The President’s Bank: Sud Oil, Kwanza Capital, and the Kabila Family

Two companies belonging in large part to members of former President Joseph Kabila’s family received $92.3 million in questionable transfers from Congolese state-run companies and agencies. This is the conclusion of a report released today by the Congo Research Group (CRG) based at New York University. 

At the heart of this story is the local branch of the Banque gabonaise et française internationale (BGFIBank), one of the largest banks in Central Africa. Since this branch was incorporated in Kinshasa in 2010 it has had close ties with the Kabila family. Beginning in 2013, a variety of state agencies and institutions began sending large amounts of money to BGFIBank accounts registered to two companies in which members of the Kabila family are large shareholders: Sud Oil and Kwanza Capital. The funds came from the central bank, the election commission, the Permanent Mission to the United Nations, the national assembly, the parastatal managing the ports, and a fund set up to manage road tolls. 

It is difficult to conceive of a legitimate reason for these transfers––the bank documents in CRG’s possession do not show any service provided by Kabila’s companies, and Sud Oil does not appear to have had any assets during this period. There is no accompanying justification for these large transfers, as is required by the Congolese law against money laundering, nor was there any public tender, which is required for state contracts. In addition, records in our possession also show that the general manager of Sud Oil withdrew more than $50 million in cash during this period without justification, which may also violate national legislation against money laundering. 

All of this casts doubt on the ability of various financial regulators–in particular, the central bank and the Cellule nationale des renseignements financiers (National Financial Intelligence Cell, CENAREF)–as well as tax agencies to carry out the necessary oversight.

When contacted, the companies and individuals named here either did not respond or did not provide a plausible explanation. Our report relies largely on documentary evidence, drawing on more than 3.5 million documents shared with Congo Research Group by the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF) and the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) network. 

Click here for the full report.