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Cars ordered from Dubai to Lagos, but big rock delivered instead? No, photo of valuable quartz crystal in Malawi port

A photo posted on Facebook in December 2021 shows three men in suits standing and staring at an enormous rock inside an open shipping container.

“Yesterday morning at Lagos port,” the caption reads. “They were waiting for two Toyota Corolla vehicles, bought online from Dubai.” 

Lagos is Nigeria’s largest city, lying on the country’s coastline to the south. Dubai is a wealthy city and emirate in western Asia’s United Arab Emirates.

The post has been shared more than 80 times so far. While some users have taken it as a joke – one saying “der s still hope just remove d stone d car s inside” – others suggest contacting Interpol to trace the scammers.

What’s going on here? We checked the photo’s origins.


Photo fact-checked many times before

The result of a Google reverse image search reveals that the photo has been the subject of previous fact-checks.

It was used in a claim that circulated widely in March 2021 that “the Malawian government ordered vaccine from Zimbabwe and a huge rock was delivered to them”. 

Several fact-checks, including ours, rated the claim as false. 

The photo has also been used in another false claim that the three men are Ugandan officials. 

Here the photo’s caption reads: “Its only in Uganda where you finish clearing your copper containers but only to find painted rocks, as in what are the procedures for clearing & determining rate of taxes?”

What is this rock?

The photo’s origin can be traced to a report by the Times, a Malawi-based newspaper, headlined “Government ‘intercepts’ gigantic precious mineral”.

The report includes a photo looking directly into the container, where the rock is supported by several smaller rocks.

“Minister of Mining, Rashid Gaffar, has stopped the export of a rose quartz mineral rock, weighing 25 tonnes, which officials from his ministry were selling at K2 million and had been earmarked for Asian market,” the Times says.

“Gaffar said he has stopped the sale because he was not satisfied with the reasons given by technocrats from his ministry who had pegged it at K2 million.”

Malawi’s currency is the kwacha. K2 million is about US$2,486.

Gaffar reportedly said he had heard “such rocks can fetch over K170 million”, or $211,277. “So, we will wait for experts to value the quality of the rock before it is sold.”

The photo shows a valuable rose quartz crystal destined for export from Malawi to somewhere in Asia. It doesn’t show a container that arrived in Lagos port with a big rock instead of two Corollas.

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