01-18-2012, 01:35 AM
is pounding the rock!
Join Date: May 2008
Location: YO MAMMA
Mutombo caught up in a scandal
By Mike Tolson and Tony Freemantle
One-time NBA star Dikembe Mutombo has made a worldwide name for himself sponsoring humanitarian projects and noble causes in his native Africa, so it was only natural that two State Department officials would meet with him in November 2010 as part of his effort to bring more attention to the bloody trade in conflict minerals that has bedeviled his homeland, the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Less than two weeks later, according to a U.N. report, Mutombo was in New York on a more personal cause — trying to interest a Houston oil executive in a $10 million deal to buy 1,045 pounds of gold from the mines of eastern Congo, the heart of the conflict mineral trade.If Mutombo had reservations about the apparent contradiction between word and deed, he did not show it. He eagerly explained how he and his family had 4 tons of Congolese gold just waiting for a buyer.
Because of an internal ban on mining and exports, imposed to try to stop the main revenue source for the mafia-like militias that controlled them, the gold could not be taken to market in usual ways. What Mutombo needed was somebody with money, connections and the ability to put a deal together.
Enter Kase Lawal. As chairman of CAMAC, a Houston energy company, Lawal knew Mutombo from the latter’s final days with the Houston Rockets — and he knew how to do business in Africa. Lawal moved to Houston from Nigeria as a young man and built a company that prospered in large measure because of his operations there and in neighboring countries.
Better yet, he had millions of dollars at his disposal, a corporate jet big enough to move extra cargo and an old family friend, Carlos St. Mary, with experience trading Third World minerals.
St. Mary said the deal was described as lawful in Kenya, where it would take place. He started work immediately, hoping the transaction would be done before Christmas. The gold was “dirty,” still in nugget and dust form, but that hardly mattered. St. Mary had expectations of his biggest payday ever with his share of the profits.
There were, however, no profits to be had. In truth, the deal was an elaborate scam that ended at an airport in Goma with the seizure of the Gulfstream V jet and the arrest of St. Mary and several CAMAC employees, all suddenly facing accusations of money laundering and attempted smuggling.
More than 1,000 pounds of gold pulled from the cargo hold was taken away by Congolese officials. Two bags containing $6.6 million in cash were gone as well, into the pockets of a local general whose loyal troops oversee much of the nearby mining operations.To make matters worse, Lawal had to pay millions more to recover his plane and his people. St. Mary said Lawal later told him the entire ordeal cost him around $30 million.
The failed smuggling plot drew global attention. But conspicuously absent from publicity surrounding the incident was any mention of the part played by Mutombo, the finger-wagging basso profondo whose 7-foot stature and defensive prowess made him a force on the hardwoods.