The second episode of Al Jazeera’s four-part investigative documentary has laid bare the porous Robert Mugabe International Airport and how security is intentionally compromised to facilitate the smuggling of valuable minerals and cash.

Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe head of security Cleopas Chidodo reveals in detail how criminal gangs can smuggle minerals and money through the airport, without repercussion – thanks to his facilitation.

“Anything you need to take our of the country, that’s my area,” he boasts in front of undercover journalists posing as criminals who wanted to smuggle gold.

“This is my 23rd year. Twenty-three years I am at the airport, that’s why I got promoted and I’m now the boss.

“You need to tell me what you are carrying. It will also help in making some charges, you see. If for example you are taking money, we need to know how much you are taking. Usually for money it’s about 5% of what you are taking, but if you are taking precious minerals, gold, diamonds, the price goes up,” he adds.

The undercover reporters ask Chidodo about the illegal procedure to follow when using one of their own couriers to smuggle the gold out. He unashamedly says the courier just needs to text him as soon as he arrives at the airport.

“He might text me, he might say ‘arrived at the airport’. Sometimes I might be in the CCTV (room) and then I ask him, “how are you dressed?”. He might say, ‘I have got a white T-shirt’ and then I see him going to check in,” he said.

Chidodo does not work alone, he has a network of airport employees and gold smugglers at play.

He has a man stationed at the luggage scanner whom he instructs to wear blinkers when the bags go through the scan, for a fee of course.

“I have told him how much he is going to get. If he sees something, he just pretends as if he is not seeing anything. My guy will tell me ‘the bag is here’. I will tell my guy ‘load it’ and it’s loaded,” Chidodo says.

After this, the gold courier walks in like a person without contraband.

“And then the guy is just coming like a normal passenger. He goes in and nobody talks to him. That’s how it happens,” he said.

In the event that he uses his own man to smuggle the gold, Chidodo ropes in his accomplice, Aleck Yasini.

“He is very cool, he is very steady. He is a Zimbabwean, he looks very innocent,” Chidodo vouches for Yasini before these undercover journalists.

Yasini also meets the undercover journalists and explains how smooth their operation is.

“He will tell me when to come through and I go straight with it. Then I take it to the plane and then we carry on through the security. So him, he has got guys on the ground telling me ‘you can come now’ or ‘not now’ and I come through when he is ready,” says the excited Yasini.

“There is no risk at all,” he assures his potential clients.

Yasini has been Chidodo’s accomplice for the past eight years and has never encountered problems for the duration of his work.

“I have done it and I have never had a problem. Never for the past eight years. Just like you are walking in the park,” he chuckles in the film.

Chidodo says when he meets Yasini at the airport, they pretend to be strangers, to avoid drawing attention.

“I see him, I don’t even talk to him. Maybe we might call each other then we meet in town. If he is at the airport don’t talk to him,” he said.

For smaller quantities of contraband like gold in hand-held luggage, Chidodo is also ready to assist.

“You come to immigration, they stamp your passport. Then I tell you come but use the machine to your right, where you remove shoes, belt what what,” he says.

Just as with the bag scanner, the scanner at this point is also bribed to look aside.

“You put in the machine, they don’t look at your bag because there will be an arrangement between you and me. After that, you go into the departure lounge and you sit and wait for your plane,” he says.

Al Jazeera’s docuseries continues, with two more episodes to go.


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