Blog / / 06.17.21

Financial Incentives Are Fueling Deadly Conflict in CAR

Over several months, The Sentry has worked closely with CNN on a confidential investigation, obtaining testimony and documents implicating Russian mercenaries connected to the Wagner Group, a shadowy Kremlin-linked defense and security firm sanctioned by the US, in mass atrocities committed against civilians in the Central African Republic (CAR).

The investigative report that first aired on CNN on Monday, June 14, now available on YouTube, along with an article published on, details evidence of mass killings, extrajudicial executions, torture, pillage, kidnapping for ransom, the burning of villages, and mass rapes. The investigation further reveals how foreign mercenaries, in alliance with government armed forces loyal to Central African President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, are unleashing this violence to create a climate of fear in areas of rebel activity and to control and exploit for private gain areas rich in gold, diamonds, and valuable minerals. In fact, the Wagner Group tries to finance itself by seeking financial income in its countries of operation. Its financial profitability becomes an objective at least as important as the mission entrusted to it by the Central African government, opening the door to disturbing abuses.

The human rights violations, which may amount to war crimes, require immediate and effective accountability. But the international community, in both the public and private sectors, must also work together with those in CAR who are seeking genuine democratic and transparent change to focus attention on the finances fueling the conflict. By tracking foreign resource accumulation and associated illicit financial flows in and out of CAR, we can begin to craft new and innovative ways to combat the deadly situation. In particular, The Sentry is making the following recommendations:

  • The United States should review its current sanctions designations related to private security companies—including the network of companies linked to the Wagner Group—and individuals operating in the Central African Republic. It should look to implement additional targeted network sanctions, in conjunction with its international partners, under appropriate sanctions authorities, including its Global Magnitsky, transnational criminal organizations, and country sanctions programs, on leadership, members, associated entities, and enablers, particularly those facilitating illicit financial flows out of CAR.
  • The United Kingdom and European Union should, in conjunction with their international partners, use their Global Human Rights Sanctions regimes and country programs to implement targeted network sanctions on private security companies perpetrating human rights abuses in the Central African Republic, including the Wagner Group, its leadership, members, associated entities, and enablers. The US, EU, and UK sanctions should be closely coordinated for maximum impact.
  • Banks and financial institutions should conduct enhanced customer due diligence on individuals and entities with ties to private security companies operating in the Central African Republic, as they may pose a higher risk for illicit financial activities such as sanctions evasion, money laundering, and corruption, and should refresh such diligence on a periodic basis. Banks and financial institutions should also take steps to identify accounts beneficially owned or controlled by individuals or entities linked to the Wagner Group and freeze such accounts to the extent required by applicable law or bank policy