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May 23, 2012 Updates
May 12, 2012 Updates

Eighteen years later, the image still torments George Karl. Dikembe Mutombo is lying on the floor underneath the basket at Seattle's Key Arena, his outstretched arms holding the ball above his head in triumph. Mutombo's Denver Nuggets had just come back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Karl's SuperSonics in the deciding game of their best-of-five series, becoming the first eighth-seeded team to defeat a top-seeded opponent in the first round. "It was probably the worst day of my life," Karl, now coach of the Nuggets, said Friday. "I mean, I can't remember, other than my dad dying maybe." Los Angeles Times

March 30, 2012 Updates

Dikembe Mutombo, who works for the NBA as foreign ambassador, said he “prays’’ Patrick Ewing lands a head-coaching job this summer. Mutombo said he would be even happier if Ewing landed with the Washington, where he is revered as a former Georgetown superstar, than with the Knicks. “But I’m not the owner,’’ Mutombo said. Mutombo said he doesn’t understand why Ewing has received just one interview after being an assistant eight years. “I’ve been praying for him,’’ Mutombo said, “to get a chance to be head coach of one of the NBA teams. His work ethic was incredible. He took so many younger players under his belt, including myself. I always talk about being a student of Parick Ewing. Same with Alonzo Mourning. He told us what it takes to get to the next level.’’ New York Post

March 2, 2012 Updates

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 incident provides a glimpse into the complex situation in the eastern Congo, where gold traders attempt to make quick money off of the area's conflict-tainted mineral resources -- and end up exacerbating the region's long-standing misery. It's a reminder that the Congo gold trade is so dirty -- and so pervasive -- that even these prominent Americans ended up handing millions of dollars to a warlord who is widely considered to be one of the most brutal and dangerous men in Central Africa. The Atlantic

When The Atlantic tried to reach Mutombo through his foundation, a representative said that neither the former basketball star nor his charitable foundation would be commenting. Kawal's company, CAMAC, responded to similar requests with this statement: "CAMAC is a law-abiding company and we disagree with the representations made in the UN report. We have already answered questions on this and see no reason to address it further." St. Mary admits that he didn't press for details during the meeting. As a family friend of Lawal's and a longtime acquaintance of Mutombo's, he says, he didn't want to get pushy with either. "I probably should have looked at things a little closer," he says, "but when you put the pedigrees of those people together there's stuff you overlook." The Atlantic

And even if Dikembe Mutombo, following events from afar, was unaware of Ntaganda's involvement, his nephew Reagan had arrived in Goma ahead of St. Mary, and likely was. "[Reagan] was there in Goma," says Robarts. "He actually preceded the others. I think it's impossible that he did not know about Ntaganda and his role, at least as it emerged." In a second statement sent to The Atlantic, a CAMAC spokesperson writes that "Kase Lawal and CAMAC deny that CAMAC funds were a part of any illegal payment" and that the company disputes any parts of the UN report "that allege a connection between CAMAC and Bosco Ntaganda." The statement adds, "It is important to remember that the Congolese government filed no charges and that neither CAMAC nor Dr. Lawal have made any admission of wrongdoing." The Atlantic

The conflict mineral trade funds, and thus worsens, some of the Congo's worst problems: its corruption, its proliferation of guns and militias, labor exploitation, and some of the weakest governance and poorest security in the world. Yet the conflict mineral trade is a symptom, rather than a cause, of the DRC's ills. Riven by decades of conflict and governed by a predatory and ineffectual state, the DRC is still a country where the government's employment of Ntaganda and other bloodstained ex-insurgents who also work in the conflict mineral business is, ironically, considered a lynchpin of the fragile regional peace., Whether Mutombo and Lawal were aware of it or not, they initiated a deal that has likely enriched the same people who turned the eastern Congo into one of the most violent places on earth. But that's not the most amazing thing about this incident. After all, these sorts of deals go through all the time: the buyers are experienced enough not to get caught and, if they are caught, they're usually not presidential appointees or famous basketball stars. And that's exactly what makes this story so remarkable. Replace the two high-profile Americans with savvier mineral merchants, and it's practically routine. The Atlantic

January 16, 2012 Updates

Less than two weeks later, according to a U.N. report, Mutombo was in New York on a more personal cause — trying to interest a Houston oil executive in a $10 million deal to buy 1,045 pounds of gold from the mines of eastern Congo, the heart of the conflict mineral trade. 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. Enter Kase Lawal. As chairman of CAMAC, a Houston energy company, Lawal knew Mutombo from the latter’s final days with the Houston Rockets — and he knew how to do business in Africa. Lawal moved to Houston from Nigeria as a young man and built a company that prospered in large measure because of his operations there and in neighboring countries. Houston Chronicle

There were, however, no profits to be had. In truth, the deal was an elaborate scam that ended at an airport in Goma with the seizure of the Gulfstream V jet and the arrest of St. Mary and several CAMAC employees, all suddenly facing accusations of money laundering and attempted smuggling. More than 1,000 pounds of gold pulled from the cargo hold was taken away by Congolese officials. Two bags containing $6.6 million in cash were gone as well, into the pockets of a local general whose loyal troops oversee much of the nearby mining operations. Houston Chronicle

