From Izvestia, July, 2023. Complete text:
Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov informed TASS that back on June 29, Vladimir Putin had a meeting with Yevgeny Prigozhin and 30 more of the biggest PMC Wagner commanders. At the meeting, they discussed a vision of the events of June 23–24, and the Wagnerites, in turn, assured the president of their endless allegiance.
In preparing for the meeting, the president probably could not overlook the fact that back on June 27, the U.S. State Department had posted a press release on its official website on the sanctions adopted by the U.S. Treasury Department against companies tied to the PMC Wagner owner.
The sanctions covered:
- Diamville, a diamond trading company based in the Central African Republic;
- Midas Resources, a gold mining company also based in the CAR;
- Industrial Resources General Trading, a company from the UAE engaged in diversified wholesale trade;
- DM LLC, a Russian company also engaged in diversified wholesale trade.
In a very detailed commentary on these companies’ inclusion on the sanctions list, the U.S. State Department presented evidence of the entities’ affiliation with Yevgeny Prigozhin. And it described what those companies represented.
For example, Midas Resources SARLU holds concessions to mine minerals in the CAR and exclusive licenses to explore and mine minerals, metals, and precious stones. “Midas, along with other Prigozhin-linked firms operating in the CAR, is key to financing Wagner’s operations in the CAR and beyond,” the State Department asserted in its press release.
According to the U.S. State Department’s information, Diamville SAU, a gold and diamond purchasing company, was involved in illegal schemes to sell gold and diamonds mined in the CAR in the UAE and Europe. The same schemes involved the distribution company Industrial Resources, registered in Dubai, and the Russian DM LLC.
In its press release, the U.S. State Department claims that PMC Wagner is involved in “large-scale violation of human rights and appropriation of natural resources in many African countries.”
In the big picture, Novaya gazeta’s regular readers will find nothing new in the press release posted on the State Department’s official website. We have written regularly since 2017 of PMC Wagner fighters’ involvement in satisfying Yevgeny Prigozhin’s African ambitions, when information began leaking out about armed light-skinned guys being noticed in Africa.
For example, in Novaya gazeta’s November 21, 2018 issue, we told of an investigation by the business publication Bloomberg.
In turn, Bloomberg described the geography of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s interests in Africa, with multiple links to Novaya gazeta. Besides the Central African Republic and Libya, Prigozhin’s business interests, according to Bloomberg, extended to at least eight more African nations: Zimbabwe, Congo, Mozambique, Madagascar, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, and Sudan.
Here are several quotes:
- Central African Republic (rich in gold and diamonds)
“Talk of ‘PMC Wagner’s presence’ in the country began after the murders of three Russian journalists in late July. Novaya gazeta drew attention a year ago to the presence of ‘civilian military instructors’ from Russia in the country, and it later turned out that the mining company Lobaye Invest, which the media also linked to Prigozhin, was operating in the country.”
- Sudan (gold)
“Novaya gazeta wrote that along with the CAR, Russians in military uniform began to be noticed in Sudan too. Later, M-Invest, a company the media have linked to Prigozhin, also opened a subdivision there. While it’s Lobaye Invest in the CAR, it operates under the name Meroe Gold in Sudan.”
- Libya (oil)
“Through PMC Wagner, Prigozhin provides support to Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s army in exchange for access to raw materials, primarily oil, which Libya has in great abundance.
“In October, Britain’s The Sun claimed that soldiers linked to Prigozhin were training Haftar’s gunmen, and also supplying arms to them, and in November Novaya gazeta noticed Prigozhin along with Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu as equals at the negotiating table with Haftar.”
