A ghost company based in Brussels received more than €6 million from a Belgian-Congolese entrepreneurial duo linked to Congo's former president, raising questions about possible money-laundering.
The money was sent to a Belgian company named 'Mambimbi Wan Afritec' on the transactions. However, no such business exists on the Belgian companies register, according to reports from De Standaard and its partners in a series of investigative pieces on the Congo.
The Belgian newspaper found that between 2012 and 2018, at least €6.35 million was transferred to Belgium from an account via the Congolese branch of Banque Gabonaise et Française Internationale (BGFIBank). This is linked to the immediate entourage of former president Joseph Kabila, including Belgian-Congolese entrepreneurs Alain Wan and Marc Piedboeuf.
Together the duo runs large Congolese construction companies MW Afritec and Carrières du Congo, which reportedly transferred almost €5.9 million from the BGFIBank to the aforementioned Belgian-based ghost company. The bank was also used for suspicious money flows within Congo itself.
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In February 2016, the ghost company referred to as "Mambimbi Wan Afritec" in the transaction also received money sent by a company named Port de Fisher, which is directly linked to Kabila himself, and paid half a million dollars (around €444,000) to "MW Afritec - Marine."
The investigation was based on more than 3.5 million documents and millions of transactions of the BGFIBank obtained by the French news site Mediapart and the NGO PPLAAF, which were shared with De Standaard through the network European Investigative Collaborations (EIC).
Ghost companies and non-existent addresses
One of the invoices as part of the data leak included an address: 'Gatti de Gamond 14/10' in Uccle. A later invoice linked to the ghost company referred to the same street, but with the number 1416. Although the street exists, number 14 is a single-family house, meaning there is no more than one address registered on this house number.
De Standaard did find that, a few houses on, a doorbell read 'Wan/Egal EU srl' at the address linked to companies belonging to the Wan family, according to the Belgian Companies Register.
The fact that large sums of money could be sent to a company that does not exist and uses made-up addresses raises questions about possible money laundering.
ING Belgium did not respond to De Standaard's specific questions about the account or its owners but said that it takes its role as a correspondent bank (a link in international transactions) in the fight against financial crime seriously.
Members of the Wan family and Marc Piedboeuf also refused to answer questions about the untraceable Brussels company, the Belgian bank account and the invoices to Kabila's company.