U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre

This Anti-Corruption Helpdesk brief was produced in response to a query from a U4 Partner Agency. The U4 Helpdesk is operated by Transparency International in collaboration with the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre based at the Chr. Michelsen Institute.


Please provide an overview of the main typologies of illicit gold flows from Central and East Africa, the main actors involved, as well as the main harms associated with it.


Gold attracts illicit actors, mainly due to its inherent characteristics such as its ease of movement and high return. Evidence shows that within Central and East Africa, the main routes for illicit gold flows include: from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi; from the Central African Republic (CAR) to Cameroon, Chad, and Sudan; and from South Sudan to Uganda and Rwanda. Dubai, a city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is an important regional hub for illicit gold from Central and East Africa. From the UAE, gold is then mainly distributed to India, China, and Switzerland. The main actors involved in these illegal gold flows include political elites, businesspeople, armed forces, and foreign nationals. The negative impact of illicit gold activities in Central and East Africa include environmental damage, human rights abuses and undermining of the rule of law.


  1. Background and introduction
  2. Main typologies of illicit gold flows
  3. Main actors and key routes of illicit gold flows

(a) Main actors of illicit gold flows

(b) Key routes in Central and East Africa

(c) Regional hubs in illicit gold flows from Central and East Africa: The case of the UAE

(d) Recipient countries

4. Harms associated with illicit gold flows

Main points

  • Due to its ease of movement and global exchangeability, gold tends to attract illicit actors.
  • Criminal culpability in illicit gold flows ranges from small-scale informal activities to grand corruption by political elites. While it differs based on context, political elites, military, non-state armed groups, businesspeople and foreign nationals comprise the key actors in illicit gold supply chains.
  • Between 10 and 20 tons of gold, worth between US$300 and US$600 million, is smuggled out of the DRC annually, based on an estimate of the UN Group of Experts from 2013.
  • Evidence show large discrepancies between gold imported into the United National Emirates from African countries, and the amount of gold reported in these countries in their exports
  • Harms associated with illicit gold flows include: environmental damage, human rights abuses, undermining the rule of law, strengthening of armed groups in conflict zones and negative effects on countries’ economies.


Miloš Resimić (TI), [email protected]


Aled Williams (U4), [email protected]

Jorum Duri, Samuel Kaninda, Paul Banoba (Transparency International) and Ernest Mpararo (Ligue Congolaise de Lutte contre la Corruption), [email protected]




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