Dubious transactions involving Kabila’s clan and UBS: a criminal complaint filed in Switzerland

Public Eye, the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF) and the UNIS association have filed a criminal complaint with the Public Prosecutor of the Confederation, based on the revelations of "Congo Hold-up". This investigation by an alliance of media and NGOs revealed in 2021 the possible involvement of UBS in the laundering of Congolese public funds embezzled by the clan of Joseph Kabila, the former President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A member of his inner circle, the Belgian businessman Philippe de Moerloose, had received $19 million of dubious origin in his UBS accounts in Zurich and Geneva.

In November 2021, “Congo Hold-up” revealed the mechanisms that allowed the clan of the former president of the DRC, Joseph Kabila, to siphon off at least $138 million from the state treasury between 2013 and 2018, which equals 250,000 average yearly salaries in this country. Thanks to the largest data leak in Africa, the consortium of 19 international media and 5 NGOs – including Public Eye – was able to analyse millions of bank documents. These showed how the Congolese subsidiary of the BGFIBank, controlled by the Kabila clan, had allowed all kinds of irregular operations: backdated transactions, money laundering, and loans granted by the Central Bank of Congo but never reimbursed.

“Congo Hold-up” also pinpointed the passive attitude of international banks, including several institutions in Switzerland. The criminal complaint transmitted to the Public Prosecutor of the Confederation (MPC) by Public Eye, PPLAAF and UNIS relates to the actions of Philippe de Moerloose, a Belgian businessman close to Joseph Kabila, and the UBS in Geneva and Zurich, where he received funds of shady origin. It documents possible acts of money laundering and a possible failure to exercise due diligence regarding financial transactions within the largest Swiss bank to prevent money laundering. Offences for which the limitation period can extend up to fifteen years when it comes to aggravated money laundering.

Two episodes are detailed. In 2012, Philippe de Moerloose received $7 million in his UBS account in Zurich, opened in the name of an offshore company. They came from an agricultural company controlled by the Kabila clan, for the purchase of tractors and other equipment. The origin of these funds leads to the payment of bribes from Chinese companies to Congolese leaders as part of a mining contract. In 2013, the Belgian received another $12 million from UBS Geneva for the sale of a building in Kinshasa, acquired by a shell company of Kabila’s family. The money came from a non-regulatory loan system with the Central Bank of Congo, which could constitute a misappropriation of public funds.

Based on these facts set out in the denunciation, Public Eye and its partners asked the MPC to open a criminal investigation swiftly. In other countries, the “Congo Hold-up” revelations have already resulted in legal proceedings. At the beginning of June, in France, the Financial Prosecutor's Office opened a preliminary investigation into alleged acts of “aggravated laundering of misappropriation of public funds”. And on 14 June, the Belgian justice searched the home of Philippe de Moerloose as part of an investigation directed against him for suspicion of "corruption of foreign public officials”.

More information here or from:

Agathe Duparc, Commodities Investigator, +33 7 71 22 34 13, agathe.duparc@publiceye.ch

Julia Ntumba Kanyinda, PPLAAF Project Manager, +337 79 27 48 29, julia@pplaaf.org

Jimmy Kande, President of UNIS, +243 811 97 19 84, Kande.Jimmy@gmail.com