DON'T MISS : Talking Africa Podcast – Mozambique's insurgency: After Palma, what comes next?

DRC: Revelations about Kabila’s US real estate buying spree intensifies calls for crackdown on kleptocracy

By Julian Pecquet
Posted on Tuesday, 23 November 2021 11:58

US Obama Africa Summit
Former DRC President Joseph Kabila in Washington DC on 5 August 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

A treasure trove of leaked bank records connecting the family of former Congolese President Joseph Kabila to a $6.6m real estate buying spree in the tony suburbs of Washington and Johannesburg is fuelling calls for a US crackdown on kleptocracy.

Millions of bank records were obtained by the Paris-based Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF) and the French news outlet Mediapart in what is being billed as Africa’s biggest financial data leak. They were shared with a consortium of news and investigative organisations as part of the Congo Hold-up reporting project.

The leaked documents reveal that between 2015 and 2018, an obscure Congolese company called Sud Oil, linked to Kabila’s brother, Francis Selemani, received millions of dollars from government institutions, including the Congolese mission to the United Nations and the DRC’s central bank. At the time, Selemani was the managing director of BGFIBank DRC, the Congolese subsidiary of Gabon’s BGFIBank Group.

During this time, Sud Oil reportedly sent more than $12m to accounts and companies owned or controlled by Selemani. The leaked documents indicate that while the money was transiting through those accounts, Selemani bought 17 properties worth a total of $6.6m, including four properties worth a total of $4.2m, in the affluent Maryland suburbs of Rockville and Bethesda and another 13 properties in Johannesburg’s affluent suburbs.

The report has fuelled calls for tighter regulation of real estate purchases in Washington, where President Joe Biden has vowed to battle kleptocracy in Africa and beyond.