Congo Hold-up: good deals from President Tshisekedi's advisers

Two collaborators of the Congolese head of state Félix Tshisekedi continued to do business after taking office as president.

© RFI

Text by: Sonia Rolley Follow

14 mins

The Congo Hold-up documents hardly cover the Tshisekedi era.

But in these millions of data from the BGFI, we find the names of some of its advisers.

Despite a very clear political discourse on the need to fight corruption, two collaborators, Jean-Claude Kabongo and Luc-Gérard Nyafé, continued to do business after taking office as President.

Survey by Justine Brabant (Mediapart) and Sonia Rolley (RFI).

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The embezzlement of at least 138 million dollars of public money by the former president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Joseph Kabila and his relatives, revealed by RFI, Mediapart and their “Congo Hold-up” partners, has been causing a shock wave in the DRC and beyond for a week.

Several NGOs called on the Congolese justice to seize this information to open investigations into these

"serious facts

".

Among them, the so-called “

citizen

” movement Lucha, which campaigns for more social justice and democracy, called for the revision of the law granting immunity to former Congolese presidents, and the freezing and seizure of property resulting from illicit enrichment.

"

It is time for the Congolese justice to open an investigation against the perpetrators of economic crimes who have stripped the Congolese of their resources

", also reacted the campaign "

The Congo is not for sale

", which brings together a dozen associations Congolese and international women who fight and militate against corruption.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo declared on Friday 19 November that it was "

in the very interest of the DRC that this matter be brought to light

" and that this "

should help the current President and his government to make progress. in the fight against corruption, a fight that [Belgium] supports.

"

The current Congolese head of state, Félix Tshisekedi, likes to appear as the man of change, promoter of better management of public affairs.

His American counterpart Joe Biden hailed 

last October

his "

efforts to promote transparency and fight against corruption

".

The Inspector General of Finance of the DRC, Jules Alingete, has been increasing vigorous outings since the start of our revelations, ensuring that he is working more than ever to fight corruption, money laundering and embezzlement of public funds. , with the blessing of Félix Tshisekedi. As a good herald of anti-corruption, the current head of state has also, since November 16, an amphitheater in his name at the headquarters of the General Inspectorate of Finance.

In the entourage of Joseph Kabila's successor, not everyone is faultless.

The millions of bank documents obtained by PLAAF and Mediapart, combined with surveys of entrepreneurs and public and private economic actors, show that at least two close associates of the president continued to do business after taking office.

Some of these activities are contrary to the code of conduct for Congolese public officials.

Has the political alternation at the head of the Congolese state been coupled with a real change in the practices of its senior representatives?

These two examples sow the seeds of doubt.

Special advisor Jean-Claude Kabongo and his four companies

Is it by dint of frequenting the lobbies of large hotels as part of his duties? Jean-Claude Kabongo, special advisor to President Tshisekedi, clearly has a certain taste for luxury. Owner of a villa in Miami (sold in 2019), tenant of an apartment on Avenue Montaigne in Paris, smartphone with Porsche logo… His Whatsapp profile picture is a Partagas cigar.

Since 2019, he has therefore held strategic positions within Félix Tshiskedi's staff. As special advisor in charge of investments, he is in charge of several highly sensitive issues, including that of the Inga III dam (a gigantic hydroelectric dam project on the Congo River) or that of the extension of the Congolese capital (the "Kitoko" project, which should be carried out by an Egyptian consortium). He worked for economic rapprochement with Moroccan employers or even on the visit of the Congolese presidential delegation to Doha in Qatar.

Entrepreneur in oil trading before being appointed advisor, he officially ceased his activities when he entered the service of the State.

In March 2021, he "assured [ed] with force" to the specialized publication Africa Intelligence "that

he has withdrawn from the business of his [oil trading company, ATOL] to devote himself entirely to his duties as special adviser

".

Questioned by Mediapart and its partners in September 2021, he reaffirmed that he had “

withdrawn

” from his “

old commercial affairs

”.

In reality, for advisor Kabongo, business continues.

Although he resigned from his functions at his company African Trading Oil (based in the United Kingdom) before it was dissolved in October 2020, the name of Jean-Claude Kabongo still appears as director of four registered companies. in the Congolese trade register: JCK Holding, JCK Trading, JCK Consulting and the Société générale de transit (SOGET).

Embarrassing detail: according to its statutes, the majority shareholder of SOGET of Jean-Claude Kabongo is the company Orion Oil, whose boss Lucien Ebata, a close friend of the president of the other Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso, was

put in examination in France in October 2021

for “

failure to comply with the obligation to declare capital, money laundering and active corruption

”.

The name of Jean-Claude Kabongo still appears as director of JCK Trading registered in the Congolese trade register.

