The European Union has sanctioned a Russian national and the subsidiary of Russia’s Wagner Group in Sudan, Meroe Gold, for facilitating the exploitation of Sudan’s gold wealth, after a CNN investigation into the group’s activities last July.
The EU named a Russian national – Mikhail Potepkin – and Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group subsidiary in Sudan, Meroe Gold, listing them “for serious human rights abuses, including torture and extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and killings, in several countries, including Sudan,” according a statement published Saturday on the EC’s legal platform EUR-LEX.
“Mikhail Potepkin is the director of Meroe Gold, a front company for the Wagner Group’s operations in Sudan, and is involved in the activities of M-Invest, Meroe’s parent company. He has a leadership role in the Wagner Group in Sudan and has close ties to Yevgeny Prigozhin,” according to a statement from the European Council.
A CNN investigation last July was the first to expose the mechanism by which Wagner and Meroe Gold were operating in Sudan, circumventing US sanctions on the group.
Multiple interviews with high-level Sudanese and US officials and troves of documents reviewed by CNN last summer painted a picture of an elaborate Russian scheme to plunder Sudan’s riches in a bid to fortify Russia against increasingly robust Western sanctions and to buttress Moscow’s war effort in Ukraine.
The evidence also suggested that Russia colluded with Sudan’s beleaguered military leadership, enabling billions of dollars in gold to bypass the Sudanese state and to deprive the poverty-stricken country of hundreds of millions in state revenue.
In exchange, CNN’s investigation found, Russia lent powerful political and military backing to Sudan’s increasingly unpopular military leadership as it violently quashes the country’s pro-democracy movement
Despite Yevgeny Prigozhin’s denials, the European Council has now confirmed CNN’s findings, stating that Meroe Gold continued to operate in Sudan as a “hedge for the Wagner Group’s operations” via a Sudanese shell company.
“Through its affiliation with the Sudanese army, the Wagner Group has secured the right to mine Sudanese gold and export it to Russia,” the Saturday statement by the European Council said.
CNN’s Sudan reporting team: Nima Elbagir, Barbara Arvanitidis, Tamara Qiblawi, Alex Platt, Gianluca Mezzofiore, Mohammed Abo Al Gheit and Darya Tarasova