Cleopas Chidodo?| The Zimbabwe Airport Security Manager Who Facilitates Gold Smuggling
Cleopas Chidodo is the security manager at Harare’s Robert Gabriel Mugabe Internal Airport, who was implicated in a smuggling scheme by “Gold Mafia”, Al Jazeera’s explosive documentary on Zimbabwe’s illegal gold trade.
Chidodo works for the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) and describes himself as a “boss”. Cleopas Chidodo claimed he had worked for the Civil Aviation Authority for 23 years in the documentary.
Chidodo was caught on video explaining how he facilitates gold and cash smuggling at Robert Mugabe Airport.
He was exposed by undercover Al Jazeera reporters who investigated the gold mafia in Zimbabwe. The Al Jazeera Investigations reporters posed as Chinese gangsters who wanted to launder at least US$100 million in dirty cash. The Airport Security Manager also brought a junior staff member who is also involved in the smuggling operation.
How Did Al Jazeera Expose Cleopas Chidodo?
Al Jazeera exposed Chidodo by sending undercover reporters who posed as gold smugglers and recorded him admitting his role in facilitating the illegal trade. They also filmed him bringing a junior staff member who was part of his scheme.
What Exactly Did Cleopas Chidodo Say to Al Jazeera In The Documentary?
Cleopas Chidodo unwittingly told the undercover reporters,
“Anything, anything, that you need to take out of the country, that is my area.
“This is my twenty-third year. 23 years I’m at the airport.
“That’s why I got promoted and I’m now the big boss.”
Explaining how the smuggling scheme at the Robert Mugabe International Airport works, Cleopas Chidodo said,
“You need to tell what you are carrying. It will also help in making some changes, you see?
“If, for example, you are taking money, we need to know how much you are taking.
“Usually, for money, it’s about five percent of what you are taking.
“But if you are taking precious minerals, gold, diamonds, the price goes up.”
Explaining the finer details of the smuggling operation, Chidodo went on to say,
“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’ve got a white shirt.’ and then I see him going to check in.
Speaking about his accomplice who works at the scanner
“I’ve told him how much he is going to get.
“If he sees something, he just pretends as if he is not sayhing anything.
“And my guy will tell me, ‘The bag is here.”
“I will tell my guy, ‘Load it’ and it gets loaded.
“And then the guy is just coming like a normal passenger, he goes in and nobody talks to him.
“And that’s how it happens.”
Cleopas Chidodo introduced his partner in crime, Aleck Yasini, a gold smuggler.
How Much Money Does Cleopas Chidodo Make From His Smuggling Activities At Harare Airport?
There is no exact information on how much money Cleopas Chidodo makes from his smuggling activities.
However, he claims that he takes 5% of what the smugglers are carrying in the case of money and more if they are carrying gold. He also bribes other airport staff to overlook the illegalities.
He works with multiple rival gangs and couriers who move gold and money between Zimbabwe and Dubai. The couriers carry dozens of kilos of gold and millions of dollars on their trips.
Retraction of Allegations Made Against Grace Mugabe In Gold Mafia Documentary
Cleopas Chidodo later retracted the allegations that he made in the Gold Mafia documentary about former First Lady Grace Mugabe.
During the documentary, Chidodo alleged that Grace Mugabe used her influential status to smuggle diamonds and ivory out of Zimbabwe without her late husband’s knowledge. He also claimed that she was complicit in ivory smuggling, as she had poachers on her payroll who slaughtered elephants for their tusks, which were then shipped out of the country as cargo.
However, in May 2023, Chidodo later retracted these allegations and stunningly claimed that his drink had been spiked using some unmentioned drugs.
“I wish to clarify that I never willingly presented myself to provide any information to Al Jazeera news network. The individuals who secretly recorded me had actually approached me intending to offer my family scholarships to study abroad. It was in this meeting that the subject changed, and they revealed to my shock that they actually intended on smuggling minerals out of Zimbabwe.
“I wish to state that the time of the meeting and indeed the recordings, my mental faculties had been manipulated by what I assume to be drinks spiked by a substance to the extent that I do not even recall saying the said statements, even though I acknowledge that the video shows me to do so,” he added.
Different reactions and fallout from Al Jazeera's Gold Mafia investigative news film continue coming as main actors and other players manoeuvre behind the scenes to protect themselves amid mounting pressure and threats by movers and shakers.
Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe… pic.twitter.com/Iq3RnrZM19
— TheNewsHawks (@NewsHawksLive) May 4, 2023