Government officials in the United States and Europe are being urged to take action against a suspected money laundering scheme in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In a statement sent to Face2Face Africa, Enough Project – an atrocity prevention policy group – calls on U.S and European governments to work with financial institutions to address a possible scandal in DRC, where at least $95.7 million is suspected to have been laundered.
According to Enough Project, some senior officials in the Congolese government have been making suspicious bank transfers in U.S. dollars, including $95.7 million in irregular tax advances from the state-owned mining company Gecamines, as recently reported by the New York Times.
“It appears from the Times’ reporting that the U.S. financial system is being used by corrupt leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The U.S. Treasury Department should employ the types of financial tools used to combat terrorism and nuclear proliferation to safeguard the U.S. financial system,” Sasha lezhnev, an Associate Director of Policy at the Enough Project said.
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The suspected scandal is said to involve some family members of DRC President Joseph Kabila.
A tax advance of $8 million was allegedly paid in cash from the mining company to BGFI DRC Bank, which is said to be controlled by Kabila’s brother and sister.
Enough Project is now calling on the U.S. and Europe to engage directly with correspondent banks to monitor the suspicious transactions, impose sanctions on top decision makers that are directly responsible for violence and corruption in the DRC, and push for an audit of the state-owned copper and cobalt mining company.
The latest controversy comes against the backdrop of large-scale poverty and a struggling economy in the DRC, which has seen the Congolese Franc lose 27 percent of its value in 2016, while inflation has gone up to about 6 percent.
Simmering Political Turmoil
The DRC is also staring at possible political violence following the postponement of presidential elections that were supposed to be held in November.
DRC’s Constitutional Court issued a ruling in October postponing the elections by 17 months following a petition by the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), citing lack of the necessary resources.
However, many have criticized this move saying it is a result of President Kabila’s desperate attempt to hold on to power. Kabila was expected to retire in December at the end of his second and final term in office.
The 45-year-old president has ruled the country for 15 years following the assassination of his father, Laurent Kabila.
DRC has never had a democratic transition of power since its independence in 1960.