© RFI

Asked about these companies, Jean-Claude Kabongo sent us via his lawyer two letters supposed to prove that he did what was necessary to put an end to these activities.

All the public documents that we have been able to consult (Congolese trade register but also statutes consulted at the one-stop shop for business creation in the DRC) nevertheless indicate that these two letters have not been followed up.

In addition, he did not answer our questions about his links with Lucien Ebata.

Above all, "JCK" has found a way to conduct business more quietly.

The Congo Hold-up documents identify three other companies linked to the president's adviser, but headed by a nominee.

In the space of three months, from September to November 2015, a man named Amédée Pata Fumulamba withdrew $ 46,000 from Jean-Claude Kabongo's personal account at BGFI DRC.

Who is he ?

Officially, Mr. Pata Fumulamba is a rising businessman.

He runs three young companies: African Trading Oil DRC, Africa Trading Mining and the Société générale de transit et des douanes (SOGETRAD).

In fact, however, hardly anyone seems to know him.

At the headquarters of the Société générale de transit et des douanes, in Lubumbashi, his name does not mean much.

"

Amédée who?

»Object the few employees present.

At 109 avenue Wagenia, in Kinshasa, where another of its companies, African Trading Mining, is domiciled, even perplexed.

And for good reason: Amédée Pata Fumulamba works mainly on behalf of Jean-Claude Kabongo.

Despite his attempts to make his activities less visible, JCK has left some traces.

First of all, the dates of the creation of these companies.

Jean-Claude Kabongo was appointed advisor to the presidency on March 8, 2019. Two of Amédée Pata Fumulamba's companies were created the following month, on April 15 and 16, 2019 (the third was in March 2021).

Aerial view of the Inga I dam. As special advisor in charge of investments, Jean-Claude Kabongo is in charge of several cases, including that of the Inga III dam.

AFP - MARC JOURDIER

The names of those companies, then.

The special adviser founded "African Trading Oil (ATOL)";

Amédée Pata Fumulamba's companies are called “African Trading Oil RDC (ATOL RDC)” then “African Trading Mining”.

The special advisor founded the Société Générale de Transit (SOGET);

Amédée Pata Fumulamba created the “General Transit and Customs Society (SOGETRAD)”.

On certain legal documents, Amédée Pata Fumulamba has the same address as the special adviser, in the district of Lemera, in Kinshasa. "

We lived in the same building

" agrees the first, but "

each in his apartment

". Still according to the Congolese trade register, some of their companies share the same telephone number. This is that of one of Jean-Claude Kabongo's lawyers, who before his death in June 2021 was also ... a shareholder in two of Amédée's companies.

The two main stakeholders, interviewed by Mediapart, admit to having "

developed business relations in the past

", but refute the idea that Mr. Kabongo could be involved in the companies headed by Mr. Pata Fumulamba. “

The occupation of the same address before the appointment of Jean-Claude Kabongo or the similarity of the names of commercial companies and their dates of creation (…) cannot lead you to believe in the existence of a loan agreement. name

”, writes us Amédée Pata Fumulamba

”. 

A banker who had to manage part of JCK's activities, however, confirms that it is indeed his personal assistant, who acts as a "briefcase" to advise him.

Jean-Claude Kabongo, adviser to the Congolese presidency who takes daily decisions on foreign investments, particularly in the field of raw materials, therefore [1] quietly pursues his activities in the import-export, extractive and petroleum industries.

The code of conduct for Congolese public officials, however, prohibits any conflict of interest, defined as "

a situation in which a public official of the State has a personal interest likely to influence or appear to influence the impartial and objective exercise of his duties. official functions.

"

Luc-Gérard Nyafé, itinerant ambassador and captain of industry

Others than him do not hide from continuing to do business, like Luc-Gérard Nyafé, better known in the DRC under the name of “Luc Gérard”.

This Belgian-Congolese businessman, named “

itinerant ambassador

” by Félix Tshisekedi on March 6, 2019, has been doing more business in the DRC since his boss took office.

"

My position as an entrepreneur precedes my meeting with the President of the Republic by fifteen years

," he explains to Radio France Internationale (RFI), a partner of "Congo Hold-up".

When he proposed to join his cabinet, I told him about my pre-existing commitments and projects: agro-industry, health, Maluku economic zone and mining buyout projects.

He judged that they were not incompatible

”.

The Ambassador of the Head of State also ensures that he is not interested in the advantages linked to his function.

"

Any reimbursement of expenses or remuneration of the Presidency is distributed in part between the officials who depend on my office in order to supplement their very low legal remuneration

", he assures us.

"The balance is paid to the foundation, Yaliki in Kwilu, which provides academic support to around 500 children."