In fact, on November 7, 2018, RIA Novosti reported that the Russian minister and the Libyan marshal “discussed the situation in Libya, fighting terrorism, and security in the Middle East and North Africa.” And soon Novaya gazeta was able to find a videotape of Haftar’s visit to Moscow—the Libyans themselves provided it. We were surprised to find Yevgeny Prigozhin on the tape as well. And as a full-fledged participant in the negotiations. Novaya gazeta also reported Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s meetings with Libyan Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
In December 2018, a month after our publication on Prigozhin’s involvement in the talks between Russian Army General Sergey Shoygu and Libyan Marshal Khalifa Haftar, we published material on Yevgeny Prigozhin’s participation in other talks held back in late August in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan.
Leaders of “UN-sanctioned” central African armed groupings attended the meeting. Also, back in early September 2018, the message, “Khartoum Negotiations on a Resolution in the Central African Republic” appeared on the Russian MFA website, in which the MFA reported the signing of a “Khartoum Declaration” and announced the formation of a “Central African Opposition Association to Achieve Long-Term, Stable Peace in the CAR.”
Without mentioning Yevgeny Prigozhin’s name, the Russian MFA’s message actually praised the PMC Wagner owner for his participation in the talks in Sudan.
After that publication, Novaya gazeta released a dozen documents on the presence of PMC Wagner fighters in Africa. We published investigations, articles, and news until the actual suspension of the paper’s release soon after the beginning of the special military operation.
We published them despite the fact that Yevgeny Prigozhin himself would not admit (even in court!) either PMC Wagner’s involvement or especially his own interest in Africa.
In August 2022, Prigozhin put an end to the last court action with journalists who had reported his direct participation in PMC Wagner’s activities: in fact, he had sought a court decision refuting the information. And as early as September, he had officially admitted that it was he who founded and headed the private military company.
In February of this year, commenting on PMC Wagner’s prospects for participating in the special military operation in Ukraine, Prigozhin declared, “When we become unnecessary, we will assemble and go back to Africa.”
The very next day after that statement by the PMC owner, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave a positive assessment of Wagner’s activities in Africa. Verbatim: “We have commented more than once on the activities of our private military companies working at the explicit invitation of the respective countries, and [their activities] are contributing to the normalization of the situation in the region, where terrorist bandit formations continue their active operations.”
After that statement by the Foreign Minister, numerous publications about PMC Wagner and Yevgeny Prigozhin in the Western press began playing for the other team: our colleagues began tallying up Prigozhin’s exact profits in Africa.
For example, back in July of 2022, CNN published an investigation in which they claimed that the Wagnerites in Sudan were led by Aleksandr Sergeyevich Kuznetsov. That same Kuznetsov, with the call sign “Ratibor,” who was present at PMC Wagner’s founding and was awarded the title Hero of Russia. In its investigation, CNN published these figures: on the order of 90% of the gold annually mined in the country (about a hundred metric tons) is exported from Sudan as contraband. Sudan’s total direct losses in the last few years alone, from the moment the Wagnerites had appeared in the country, was some $13.4 billion.
But even the gold that reached the vaults of the Central Bank of Sudan, it turns out, can disappear, as in 2021, when 32.7 [metric] tons of gold worth $1.9 billion disappeared from the national treasury.
“[A]t least seven sources familiar with events accuse Russia of driving the lion’s share of Sudan’s gold smuggling operations,” the CNN investigation said.
After Yevgeny Prigozhin’s admission that he was the owner of PMC Wagner, which had big plans on that continent, the specific beneficiary of the Sudanese gold smuggling operations became clear. And to all appearances, Prigozhin himself knows where this enormous trove of gold is now stored—or where it has gone, or in what projects the proceeds from the sale of dozens of tons of the precious metal have been invested.
We must keep in mind that Sudanese gold is not PMC Wagner’s only African income source. We can confidently include in Prigozhin’s assets the enormous quantity of gold and diamonds mined in other African countries where the PMC men have landed since 2017. Including the CAR, by the companies mentioned in the U.S. State Department press release.
Even by the most conservative estimates, precious metals and diamonds worth over $100 million could have fallen under Yevgeny Prigozhin’s control.