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Cracking the Code: Zambia Shines Light on Illicit Mining and Financial Flows

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Vienna, Austria, 16/05/25 – In a landmark presentation at the 33rd Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, Zambia’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr. Gilbert A. Phiri SC, unveiled the transnational dimensions of illicit mining and its far-reaching implications for the country’s development.

Illicit financial flows in Zambia’s mining sector, particularly in copper, have long been a thorn in the side of the government, with estimates suggesting a staggering $12.5 billion loss between 2013 and 2015 alone. The country’s rich copper reserves have driven economic growth, but the sector’s vulnerability to illicit activities has hindered progress.

DPP Phiri’s paper, “Unveiling the Transnational Dimensions of Illicit Mining: Exploring Illicit Financial Flows in Zambia’s Mining Sector,” exposed the intricate web of mechanisms used to siphon funds, including transfer pricing manipulation, profit shifting, and false accounting. He highlighted the involvement of politically exposed persons and organised crime networks, which further complicates investigations.

The side event, sponsored by South Africa, aimed to address the regional implementation of the ECOSOC Resolution adopted in 2019, which encourages Member States to use international cooperation to combat illicit trafficking in precious metals and illegal mining.

DPP Phiri’s recommendations for addressing these challenges include enhanced international cooperation, targeted interventions, and improved financial investigations. He emphasised the need for investigators to follow the money trail and identify beneficial owners, despite the complexity of corporate structures and cross-border transactions.

The event featured a panel discussion moderated by Ms. Jane Marie Onogolo the UNODC Regional Representative for Southern Africa with panelists including AMB. Rapulane Sydney Molekane, DPP Phiri, Brigadier H.F. Flynn from South Africa and Inneke Geyskens-Borgins from the UNODC Global Programme Against Money Laundering, Proceeds of Crime Terrorist Financing. The presentations shed light on operational challenges, best practices, and the critical role of financial investigations in combating illicit financial flows.

Zambia’s efforts to tackle illicit mining and financial flows send a strong message to the global community: it’s time to crack the code and bring perpetrators to justice.

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