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Press Release

Gold Mafia ‘chief’ sanctioned for funding Russia’s war machine

Thursday 9 November 2023  – A MAJOR South African gold dealer and key player in the massive ‘Gold Mafia’ money-laundering network has been sanctioned by the UK government for funding Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Howie Baker, who owns Rappa refinery near Johannesburg, is accused of helping the Kremlin to dodge the impact of international sanctions.

Baker, 45, has been identified by Al Jazeera investigators as the “unofficial chief operating officer of the Gold Leaf Mafia” headed by fellow Zimbabwean Simon Rudland.

The explosive TV documentary Gold Mafia revealed how Baker used his Dubai-based gold company Aulion Global Trading to launder billions of rand in dirty cash from Rudland’s Gold Leaf Tobacco business in South Africa.

Now Baker has been targeted by UK authorities for his role in a United Arab Emirates-based network responsible for channelling more than $300m (R6 billion) in gold revenues to Russia. He is one of 29 entities and individuals named in a new list of sanctions announced by the British government  on Wednesday (November 8).

The dramatic move follows a recent announcement by Sasfin bank that it has laid criminal charges against 11 ex-employees who were allegedly enlisted by Rudland’s money launderer Mohamed ‘Mo Dollars’ Khan to help funnel vast sums to Dubai without alerting the SA Reserve Bank.

Tax Justice SA founder Yusuf Abramjee said today: “This latest major development in the UK is another indication of the weight of evidence amassing against the Gold Leaf Mafia.

“As well as his role in an industrial-scale money-laundering operation, Al Jazeera revealed Howie Baker is the owner of the Rappa gold refinery licensed by the South African government. To learn he is now accused of illegal gold dealings to boost Russia’s war effort is a significant embarrassment for our authorities.

“Yet, over seven months since the damning Gold Mafia documentary was aired worldwide, we are still waiting for any of the identified players to appear in court here.

“South Africa is being looted by transnational organised crime gangs while honest, hard-working citizens are deprived of the services they desperately need. The evidence is out there and the world is watching.

“Our authorities must do their duty and ensure the criminals crippling our country are brought to justice. As just a start, they should freeze all South African assets of those implicated in the Gold Mafia immediately.”