Investigative Report by The Sentry:
November 29, 2021 (Washington, DC) – A massive deal between Chinese state-owned engineering firms and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to trade mineral wealth to fund urgently needed infrastructure projects concealed a multimillion-dollar embezzlement and bribery operation, according to a new investigative report by The Sentry.
Released today, The Sentry’s 90-page report “The Backchannel: State Capture and Bribery in Congo’s Deal of the Century” details how critical funds meant to rebuild roads, hospitals, and schools wound up in the pockets of former DRC President Joseph Kabila’s inner circle in a scheme orchestrated by David Du Wei, a middleman with high level connections in DRC and China.
Du Wei moved $65 million through his shell company’s accounts at BGFIBank DRC with help from a tight network of individuals representing private industry and government. Du’s million-dollar payments were subsequently routed through the global financial system via correspondent banks – including Citibank and Commerzbank.
John Dell’Osso, Senior Investigator at The Sentry, said: “When unscrupulous corporations want to secure lucrative projects and
make obstacles disappear, they sometimes outsource their dirty work to middlemen. These are the shady agents who deliver the proverbial sacks of cash to pay off local officials. Our investigation uncovered such a middleman, David Du Wei, and details every step of his corrupt operation to keep a multibillion-dollar mining deal on track. The deal was meant to help rebuild critical infrastructure in the DRC, improving the lives of everyday citizens. Instead, the massive Chinese firms behind the deal were all too willing to pay off Congolese powerbrokers who happily pocketed the cash, all while the infrastructure work has been plagued by delays and shortfalls.”
Justyna Gudzowska, Director of Illicit Finance Policy at The Sentry, said: “The report demonstrates the consequences of allowing the politically-connected to run a financial institution like their own piggy bank. To prevent such failures from occurring again, the Congolese Government needs to prioritize rooting out corruption and political influence from its banking sector – and the international community, in particular global correspondent banks, need to help.”
Douglas Gillison, Senior Investigator at The Sentry, said: “When leaders steal from their impoverished people, they are abetted by banks and purveyors of financial secrecy who have channeled dirty money across the globe for far too long. The Congo Hold-up leak is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to peer into this world, expose its actors, and demand urgent reforms.”
The Sentry’s findings add to an array of investigative reports released in the “Congo Hold-up” series by an international consortium of non-profit organizations and media outlets. The millions of leaked bank records obtained by the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF) and the French news group Mediapart and shared with The Sentry and other consortium partners by PPLAAF and European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) represent the largest confidential data leak in African history.
J.R. Mailey, Director of Investigations at The Sentry, said: “One of the biggest deals in the history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is also one of the dirtiest. With access to billions of dollars’ worth of mineral wealth at stake, two Chinese companies pumped millions into accounts controlled by the president’s family. The scheme involved a web of shell companies and a shadowy middleman, but at the center of it all was a bank hijacked by the DRC’s ruling family. Money laundering controls and compliance regimes might sound esoteric, but when they fail, dangerous things happen. It’s time to shut down the laundromat, freeze and return the assets that have been stolen, and prosecute those responsible.”
John Prendergast, Co-Founder of The Sentry, said: “The DRC is held hostage by a kleptocratic system that has looted billions from one of the world’s poorest countries. Global banks, government regulatory bodies, and law enforcement agencies should act on this new evidence to take decisive action.”
None of the companies behind the minerals-for-infrastructure deal responded to requests for comment, nor did former President Joseph Kabila or any members of his family. Furthermore, the bank at the center of the leak—BGFIBank DRC—did not respond to detailed questions about the matters discussed in this report.
Selected excerpts from the report:
Overview of recommendations in the report (Read the full text of these recommendations in “The Backchannel” report):
Read “The Backchannel” report: https://thesentry.org/reports/backchannel
Visit the Congo Hold-up coalition hub: https://congoholdup.com
For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact: Greg Hittelman, Director of Communications, [email protected]
About The Sentry
The Sentry is an investigative and policy team that follows the dirty money connected to African war criminals and transnational war profiteers and seeks to shut those benefiting from violence out of the international financial system. By disrupting the cost-benefit calculations of those who hijack governments for self-enrichment, we seek to counter the main drivers of conflict and create new leverage for peace, human rights, and good governance. The Sentry is composed of financial investigators, international human rights lawyers, and regional experts, as well as former law enforcement agents, intelligence officers, policymakers, investigative journalists, and banking professionals. Co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, The Sentry is a strategic partner of the Clooney Foundation for Justice.
Learn more at www.TheSentry.org