| DAKAR, April 23
DAKAR, April 23 A Congolese rights group has
written to the attorney general to demand a criminal
investigation into a Reuters report that most of the money from
fees for printing new passports goes overseas.
Documents reviewed by Reuters of a 2015 deal between Congo's
government and a Belgian company called Semlex to produce
biometric passports show that most of the $185 price for a new
passport goes to Semlex and a small company called LRPS in the
United Arab Emirates.
The Congolese Association for Access to Justice (ACAJ) wrote
to Attorney General Flory Kabange Numbi on Wednesday to demand
he investigate the passports deal, "which has brought about
enormous losses to the public treasury", the letter seen by
Numbi did not immediately reply to a request for comment on
whether he had seen the letter and how he planned to respond.
"We have written to the attorney general asking him to open
an inquiry," ACAJ President Georges Kapiamba told Reuters by
telephone on Sunday.
"They need to produce an explanation. How do they explain to
the Congolese what has happened to this money?"
Last Thursday Brussels prosecutors said they were
investigating the deal with Semlex. Opposition
leaders have also called on Congolese authorities to
In its article on Semlex published on April 13, Reuters
reported that the UAE-listed firm LRPS - which receives $60 for
every passport issued - is owned by Makie Makolo Wangoi,
believed to be a close relative of President Joseph Kabila.
Neither the Congolese presidency nor Wangoi or Semlex
responded to requests for comment on the Reuters story.
"It is very important that they identify this third person
who has received the sum," Kapiamba told Reuters. "And if it is
established clearly that this is corruption, they need to
reimburse the Congolese state."
The vast, resource-rich Central African state has been
plagued by corruption almost since independence from Belgium in
1960. Kabila's counsellor on graft and money laundering said in
2015 that the country loses up to $15 billion a year to fraud,
or roughly three times the annual fiscal budget.
Kabila also faces calls from the opposition to leave power
this year after he did not step down at the end of his
constitutional mandate in December. His supporters say delays to
an election for his successor meant he had to stay on.
(Additional reporting by William Clowes in Kinshasa; editing by