Founder of Wagner private mercenary group Yevgeny Prigozhin makes a statement in an undisclosed location


  • The Wagner group was given control of the Ndassima gold mine
  • The group is believed to earn about $2.7 billion from the gold mine alone
  • It also found revenue by plundering virgin redwood forests in the CAR's Lobaye region

Russia's shadow group, Wagner private military company (PMC), has played a key role in the battle to take over the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut and recruited thousands of its fighters from Russian penal colonies using money out of the group's pocket.

Prisoners and mercenaries who join Wagner are reportedly paid about 100,000 rubles ($1,200) monthly, with the possibility of additional bonuses, using the group's own money. An investigation carried out by CBS News has now discovered that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner group's chief, is funding his operations in the war in Ukraine by plundering valuable resources in Africa, including Mali, Sudan and Libya.

However, it is in the Central African Republic (CAR) that the Wagner group has the most influence, with Prigozhin rolling out a movie called "The Tourist" in the country wherein his mercenaries are being marketed as the saviors of CAR residents.

The Wagner group has established several shell companies in the CAR, all of which are being used to exploit the country's mineral resources. The group has also been accused of committing human rights atrocities.

In one case, Wagner fighters killed the brother of a CAR man — called Usman by CBS News — raped his sisters, and stole his family's gold business. Usman was later carted off to a makeshift prison cell where he was tortured for days before he escaped.

"Wagner is not here to defend the country. Whoever told you that, it's a lie!" Usman told the publication. "What they did to my country, seeing my parents. As a man it makes you feel useless. They stole our possessions [and] burnt down our home. I even see Wagner soldiers riding on my motorbike with my name still on it."

In 2018, Wagner troops also entered CAR to protect the government of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra against rebel attacks. In exchange, subsidiaries connected to Wagner were given unrestricted logging rights and control of the Ndassima gold mine, per the Council on Foreign Relations.

The gold mined from Ndassima is flown out of CAR and straight to Moscow from the capital city of Bangui's M'Poko Airport, which is controlled by the Wagner group, according to CBS News. Wagner is estimated to earn about $2.7 billion from the gold mine alone.

Apart from gold, the Wagner group has also found revenue by plundering virgin redwood forests in the CAR's Lobaye region. The group is also believed to be mining diamonds in the country.

People in military uniform, claimed to be soldiers of Russian mercenary group Wagner pose for a picture believed to be in a salt mine in Soledar