Vladimir Putin waged his imperialistic invasion of Ukraine over a four months ago. Things haven’t gone at all as he planned with Russia becoming increasingly isolated while Putin’s become a near-global pariah. World leaders are mocking his shirtless photos and Russian troops turned on a general and threatened to blow him up. There’s been untold lives lost from both Russia and Ukraine, all while the Kremlin keeps approving the bombing of civilians. Meanwhile, Putin’s inner circle has been angling to install a successor, and the Russian people (on a totally trivial level) can’t even get McDonald’s or Netflix.
It’s a dismal state of affairs, and now, CNN is reporting how — surprise, surprise — Putin’s funding his war in a very illicit way. Russia is plundering gold from Sudan while pretending to export (wait for it) cookies. CNN details an argument on the tarmac between officials, who eventually boarded a suspicious plane bound for Russia:
Inside the hold, colorful boxes of cookies stretched out before them. Hidden just beneath were wooden crates of Sudan’s most precious resource. Gold. Roughly one ton of it.
This isn’t a little bit of gold, either. The numbers are astounding:
A whistleblower from inside the Sudanese Central Bank showed CNN a photo of a spreadsheet showing that 32.7 tons was unaccounted for in 2021. Using current prices, this amounts to $1.9 billion worth of missing gold, at $60 million a ton.
But multiple former and current officials say that the amount of missing gold is even larger, arguing that the Sudanese government vastly underestimates the gold produced at informal artisanal mines, distorting the real number.
Most of CNN’s insider sources claim that around 90% of Sudan’s gold production is being smuggled out. If true, that would amount to roughly $13.4 billion worth of gold that has circumvented customs and regulations, with potentially hundreds of millions of dollars lost in government revenue. CNN cannot independently verify those figures.
This wasn’t the only time this happened. As CNN’s sources recount, this has happened at least 16 times. It’s an “elaborate Russian scheme to plunder Sudan’s riches in a bid to fortify Russia.” That fortification arrives on the heels of Western sanctions that are dragging Russia’s economic state down, all while the Kremlin keeps unleashing more and more military assets upon Ukrainian civilians. In return for Sudan’s cooperation, Russia’s providing “powerful political and military backing to Sudan’s increasingly unpopular military leadership” to help obliterate democracy in the African country.
All of this, of course, sounds about right from Putin, who has prioritized his extensive Botox supply and continues to have his goons spread the word that his health and mental state are just fine. However, an ex-official describes Russia as a “parasite” upon Sudan, so these developments will probably not go unnoticed. Whether or not this CNN report will actually prompt action, well, that’s up for debate. The entire investigative report is well worth reading and digs into watchdog monitoring and Russian grousing over U.S. interference in anything international. And now we know how a desperate Putin is weaseling around sanctions and continuing to fund his disastrous war.