Companies owned by family and friends of former Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila had millions of dollars of public funds funnelled through their bank accounts, according to Africa’s biggest data leak.
The money was transferred to the companies’ accounts at the Congolese arm of the BGFI bank.Millions of dollars in cash were then taken out of the accounts. Mr Kabila was president at the time of the bank transfers.
In a statement, he called the reports “unfounded accusations”. 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. Online French investigative journal Mediapart and the NGO Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF) obtained the information.
The investigation raises questions about who benefitted from the money transfers and possible conflicts of interests.The managing director of BGFI’s DR Congo subsidiary, BGFI Banque RDC, from 2012 to 2018 was Francis Selemani, Joseph Kabila’s foster-brother.
Mr Kabila’s sister, Gloria Mteyu, owned 40% of BGFI’s DR Congo operation, which was set up in 2010. One privately owned company, Sud Oil, was shown to have received nearly $86m in public funds from November 2013 to 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.
The only information found from the leak concerning these payments was an invoice for just over $1m from Ceni to Sud Oil for petroleum products.
Mr Selemani’s wife, Aneth Lutale, owned 80% of Sud Oil and Mrs Mteyu owned the remaining 20% from 2013 to 2018.
Millions of dollars were transferred out of Sud Oil’s BGFI accounts to other private companies’ BGFI accounts. Some of these were owned by relatives or business associates of Mr Kabila, who was president from 2001-2019.
One of these companies, Kwanza Capital, was majority owned by Congolese businessman Pascal Kinduelo, with Sud Oil taking a minority stake. Mr Kinduelo was chair of BGFI Bank RDC at the time.
Mr Kinduelo was also a former owner of Sud Oil, before transferring ownership.The investigation found the bank allowed many high-value cash withdrawals from Sud Oil accounts, including one for $6 million. By law a maximum of $10,000 is allowed to be withdrawn in cash per day. This limit can only be breached for specific, documented purposes, such as national emergency or defence reasons.
Investigations found no evidence in the leak that correct procedures were followed in these instances. These cash withdrawals from Sud Oil accounts totalled at least $50 million covering a four-year period. Once the money was withdrawn, it is believed to have become untraceable.