Whistleblowers Report Death Threats over DRC Bank Fraud Revelation

Published: 01 March 2021


Two former bankers at Afriland risked their lives to expose wrongdoings. (Photo: PPLAAF)

By Julett Pineda Sleinan

Two former employees of a bank based in the Democratic Republic of Congo could face a death sentence after blowing the whistle on the financial institution’s alleged secret networks engaged in money laundering and bypassing international sanctions.

Navy Malela and Gradi Koko came out on Friday to publicly denounce Cameroon-based Afriland First Bank. The two worked for years in the audit department of the bank’s Congolese subsidiary and first revealed their findings internally and then leaked information to NGOs and media outlets.

The Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF), an NGO that provides legal assistance and secure communication channels to whistleblowers, warned that Afriland’s lawyers said the former workers had been sentenced to death by a court in Kinshasa last September. Both Malela and Koko are exiled in Europe.

Neither PPLAAF nor journalists have been able to trace the judgement the lawyers referred to in a press conference held in Kinshasa on Thursday. However, the organization said that if the sentence is real, then it would represent a violation to Malela and Koko’s fundamental rights.

The bank’s lawyers also accused the whistleblowers of re-launching a defamatory press campaign alongside PPLAAF and US-based NGO Global Witness, which published a report based on the employers’ revelations in July last year.

"It would be incredible if whistleblowers are being sentenced to death without having the opportunity to defend themselves, while those who enable the Congolese people's money to disappear are not being prosecuted," Navy Malela said in a statement.

Last year, both whistleblowers revealed that Israeli mining billionaire Dan Gertler allegedly crafted a money laundering web to circumvent U.S. sanctions and acquire mining assets in the DRC.

According to Afriland’s former employees, the bank allowed Gertler’s associates to convert millions of dollars in cash into euros and later deposit the money into accounts of individuals or shell companies connected to the Israeli mogul. One of these companies reportedly received loans of tens of millions of euros from the DRC-based subsidiary.

The revelations also showed that high-ranking Congolese politicians and political institutions reportedly had accounts at Afriland, and some of them made transactions of up to several million dollars in cash.

The statement distributed by PPLAAF reports that millions of dollars were withdrawn from the Congolese Senate account in 2018 and 2019 during the country’s electoral process.

"We call on the Congolese authorities to launch investigations into these acts and on President Tshisekedi to promote mechanisms to protect whistleblowers, as he recently announced,” PPLAAF spokesperson Gabriel Bourdon-Fattal said.