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Ball Don't Lie

Dikembe Mutombo is accused of encouraging a failed Congolese gold transaction

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Dikembe Mutombo (Getty Images)

The lasting image of Dikembe Mutombo as an NBA All-Star, goofy guy, and well-earned reputation as a humanitarian took a huge hit on Monday with a shocking Houston Chronicle report that details the former Defensive Player of the Year's role in an alleged failed gold scheme centered around Mutombo's former Congolese home.

In the Chronicle feature, based around a United Nations report, Mutombo allegedly acted as a go-between that worked as a conduit spaced between his nephews and a Texan oil man that was set to purchase over a thousand pounds of gold from the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, valued at over $10 million, just a quarter of what Dikembe bragged to have ready for sale.

Here's a snippet from the Chronicle piece:

More surprising was the Mutombo contingent's proposal: the purchase of 1,045 pounds of gold that would generate $10 million in profits to be divided three ways — 40 percent to Lawal, 30 percent to St. Mary and 30 percent to the Mutombo family. And there was the promise of more gold to come.

The U.N. report said Reagan Mutombo and the Kapuadis ran through a PowerPoint presentation, complete with slides of gold bullion and the admonition, underlined, that "highest discretion and confidentiality is a priority." Initially, the Kapuadis said, the group would act as the buyer, and a valid license to import gold or minerals was mandatory.

There was no discussion of conflict minerals, the broad term that refers to gold and three other minerals used in electronics and other industries, and the production of which often involves forced labor and helps fund armed conflict.

Dikembe Mutombo represented that the gold belonged to him and "his people," said St. Mary.

The "Lawal" in question is Kase Lawal, the Houston-based chairman of an energy company. He enlisted Carlos St. Mary (who provided much of the on-record information to the Chronicle) to run the transaction, which ended with both warlords and government officials in Kenya seizing Lawal's plane, the gold and $6.6 million in cash. The entire failed transaction, according to the Chronicle, cost Lawal $30 million, though he didn't see an ounce of the gold he was set to buy for a third of that price.

"Conflict minerals" (described by the Chronicle as "gold and three other minerals used in electronics and other industries, and the production of which often involves forced labor and helps fund armed conflict") were of enough concern of Dikembe that he met with two State Department officials in November of 2010 to try and encourage the U.S. to take more of an active role in discouraging the unlawful trade of the precious minerals.

If St. Mary is to be believed (Lawal has since disassociated himself with his former go-between) and the U.N. timeline is correct, Mutombo was meeting with Lawal less than two weeks later to try and encourage the sale of over a thousand pounds of the conflict minerals belonging to "his people."

This may not be the most salacious reputation-destroyer around, but if St. Mary's story is true, this is a pretty damning indictment that portrays Mutombo as quite the greedy hypocrite.

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