To make matters worse, Lawal had to pay millions more to recover his plane and his people. St. Mary said Lawal later told him the entire ordeal cost him around $30 million. The failed smuggling plot drew global attention. But conspicuously absent from publicity surrounding the incident was any mention of the part played by Mutombo, the finger-wagging basso profondo whose 7-foot stature and defensive prowess made him a force on the hardwoods. Not only had Mutombo initiated the deal, St. Mary said, but 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. Houston Chronicle

Mutombo would not talk about his involvement. “I have nothing to say,” he replied when reached by phone in Atlanta. But the extent of it became clear through lengthy interviews with St. Mary, who kept records and copies of text messages throughout the ordeal, and the report by U.N. investigators. Through a spokesman, Lawal declined to comment. Houston Chronicle

Dikembe Mutombo represented that the gold belonged to him and “his people,” said St. Mary, whose work as a trader in rough diamonds has taken him to dangerous places with sketchy characters. Asked why the transaction would take place in Kenya, Mutombo said there was “too much shady stuff in Kinshasa” — Congo’s capital — and that Nairobi was closer to his village, St. Mary said. Mutombo was to supply both product and paperwork, and Lawal was to provide funds for the purchase and to cover expenses. St. Mary was to evaluate the gold and find buyers. “He had an answer for everything,” St. Mary said of Mutombo as they went through the details of the proposed deal. Whose gold was it? Houston Chronicle

November 19, 2011 Updates

The venue for the game has not been finalized, but a number of former and current NBA players already have committed to participate. They include: Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Ray Allen and Chris Bosh. Sources also said Baron Davis, Vince Carter, Alonzo Mourning. Jamal Crawford, Rudy Gay, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Amare Stoudemire, Blake Griffin, Tyler Hansbrough, Derek Fisher, Antawn Jamison, Juwan Howard, Quentin Richardson, Dahntay Jones, Brandon Knight, Jerry Stackhouse, John Wall, Dikembe Mutombo, Patrick Ewing and Doc Rivers are expected to play. Veteran WNBA star and all-time leading scorer Tina Thompson and former USC great Cheryl Miller also is expected to participate. ESPN.com

September 3, 2011 Updates

Patrick Ewing can't believe how much South Africa has changed in the 17 years since he last visited the country. On Friday afternoon, the Orlando Magic assistant coach sat in the back of a bus with Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo as they traveled from the township of Orange Farm into Johannesburg. As Ewing glanced out a window, he described what he was seeing. "The last time we were here, apartheid had just ended," Ewing said by cell phone. "There's been so many new structures put up. The country's definitely grown. . . . Especially in the big cities, there's big buildings and the hustle-and-bustle of people. There's traffic, cars, markets and shops." Orlando Sentinel

September 2, 2011 Updates

Jeff Hornacek, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo once were fierce rivals on the basketball court. They recorded a combined 64 seasons in the NBA, totaling 66,514 points and earning 27 All-Star appearances, wearing a variety of uniforms but never playing on the same team. With their competitive days behind them, though, the talented foursome have united to become ambassadors for the game that helped make their names. Joined by ex- professional players Bo Outlaw and Dee Brown, the former NBA greats are scheduled to spend four days in Johannesburg, South Africa, participating in the league’s Basketball Without Borders program. Salt Lake Tribune

July 19, 2011 Updates

N’Diaye said he wants to model his philanthropy on that of former NBA all-star Dikembe Mutombo, who has become one of Africa’s foremost humanitarians. Of course that depends on the funds at his disposal. With the NBA lockout, his future is uncertain. But one way or another, he is committed to helping out his homeland. My Central Jersey

July 15, 2011 Updates

Donations through the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation have been steady, with the money going directly toward maintaining the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital in the DRC capital of Kinshasa. “The hospital is doing very well,” Mutombo said. “People are responding. That’s the only way we’ve been able to buy medicine and treat people. We’ve treated 85,000 people at our hospital. People are opening their heart despite the financial crisis.” NBA.com

July 2, 2011 Updates

While in Athens, Mutombo is taking part in Special Olympics' Unity Sports program, a series of exhibition events that join people with and without intellectual disabilities to compete alongside one another on the field of play. "I'm going to play in a basketball match," Mutombo says with a smile. "I'm not going to score. I'm just going to try to play defense. I'm just going to try to block a few shots. I'm really looking forward to it, it's going to be a great match." ESPN.com

Mutombo believes that sports is a powerful vehicle in achieving social change and he has devoted much of his time since leaving basketball three years ago to fostering greater sports opportunities for all people around the world. "Sports unites us," he says. "Even in the most troubled parts of the world, sport brings people together. We see what sport is doing today in Africa, in places where we've witnessed so many years of civil war, like Sierra Leone, Liberia, Republic of Congo, where I come from. Sport has amazing power." ESPN.com

March 16, 2011 Updates

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