Sometimes when it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true.
Unfortunately, scams often hit the best of people. Dikembe Mutombo was one of those people.
If you listened to Episode 8 of the The Postscript podcast (you really need to subscribe, or you’re missing out!), you would have heard mention of a gold scam in Congo that unassuming, gold-hearted Mutombo was duped in. Well, now you can read more on the saga, thanks to a very detailed article in The Atlantic.
The amazing thing is, there were a bunch of very savvy business-people involved in the investing party which was ultimately scammed here.
Mutombo may be a renowned basketball player and humanitarian. But as a UN Group of Experts report published last December makes clear, he’s not much of a businessman. Mutombo had linked up with Houston-based oil executive Kase Lawal, a respected businessman whom President Barack Obama had appointed to the Federal Trade Commission’s Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiation. According to the UN document (and as first reported by The Houston Chronicle), the two attempted to purchase what they thought was $30 million worth of gold from dealers in Kenya — only to find out that the gold (most of which was probably counterfeit) was in the possession of a notorious Congolese warlord, who ended up profiting handsomely off of Mutombo and Lawal’s blind enthusiasm and almost total lack of due diligence.
The article goes on to detail how the scam was perpetrated and just how alluring the spoils would have been. Mutombo, an experienced businessman, with strong links in his native African continent, surely should have known better. However, when you’re dealing with people who commit fraud and scams for a living, it’s hard to come out a winner.
It is well worth a read, if you’re interested in the ins and outs of how a multi-million dollar international gold scam is played out. The article even contains a link to the original powerpoint presentation that Mutombo displayed to the investors prior to the party coming together.