Although controlled ivory trade is allowed in Zimbabwe, export of the luxury good is not permitted.
So, to get away with this, “Gucci Grace” allegedly packed hoards of the contraband in her personal luggage, which was never searched when she departed from the country.
Grace’s modus operandi was first discovered by Australian wildlife photographer Adrian Steirn, who has uncovered a poaching and smuggling syndicate possibly linked to the former first lady, reports Al Jazeera.
Steirn said he saw an opening to investigate Zimbabwe’s illicit ivory trade when the Mugabes were stripped of their power, and went in as an undercover ivory buyer:
Three weeks later, in December, authorities in Zimbabwe seized an illegal shipment of 200 kilograms of ivory destined for Malaysia at Harare’s Robert Mugabe International Airport.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Steirn explained that he had gathered documents, undercover videos and testimonies that connect that shipment to Grace Mugabe and the smuggling syndicate:
“Ivory was being sourced either from the national park’s vault, being thieved or pilfered, or from live elephants being killed by poaching syndicates. The syndicate would then sell to Grace Mugabe’s clientele,” he said.
“She would then be able to pack that and send it out through the airport. Anything through that airport, that was the property of the first lady, was not searched or scanned in any way.”
Watch the interview below:
Now, Zimbabwe’s government is taking action.
Christopher Mutsvangwa, a special adviser to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, said he “will seek answers from all parties including former First Lady Grace Mugabe … about their knowledge of the illegal export of prohibited items from our country”:
Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, reporting from Johannesburg, said Mnangagwa’s government was eager “to clean up its international image after decades of Mugabe rule”.
“The poaching and smuggling investigation is the first major challenge to the Mugabe family dynasty since the change of power,” he said.
I wonder how many other illegal sources of income Grace Mugabe had.
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