A good samaritan.

Presentations between HE Felix Tshisekedi President of the DRC, HE Iván Duque President of Colombia, and Ricardo Lozano Minister of Environment DRC.

Agriculture, Defense, Culture, Industry, Post conflict, a lot of possible areas of cooperation.

pic.twitter.com/qaRieV0rrs

- Luc Gerard Nyafe (@Luc_Gerard) November 4, 2019

During Joseph Kabila's time, Mr. Nyafé won only one contract with the Congolese state.

On January 23, 2016, his company Strategos Africa (a subsidiary of Strategos Ltd, a company based in a tax haven, Panama) signed an agreement with the Central Bank of Congo with a view to creating a joint subsidiary which will manage a hospital attached to the Bank.

Under his boss Félix Tshisekedi, Luc-Gérard Nyafé's business took on another dimension.

The itinerant ambassador obtains the contract for the development of the economic zone of Maluku (a free zone installed in a commune of the capital, Kinshasa), a few months after his arrival at the supreme magistracy.

The businessman ensures that his group, Strategos, won two calls for tenders relating to this market before taking office, in 2016 and then in 2018. However, this contract was not made public until June 2019. "

The results of the selection process could not be confirmed because the country was in an electoral process and without a government in the months that followed,

" said Mr. Nyafé.

A document from the Congolese Ministry of Finance, however, suggests that the award of the contract was not yet finalized when the boss of Strategos was appointed roving ambassador on March 6, 2019. In a letter dated June 14, 2019 and relating to the 'award of this contract, the ministry announces as well as Strategos obtained the highest technical score and is thus “

qualified for the stage of opening of the financial proposal

”.

Félix Tshisekedi's itinerant ambassador defends himself against any favoritism on the part of the Congolese state, pointing to the difficulties that he would still face today: "

To date and almost three years after the auction, the conditions prerequisites for the creation of the economic zone of Maluku have not been fulfilled

”.

For the past few months, Strategos has been working to buy out the South African group Banro - and, for the first time, mining permits in the DRC.

On paper, Banro is a complicated matter.

When this Canadian company still had a website, it boasted of owning four gold mines (two in production and two exploration projects) in the provinces of South Kivu and Maniema, including 13 gold mining permits. 'operating and covering a total area of ​​2,616 square kilometers.

But between 2017 and 2019, these mines were regularly attacked by local armed groups.

Employees are kidnapped there almost every year.

Banro employees are recording more and more salary arrears.

Chinese companies are thriving illegally in the artisanal sector, protected by generals and politicians.

This does not seem to frighten the itinerant ambassador, who indicates that the last authorizations necessary for the buyout of Banro by his group were issued in September 2021. He estimates at 150 million dollars the funds necessary for "the buyback of the shares of Banro, [ to] the clearance of debts as well as [to] the resumption of operations ”.

Is the project validated by the presidency? President Tshisekedi is "not specifically informed", explains Luc-Gérard Nyafé, "

but he generally encourages private investment in the eastern regions of the DRC plagued by insecurity and illegal activities

" . The Congolese head of state is even, according to him, of the opinion that "

the army on its own will not provide a lasting solution

" in these regions and that therefore "

a commitment of the private sector and a massive job creation

”.

Asked about the possible conflicts of interest raised by this situation, the Belgian-Congolese businessman suggests that he could leave his functions soon to put an end to it. “

Until now, Strategos' activities in the DRC were pre-existing to my role with the president. As this is a new activity, I am of the opinion that the perception of a conflict of interest is as important as its actual existence for transparency, the business climate, and the credibility of the parties and therefore incompatible with the function of Ambassador of the Head of State or any other mandate of a political nature

"he explains, before assuring without further details that"

the steps are therefore taken to avoid any confusion.

"

While waiting for these "steps", this redemption gives rise to situations bordering on the absurd. On June 5, the itinerant ambassador of Félix Tshisekedi was thus received by the Minister of Mines as a simple “principal shareholder” of Banro. The report of the meeting, posted online by the Ministry of Mines, forgets to mention that Luc-Gérard Nyafe is not just any shareholder. But he made it clear that Minister Antoinette N'Samba reminded the adviser to the Head of State "of the Head of State's

priorities with regard to the development of economic activity

".

Contacted, the Tshisekedi presidency ensures, in writing, that he does not support the Banro buyout project and indicates that the itinerant ambassador does not represent the interests of the Head of State in this matter.

Asked about the possible conflicts of interest of Jean-Claude Kabongo and Luc-Gérard Nyafe, the presidency addresses this response: "

It is up to the courts to determine it

".

► To read also: Congo Hold-up: the biggest leak of bank documents in Africa

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