Data leak from DR Congo: Millions of dollars transferred to Joseph Kabila’s allies

By Africa Eye
BBC World Service

Image source, AFP
Image caption

From 2001 to 2019, Joseph Kabila served as president of the DR Congo

According to Africa’s largest data leak, millions of dollars of public money were funneled through bank accounts of companies owned by relatives and friends of Joseph Kabila, former President of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Transfers were made to the accounts of the Congolese branch of the BGFI Bank.

The accounts were then emptied of millions of dollars worth of cash.

At the time, Mr Kabila was President.

Our questions regarding transfers were not answered by him.

The leak included more than three million documents and information on millions of transactions from the BGFI (Banque Gabonaise et Française Internationale) bank, which works in several African countries and France. Information was obtained from the French online investigative journal Mediapart, and the NGO Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa.

BBC Africa Eye, a member of the consortium Congo Hold-up co-ordinated and coordinated by European Investigative Collaborations, had access to this evidence.

Questions about the beneficiaries of money transfers, and potential conflicts of interest are raised by this investigation.

Withdraw high-value cash

Francis Selemani (Joseph Kabila’s foster-brother) was the managing Director of BGFI’s DR Congo subsidiary, BGFI Banco RDC.

Gloria Mteyu was Mr Kabila’s sister and owned 40% of BGFI’s DR Congo operation. It was established in 2010.

Sud Oil was a privately held company that received almost $86m from the public between November 2013 and August 2017.

These include at least $46m from the DR Congo banking regulator, BCC, $15m from the state mining company Gécamines, and $1.3m from the country’s electoral body, Ceni.

BBC only found one invoice from Ceni-Sud Oil for petroleum products.

BBC did not find any evidence that Sud Oil traded in petroleum products during the period.

Aneth Lutale was Mr Selemani’s wife and owned 80% of Sud Oil. Mrs Mteyu held the remainder 20% between 2013-2018.

Millions of dollars were moved from Sud Oil’s BGFI account to private company’s BGFI account. Some were held by family members or business associates, including Mr Kabila. He was the president of Sud Oil from 2001 to 2019.

Kwanza Capital was one of the companies. It was owned majority by Pascal Kinduelo (a Congolese businessman), with Sud Oil holding a small stake. Mr Kinduelo sat as the chairperson of BGFI bank RDC in that time.

Before he transferred ownership, Mr Kinduelo also owned Sud Oil.

According to the investigation, many cash withdrawals of high value from Sud Oil accounts were allowed. One such transaction was for $6 million. A maximum $10,000 cash withdrawal per day is permitted by law. Only specific and documented reasons, like national emergencies or defense, can exceed this limit.

BBC Africa Eye discovered no evidence of correct procedure in this leak. Over a 4-year period, these cash withdrawals from Sud Oil accounts amounted to at least $50M. It is thought that the money disappeared once it was taken.

Audit finds firm at’very high’ risk

Only one person was able to be identified by our investigation as Sud Oil’s managing director David Ezekiel. The address of the small office is Kinshasa. Sud Oil, which was based in New York City at the time, purchased the property for $12m.

Additionally, it had a contract signed with BGFI Bank RDC for the supply of new vehicles to senior members of its management, such as Mr Selemani. For the four-wheel drive car, it cost $70,000

BBC Africa Eye did not find any evidence that other businesses were involved.

An internal BGFI audit was available to the investigation, which was completed in July 2018. It heavily criticised Bank’s DR Congo operations. It was never intended for public release.

The DR Congo-based subsidiary was given a “very high” score. In addition, it cited a lack integrity and transparency regarding the disclosure of conflicts of interest as well as compliance in operations with clients.

Auditors found Mr. Selemani to have at most 16 conflict of interest. These included links with private firms that had bank accounts. Sud Oil was also mentioned in the audit.

After the completion of his report, Mr. Selemani moved to a new position at BGFI’s Gabon head office. On his departure from BGFI Banque, he was reported to have received $1.4m. He is believed to have left BGFI on November 2018, according to some reports.

In 2018, Sud Oil was sold to Kwanza Capital. It is believed Mrs Mteyu gave up her 40% stake at BGFI Banque.

BBC Africa Eye contacted BGFI (Joseph Kabila), Francis Selemani (Francis Selemani), Aneth Lutel, David Ezekiel, Gloria Mteyu) about the information in the leak. No one responded to our queries. Pascal Kinduelo also declined to reply.

BBC reached out to Gecamines, BCC and they didn’t respond.

Corneille Narangaa, the head of Ceni, refused to discuss the Sud Oil payment because of parliamentary confidentiality laws. The electoral body now has a new management group, Mr Nangaaa said.

The BBC Africa Eye investigation will be online starting 29 November.

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