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New Report Shows Hezbollah Used Prominent Bank in War-Ravaged DR Congo to Finance Key Terror Network

avatar by Ben Cohen

BGFIBank DRC is closely tied to the country’s autocratic president, Joseph Kabila. Photo: Screenshot.

Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shia terrorist group in Lebanon, has been using a bank with close ties to the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo to launder money and maintain a terror-funding network under the control of a Hezbollah financier arrested by US authorities earlier this year, a new investigative report released this week asserts.

Issued on Monday, the report – compiled by researchers at The Sentry, an online publication connected with the Washington, DC-based anti-genocide advocacy organization Enough – documents how Hezbollah financiers have used the BGFIBank DRC to move money around the international banking system in violation of US sanctions on Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. The CEO of BGFIBank DRC is Francis Selemani Mtwale, brother of DR Congo’s president, Joseph Kabila.

The report noted that the transactions were carried out by subsidiaries of Kinshasa-based business conglomerate Congo Futur, a company under US Treasury Department sanctions. Warnings to senior bank officials, including Mtwale, went unheeded, the report said, and “the bank’s relationship with Hezbollah-linked companies continued.”

“BGFIBank DRC even went so far as to request that certain transactions be unblocked by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) after other banks refused to process them. And BGFIBank DRC continued to engage in correspondence with Congo Futur-affiliated company representatives in 2016,” the report said. “This raises major questions about the bank’s ability and willingness to fulfill its sanctions and anti-money laundering compliance obligations.”

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The report emphasized how the bank’s violations of sanctions “allowed Kassim Tajideen –described by the US government as ‘an important financial contributor’ who ‘has contributed tens of millions of dollars to Hezbollah’ – and his network to maintain access to the global financial system despite being placed under US sanctions in 2009 and 2010.”

The documents reviewed by The Sentry also show links between Congo Futur and other firms in Tajideen’s network. Tajideen was arrested in Morocco on March 12 this year, and then deported to the US after being charged with “conspiracy, fraud and money laundering.”

The report urged the Department of Justice to “expand its investigation into the Tajideen network to evaluate the potential criminal liability of BGFIBank DRC leadership for knowingly doing business with Hezbollah financiers pursuant to the US Patriot Act and the US International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).”

“Specialized human rights and transnational crimes units in the United States and Europe should investigate whether entities within their jurisdiction have ties to the Tajideen network, with a view toward any financial facilitation of terrorist activities or human rights violations, including the potential facilitation of crimes occurring in Congo,” the report said.

Despite its enormous natural resources, DR Congo is one of the world’s most poverty-stricken countries, dominated by political and economic corruption that enables terrorist groups like Hezbollah to flourish. According to The Sentry, many of those in control of the country’s wealth include “perpetrators of violence” who have been involved in the “commission of mass atrocities” and who “directly control and influence various illicit networks in the country.” These individuals and groups “are assisted by a series of facilitators spread across the country and region who provide their local networks logistics and access to the international systems of global finance, trade, and transportation.”

More than 5 million Congolese were killed during a decade of genocidal conflict that came to an end in 2007. Under Kabila’s rule, the DR Congo’s human rights record has remained one of the worst in the world.

Notwithstanding, DR Congo was elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Monday, along with Pakistan and Qatar. In a statement of protest, the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said that “The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a country infamous for political suppression, violence against women and children, arbitrary arrest and detention, and unlawful killings and disappearances, has been elected to serve on what is supposed to be the world’s preeminent human rights body.” Haley – a persistent critic of the UNHRC – said that the election “calls into serious question the (UN) General Assembly’s methods of selecting membership in the Human Rights Council.”

“People around the world are losing their inalienable rights and freedoms at the hands of oppressive regimes,” Haley said. “This election has once again proven that the Human Rights Council, as presently constituted, is not that voice.”

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