Home » Death sentence for Congolese whistleblowers sends Israeli mining tycoon back to U.S. sanctions regime

Death sentence for Congolese whistleblowers sends Israeli mining tycoon back to U.S. sanctions regime

by Ishioma Emi

In February 2021, a Kinshasa court sentenced to death Gradi Koko Lobanga and Navy Malela Mawani, two Congolese whistleblowers who accused Afriland First Bank Global of involvement in a money-laundering network linked to Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler. 

The bank was accused of helping the mining tycoon evade U.S. sanctions and secretly carry out transactions worth $40 million in cash deposits and withdrawals through its subsidiary in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Africanews reported that the bank filed a complaint against the men with the public prosecutor’s office in Paris, France, immediately after the accusations against Afriland surfaced. It accused Lobanga and Mawani, both of whom are former employees, of “theft of documents, violation of banking secrecy, forgery and use of forgeries, slanderous denunciation, all in an organised gang.” 

However, on Feb. 26, the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF) revealed that Afriland’s counsel, Eric Moutet, stated at a press conference the day before that a Kinshasa court had already sentenced the whistleblowers to death in September.

Lobanga and Mawani were convicted in exile after relocating with their families to Europe. The court decision incited an uproar in the international community and prompted the U.S. Treasury Department to revoke Gertler’s license to operate on March 8. The Treasury Department issued the exemption license to Gertler as a specially designated national on Jan. 15. It declared that “the license previously granted to Mr. Gertler is inconsistent with America’s strong foreign policy interests in combating corruption around the world, specifically including U.S. efforts to counter corruption and promote stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).” 

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