Businesses owned by the family and friends of former Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila had millions of dollars in public funds funneled through their bank accounts, according to Africa’s biggest data breach.
The money was transferred to company accounts at the Congolese branch of the BGFI bank.
Millions of dollars in cash were then withdrawn from the accounts.
Mr. Kabila was president at the time of the bank transfers.
He declined to answer our questions about the transfers.
The leak included more than three million documents and information on millions of transactions of the BGFI bank (Banque Gabonaise et Française Internationale), which operates in several African countries and in France. The French online investigative review Mediapart and the NGO Platform for the Protection of Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF) have obtained the information.
BBC Africa Eye gained access to the evidence, as part of a consortium called Congo Hold-up, coordinated by the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) media network.
The survey raises questions about the recipients of money transfers and possible conflicts of interest.
The oil company without oil
The general manager of BGFI’s DR Congo subsidiary, BGFI Banque RDC, from 2012 to 2018 was Francis Selemani, the adoptive brother of Joseph Kabila.
Mr. Kabila’s sister, Gloria Mteyu, owned 40% of the BGFI operation in DR Congo, created in 2010.
A private company, Sud Oil, received nearly $ 86 million in public funds from November 2013 to August 2017.
These include at least $ 46 million from the DR Congo banking regulator, the BCC, $ 15 million from the state mining company Gécamines and $ 1.3 million from the country’s electoral body, the Ceni. .
The only information the BBC found of the leak regarding these payments was a bill of just over $ 1 million from Ceni to Sud Oil for petroleum products.
The BBC found no evidence that Sud Oil was trading in petroleum products at the time.
Mr. Selemani’s wife, Aneth Lutale, owned 80% of Sud Oil and Ms. Mteyu held the remaining 20% from 2013 to 2018.
Millions of dollars were transferred from Sud Oil’s BGFI accounts to the BGFI accounts of other private companies. Some of them were from relatives or business associates of Mr. Kabila, who served as president from 2001 to 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 then president of BGFI Bank RDC.
Mr. Kinduelo was also a former owner of Sud Oil, before transferring ownership.
The investigation found that the bank had authorized numerous high-value cash withdrawals from Sud Oil’s accounts, including one for $ 6 million. By law, a maximum of $ 10,000 can be withdrawn in cash per day. This limit can only be exceeded for specific and documented purposes, such as reasons of national emergency or defense.
BBC Africa Eye found no evidence in the leak that the correct procedures were followed in these cases. These cash withdrawals from Sud Oil’s accounts totaled at least $ 50 million over a four-year period. Once the money was withdrawn, it is believed to have become untraceable.
The audit found the company “at very high risk”
Our investigation could not establish that Sud Oil, for the period 2013 to 2018, had as an address an employee, the general manager David Ezekiel, and a small office in the capital Kinshasa. In October 2013, Sud Oil bought a real estate complex in the capital for $ 12 million, basing the company there.
It also had a contract with BGFI Banque RDC to supply new vehicles to several of its managers, including Mr. Selemani. He charged $ 70,000 to supply his four-wheel drive car.
BBC Africa Eye found no evidence of other commercial activity.
The investigation had access to an internal audit of the BGFI, completed in July 2018, strongly criticizing the operation in DR Congo. The audit was never meant to be made public.
He assigned a rating of “very high risk” to the DR Congo subsidiary. He also referred to a lack of integrity and transparency in declaring conflicts of interest and compliance in his dealings with clients.
The audit identified Mr Selemani as having at least 16 declared conflicts of interest, including ties to private companies with accounts at the bank. It also shed light on several high value Sud Oil deals.
Two weeks after the report was completed, Mr. Selemani was transferred to a new post at BGFI’s head office in Gabon. He would have received 1.4 million dollars by leaving BGFI Banque RDC. He would have left the BGFI in November 2018.
Sud Oil changed ownership in 2018 and Kwanza Capital was closed the same year. Ms. Mteyu is said to have sold her 40% stake in BGFI Banque RDC.
BBC Africa Eye has contacted BGFI, Joseph Kabila, Francis Selemani, Aneth Lutale, David Ezekiel and Gloria Mteyu about the information in the leak. None answered our questions. We also contacted Pascal Kinduelo, who refused to respond.
Gécamines and BCC did not respond to requests for a response from the BBC.
The boss of the Ceni at the time of his relations with Sud Oil, Corneille Nangaa, refused to comment on the payment, citing the rules of parliamentary confidentiality. Mr. Nangaaa added that a new management team was now in place within the electorate.
The BBC Africa Eye survey will be available online from November 29.
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