Harare, Zimbabwe – Since March, a documentary by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit (I-Unit) has shed light on the illicit gold trade in Southern Africa and money laundering involving powerful figures in the region including Auxilia Mnangagwa, the wife of the Zimbabwean president.
The footage exposed how several individuals have taken advantage of Western sanctions targeting government and ruling party officials to smuggle large quantities of gold and launder millions of dollars through a complex web of companies and bribes.
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In the four-episode documentary, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador At Large Uebert Angel offered to use his diplomatic status to launder millions of dollars through a gold smuggling scheme, for undercover reporters posing as Asian criminals.
“You want gold, gold we can do it right now, we can make the call right now, and it’s done,” Angel told Al Jazeera’s reporters.
“It will land in Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe can’t touch it too until I get to my house. So, there can be a diplomatic plan … it is a very, very easy thing,” he said.
He also claimed that his laundering operations had the approval of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has been in power since November 2017.
But exactly who is Angel, the controversial character at the centre of the documentary?
Angel the prophet
Uebert Angel, whose real name is Uebert Mudzanire, is a self-styled Zimbabwean “prophet”, preacher and entrepreneur based in the United Kingdom.
The 44-year-old is the founder of Spirit Embassy, a church with branches in several countries including the United Kingdom, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Born on September 6, 1978, in Zimbabwe, Angel grew up in a religious family and was raised as a Christian. He has previously claimed he was “summoned as a child under the wild custard tree” by God and was “bathed in liquid love and shown the Halo,” according to the church’s website.
In 1996, he started a small prayer group in his home, which quickly evolved into a church.
It became known as Spirit Embassy in 2007. The church itself rebranded as the “Good News Church” in October 2015 while “Spirit Embassy” became a term for his overall ministry. He is known for preaching that God wants his followers to be wealthy and for promoting doctrines referred to as prosperity gospel, which assert that financial and material gain are the divine will of God for all pious Christians.
In 2012, Angel shot to fame for performing a series of controversial miracles including creating what he dubbed “miracle money”. He claimed he had prophetic powers to produce valuable commodities such as gold, diamonds and money that could mysteriously find its way into people’s pockets and bank accounts as well as a bank vault.
The sermon was so popular that he ended up travelling across Africa performing for believers and promising them miracle money.
During his tour, he claimed to have performed a controversial weight loss miracle in South Africa where a woman looked on utterly amazed and agreed with him that her husband had suddenly lost weight.
His antics attracted the attention of former Zimbabwean central bank chief Gideon Gono who summoned him and ordered him to stop creating the so-called “miracle money”. But Gono later sided with Angel, saying he had not violated any of the country’s monetary laws.
In 2018, Angel made headlines yet again for sensationally claiming to have successfully walked on water, one of the miracles performed by Jesus Christ in Biblical times.
He later reversed this claim and explained the incident was a metaphorical “demonstration of faith” and not a literal walk on water.
The man who sells everything
Angel, who claims to have two university degrees in finance, is also an author and has written several books on faith and prosperity.
He also runs satellite-broadcasting channels, Miracle TV, GoodNews TV and Wow TV, which broadcast his crusades and sermons.
He runs his church as a business. Under the Millionaire Academy, Angel teaches the fundamental aspects of becoming a millionaire and targets business owners who want to develop their company “into something greater than themselves in his church and beyond”.
His Osborne Institute of Theology charges £499.00 for a theological certificate and £799 for a diploma. The ministry sells merchandise, hosts conventions, takes offerings online via Visa and PayPal and provides what he calls “prophetic retreats”.
In 2014, he was accused of fraud and money laundering by a former member of his church in the UK. He has also been criticised for his lavish lifestyle, which includes luxury cars, private jets and expensive homes.
In one of several documented cases of sexual misconduct, Angel was accused of asking a female congregant to send him nude pictures of herself on Twitter and WhatsApp. The digital communication records were authenticated by Twitter for IP addresses.
Angel attempted to destroy the records, but they were retrieved and compiled into a documentary. He has faced other allegations of infidelity and has been unrepentant when confronted with evidence of his wrongdoing.
“You see moral failure is not a crime. I am dealing with the law here (and) moral failure is not a crime,” he said in the documentary made by ZimEye, a local news website.
In March 2021, he was appointed ambassador at large and a presidential envoy by Mnangagwa. It was in this capacity that he told Al Jazeera that he could facilitate a scheme for exchanging unaccounted-for cash for Zimbabwe’s gold.