Press Release: DRC/Dubai: New port project tainted by corruption charges

Paris, March 2nd, 2018) - As the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) goes through a severe political and humanitarian crisis, its government is on the verge of concluding a multi-million-dollar deal, tainted with allegations of corruption, with Dubai Port World (DPW), said today the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF).

Approached by several whistleblowers following the negotiations between the DRC and DPW, PPLAAF is uploading documents exchanged between the negotiators, including memorandums of understanding, as well as a description of the corporate structure that the parties intend to create.

The contract to be signed will lead not only to the construction and operation of a port in Banana, the only part of the Congolese territory with access to the Atlantic Ocean, but also to the creation of a corporate structure that will possibly allow the personal enrichment of dignitaries of the Congolese regime. The negotiations, on a project exceeding one billion US dollars, would be tainted with corruption.

According to the minutes of DRC’s council of ministers held on February 24th, 2018, it was decided that the project is to be presented again at the next council meeting before a final decision is made. Given the imminent signing of the contract, PPLAAF has decided to publish these documents today.

Once again, outraged by these malpractices and the perspective of personal enrichment, whistleblowers have decided to reveal the inside stories of negotiations between the DRC and a multinational,” said William Bourdon, president of PPLAAF. “It is obvious that a deep-water port on the Atlantic seaboard could benefit the DRC, but certainly not if it is designed for misappropriation rather than for the general interest”.

A whistleblower is a person who discloses information regarding actions that are unlawful, illicit or against public interest, that he/she has witnessed in the context of his/her employment. By publicly disclosing information through PPLAAF, the whistleblowers at the source of these revelations hope to prevent the misappropriations planned during the negotiations on the project.

A Congolese joint-venture will be created by the DRC and DPW to build the port of Banana. The DRC part will not be one of the existing Congolese public authorities, but a new state company of which nearly half may belong to a private person.

The management of the port will be ensured by a new company, of which 60% will belong to DPW and 40% to “Private DRC”. According to the whistleblowers, this “Private DRC” will be owned by no other than President Joseph Kabila or a person close to him. According to DPW estimates, this arrangement would allow “Private DRC” to earn more than $ 45.3 million in seven years. As implied by a letter sent by DPW’s CEO Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem to President Joseph Kabila, this guarantee was to be put in place by DPW before the DRC agreed to enter negotiation.

PPLAAF has not contacted the parties to the negotiations for a response on these allegations, in order to prevent acts of retaliation against the whistleblowers or their relatives. PPLAAF stands ready, however, to publish the responses that the parties will send to PPLAAF following this disclosure.

The DRC is currently in a severe crisis. The political agreement concluded at the end of 2016 for the holding of presidential elections before the end of 2017 and the easing of political tensions has not been respected. President Joseph Kabila has remained in power through violence and repression while ignoring these commitments. Since December 31st, 2017, peaceful demonstrations to enforce the political agreement have been severely repressed by the police. According to Human Rights Watch, several people were killed, and hundreds wounded.

As repression in the DRC intensifies and human rights violations are committed daily, multinationals and foreign businessmen are accommodating to the situation and continue to enrich themselves,” said Henri Thulliez, Member of PPLAAF’s Board of Directors. “The chaos strategy that is being put in place by a president who is clinging to power does not seem to cool down the lucrative appetite of certain companies.

The Congolese regime is regularly questioned by the media and by non-governmental organizations for acts of severe corruption and for the Kabila’s entourage’s control on the Congolese economy. Last July, PPLAAF showed how $42 million have been diverted from the Congolese Central Bank by the private company EGAL to allow the purchase of wildlife animals for the benefit of Ferme Espoir, a company owned by President Kabila.

By December 21st, 2017, the United States adopted sanctions against several economic actors in the DRC who were accused of corruption, including Dan Gertler, an Israeli billionaire who accumulated hundreds of millions of dollars through shady markets in the energy and mining sectors. Other individuals suspected of corruption are likely to be sanctioned in the coming weeks.

PPLAAF is a Senegalese non-governmental organization created in March 2017 with hubs around Africa. It provides support to assist whistleblowers including encrypted communication, free legal advice or representation against employers, continued assistance to protect the whistleblower in the disclosure of information to the public, the development of legislation to protect whistleblowers and legal cases based on whistleblower information.

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