Wednesday, October 28, 2020

DRC banks vow to tackle money laundering

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Lenders in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will move to tackle money laundering at the request of the US, which has expressed support for new president Felix Tshisekedi, the mineral-rich country’s banking association says.

The US treasury and state department had asked Congolese banks to put measures in place against sanctions-busting, money laundering, the financing of terrorism, and corruption, the Congolese Association of Banks said.

In response, the association said it had asked all banks to “raise the level of anti-money laundering mechanisms” and urged “rigorous monitoring of the accounts of politically-exposed people”.

The US and EU have imposed sanctions on Congolese officials for obstructing free and fair elections and violation of human rights ahead of a national vote last December.

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These individuals are barred from the US and their dollar-based assets frozen. In March, three officials of the country’s electoral commission were placed under US sanctions for alleged corruption.

For fear of being sanctioned themselves, many foreign banks refuse to send dollars to, or receive them from, the DRC.

In 2017, Israeli mining magnate Dan Gertler, a close ally of  former president Joseph Kabila, had all his assets and accounts in the US frozen. He is accused of using the friendship to obtain lucrative mineral rights at bargain prices before selling them on at huge profit margins.

The treasury department said that from 2010 to 2012 alone, the DRC reportedly lost more than $1.36bn in state revenues from underpriced mining assets sold to offshore companies tied to Gertler.

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Long ravaged by bloody civil conflict, the DRC is the third-poorest country on Earth when ranked by per capita GDP, according to the US Central Intelligence Agency.

Tshisekedi was received by state secretary Mike Pompeo in Washington in April for his only trip outside Africa since taking office in January. Pompeo hailed the new president’s “change agenda”.

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