Kinshasa – French investigative media outlet Mediapart on Friday accused former Democratic Republic of Congo president Joseph Kabila and his family of siphoning off $138 million in state funds while in power.
The press office of Kabila, who led the mineral-rich but impoverished country from 2001 to 2019, denied the charges.
The allegations come after Mediapart and the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa, a non-governmental organisation, gained access to more than three million leaked documents from the International Gabonese and French Bank (BGFI), Mediapart said.
Nineteen media outlets and five non-governmental organisations coordinated by the European Investigative Collaborations spent six months sifting through the documents.
“The documents… show that former president Kabila, his family and relatives received, with the complicity of the BGFI, at least $138 million from state coffers between 2013 and 2018,” Mediapart said.
It added that the funds had been siphoned “through a shell company set up in a garage”.
Kabila’s media office in a statement rejected “false accusations” and criticised what he called “unjustified harassment from certain powers hiding behind the media”.
Mediapart said Kabila’s adoptive brother had been the general director of the DRC subsidiary of the Gabon-based BGFI bank, and alleged he and Kabila’s sister owned the shell company.
The bank did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.
The report alleged the shell company had served as “a vehicle to regime corruption”, as well as a way to “levy a sort of Kabila tax” from a string of public institutions or companies.
It said they included the central bank, state mining firm Gecamines, parliament, the electoral commission, and even the fund for road maintenance.
Poverty is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa’s largest country, despite its soil being full of gold, coltan or cobalt.
In 2018, it was estimated that 73 percent of its population of 60 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day, the World Bank says.
Joseph Kabila became president aged just 29 in 2001, after his long-ruling father Laurent-Desire Kabila was assassinated.
He did not run in December 2018’s election, which was won by Felix Tshisekedi, who took over in January the following year.
It was the Democratic Republic of Congo’s first peaceful political transition since independence from Belgium in 1960.