After being a defensive All Star in the NBA for nearly two decades, Dikembe Mutombo made a name for himself as a humanitarian and champion of good causes in his native Africa. He even built a hospital and named it after his mother in his home country of Congo.
That profile stands in sharp contrast to a Houston Chronicle report that the world-renowned humanitarian has been implicated in a scheme that saw a Houston investor shorted more than $10 million in a deal to buy 1,045 pounds of gold from the mines of eastern Congo in November, 2010.
In fact, the deal went down just two weeks after Mutombo had met with State Department officials to discuss the problem of illegal mineral sales from the deeply troubled and mineral-rich eastern Congo region.
The Chronicle writes:
"If Mutombo had reservations about the apparent contradiction between word and deed, he did not show it. He eagerly explained how he and his family had 4 tons of Congolese gold just waiting for a buyer. Because of an internal ban on mining and exports, imposed to try to stop the main revenue source for the mafia-like militias that controlled them, the gold could not be taken to market in usual ways. What Mutombo needed was somebody with money, connections and the ability to put a deal together."
While the plot quickly unraveled, and employees for the Houston-based company lured in by Mutombo were arrested and hit with racketeering and other charges in a semi-related scam, initial reports of the incident made no mention of Mutombo.
One of the principal players in the deal insists Mutombo initiated it, and that he and his family played a key role from the onset, one not revealed until recently with the release of a United Nations report on Congo's militia activity that recounts the incident, the Chronicle reports.
Mutombo refused comment when reached by phone by the Chronicle.