NBA star caught in gold scam

NBA star caught in gold scam

UNITED NATIONS - Agence France-Presse
NBA star caught in gold scam

Dikembe Mutombo (R) attends the 7th Annual UNICEF Snowflake Ball at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City, New York on Nov 29, 2011. ABACA Press photo

NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo fell into a gold smuggling trap that saw millions of dollars handed over to a notorious Democratic Republic of Congo warlord, according to U.N. investigators.

Mutombo, a 2.18-meter All-Star who ended his 18-year playing career with the Houston Rockets, has made a name for himself since retirement in 2009 campaigning for good causes in his native DR Congo. He was mentioned in President George W. Bush’s state of the union speech in 2007.

But Mutombo, 45, was just the latest of many gullible individuals to be tempted by the promise of riches dealing in the country’s gold and other treasure trove of minerals.

The Mutombo case involves bags containing millions of dollars in cash, sacks of gold of dubious origin and intermediaries with false identities across East Africa.

According to a report by U.N. sanctions committee experts, all was seized at an airfield in DR Congo. The money ended up with Bosco Ntaganda, a militia leader wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, and the gold in government vaults. “Our understanding was that Dikembe Mutombo’s role was as an intermediary. We don’t suggest that he was part of some criminal gang,” said Fred Robarts, coordinator of the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions committee experts for DR Congo.

“He thought that there was money to be made out of this deal and tried to set it up with a buyer to make a share of the profit; in that, he was probably naive,” Robarts told AFP.