently involved in a proposed deal to extract more than a thousand pounds of gold from his native Democratic Republic of the Congo, amidst the core of the conflict mineral trade, and sell the haul for more than $10 million. The money generated was to be split between him, Nigerian-born Houston energy mogul Kase Lawal and Third World mineral trader Carlos St. Mary
Physical commodity trading is a bitch, and I should know, but apparently Dikembe has it all figured out.
In a meeting two years ago with Carlos St. Mary, the NBA star and three of his nephews presented an elaborate deal to collect 1,045 lbs of their gold from Congo, fly it out via Kenya onboard Kase Lawal's G5, and sell it just in time to catch the roaring gold market.
"He had an answer for everything," St. Mary said.
The red flags however were waving left and right as soon as St. Mary got to Kenya; if the product was in Congo, why do the transaction here? And if Mutombo insisted that the gold was theirs, why was the guy they were dealing with - one Eddy Michel Malonga - saying it was his? To make matters worse the gold wasn't even in bullion, it was still in dust form, in need of refining.
Nevertheless, St. Mary had the certificates in hand and knew that the gold was safe with Nairobi customs, so he forked over the 40% down payment Malonga was demanding.
And then things got interesting.
Malonga, the cash, and the gold suddenly disappeared, popping up sometime later in Congo, where St. Mary was instructed to follow, $6.6 million in tow, if they wanted to see the deal push through.
There's usually a point where you say "fuck it" and move on, and these guys were way, way past it, but Mutombo kept insisting, saying "there will be much more," setting the stage for the ensuing nightmare:
The deal ultimately went haywire, with the gold ending up in Congolese custody, $4 million in the hands of Eddy Michel Malonga, the supposed real owner of the stash, and another $6.6 million of Lawal's money in cash in the pockets of General Bosco Ntaganda, a local warlord under indictment from the International Criminal Court, whose militia controls mining operations in parts of eastern Congo.
Not to mention another $20 million or so that Lawal spent to recover his Gulfstream V jet, St. Mary and a number of his own employees captured in the botched handoff.
As for Mutombo, he was nowhere to be found, apparently busy meeting with Congolese president Joseph Kabila in Kinshasa at the time of the capture.
A bit fishy, to say the least, considering it was Mutombo, with the help of three of his nephews, who set the whole deal up after much insistence on their part.
Goldman ain't got nothin' on these guys.
Anyway, scam or not, the moral of the story here is if you're buying gold, make sure it isn't parked in some Nairobi warehouse - or bought through Dikembe Mutombo.
At least when the GS guys fuck you over you'll only lose money.