Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Congolese state captured by the Nguessos


In my understanding, although I could not find anybody to support or back it up, BMCE’s entry into the share of LCB Bank was just a ruse orchestrated by the President Sassou Nguesso to expatriate money from Congo to Morocco without raising any further eyebrows from the international community or from Congolese civil society organisations and political parties of the opposition. Denis Sassou Nguesso is therefore into the oil, publishing, banking and agro industrial sectors while his elder brother, Maurice Nguesso is the owner of the of the largest  and most diversified media group in the country: MNCOM. This company that is managed at the image of the country and it had the first digital network in the country via its pay per view TV: Mosaiq TV, Free to air TV: MNTV. He also owns radio stations in Brazzaville and Oyo, known as MN Radio and Maurice Nguesso owns the most modern printing press known as Impremerie Ayessa. He (Maurice Nguesso) also has shares in banks and aviation companies. As Maurice Nguesso’s profile had already shown, he is also into the logistics, micro finance, oil and agricultural sectors.

Claudia Sassou Nguesso

As for Claudia Sassou Nguesso, she is the Communications adviser to her father, and also owns a TV station called Top TV. Besides being into politics because she is also a Member of Parliament for Talangai electoral constituency, representing the ruling PCT Party, she is also into the oil sector through a company called Kontinent. The majority shareholder of Kontinent is Yaya Moussa, the former IMF country manager for Congo Brazzaville. Yaya Moussa, who is Cameroonian, is reported along with French man, Mathieu Pigasse and many others, whose names are not known, are claimed to have helped the Congolese government to doctor the country’s statistics in order for her to qualify for the IMF and World Bank Poor and Highly indebted Countries scheme. This information, I got from people working at the Presidency of the Republic in Brazzaville.  But according to some experts that, I spoke to, they are unanimous in declaring that, logically, the Republic of Congo won’t have qualified for the HIPC Programme if their statistics were not doctored as aforementioned. Hence the government requested the assistance of brilliant economists and with the complicity of a member of the IMF to lie for example on the population figure of the country.

Yaya Moussa

Earlier, we wrote that, Yaya Moussa and many others contributed in helping Congo to doctor its statistics. To compensate Yaya Moussa for having helped Congo scale through the hurdles put in place by the IMF and World Bank, the government gave licenses to his company aptly called, Kontinent, to operate in the Telecommunications and Oil sectors. And on the board of Kontinent Oil, which is a minor actor in the oil sector, Claudia Sassou is a board member. But she is not alone. According to people in the know, the other members of the family who are on the board of Kontinent are Antoinette Sassou Nguesso and Jean Bruno Richard Itoua (see profile).  While Kontinent Oil is still a minor actor in the Oil sector in Congo, she is certainly going to grow as they Nguessos are members of the board and also control who does what or who is offered what in the sector. One other thing which has to be made abundantly clear about Congo is that, all statistics and other data from the country are wrong. But to the discharge of Brazzaville, they are not the only country in Africa that lied for example on its population figures in order to make sure that, they not only qualify for the HIPC programme but had their debts cancelled by the Paris and London Clubs of lenders.

Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso


Another major beneficiary in the system is Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso. He is the heir apparent to his father. Barring some seismic changes, he will be the 7th president of Congo. He is being groomed for the top job. His father is doing everything for Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso’s smooth accession to power.  It is no surprise that, in 2012 he was elected as the lone and unchallenged MP for Oyo and he has been propelled into the Politburo of the ruling party.  For security proof, the President is arresting and jailing anybody viewed as a potential rival to his son. It explained why people like Andre Okombi Salissa are today in jail. So the ground work is being set for Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso to be propelled at the head of Congo between 2021 and 2023. Along with his elder sister Claudia, affectionately known as Koko, they are the most loved out of wedlock children of Denis Sassou Nguesso for reasons already explained. Denis Christel, who is variably known as Kiki or Prince Aladdin, is an oil trader by profession and one of the deputy managers of the state owned Societe Nationale des Petrole du Congo: SNPC. Denis Christel is the octopus of the family. He has stakes in all major state companies and he has created his own even though headed by close associates.  He is also into philanthropy and has created an NGO called Foundation Perspective Avenir, under whose banner he is carryout benevolence services in order to launder his image and also that of his family. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Hubert Pandino aka the White Mbouchi: the majority shareholder LCB Bank Congo


My investigations have revealed that, President Sassou Nguesso is the majority shareholder of LCB Bank a local bank. Here again and in respect of what I mentioned earlier that, he operates as a mafia boss, hence his name doesn’t appear in the books of LCB Bank because he is represented by Hubert Pandino, his straw man. Mr Pandino is officially the majority shareholder of LCB Bank through SOCOFRAN, a controversial road construction company. To show how close Hubert Pandino is with the President, there are neighbors at Oyo, the president’s village.  And a second prove of their proximity is that, around the end of February and early March 2009, while I was visiting Oyo, I came across Mr Hubert Pandino. When he saw me in the company Maria Maylin and her husband, Professor Claude Maylin, he was visibly happy and told me two things that I can’t forget. He said: “I am an ethnic or “White Mbouchi” and also that, he eats tortoise”. The tortoise is a delicacy appreciated by most Mbouchis and in chief, President Denis Sassou Nguesso. Through my investigations, I equally discovered how the ownership structure within the board of LCB Bank was shared: In real terms Pandino owns 64% of the shares of LCB bank. Other shareholders are General Raymond Ibata and a Moroccan bank: Banque Marocaine de Commerce Exterieur (BMCE).

Dubious deal between BMCE Morocco and LCB Bank Congo

This is how the phony deal between LCB Bank and BMCE operates.  According what a former bank staff of LCB Bank told me: The Moroccan bank entered into the board of the Congolese bank by buying four shares worth FCFA 4 billion.  After entering into board of LCB Bank, BMCE signed a parallel contract with Congolese authorities to offer their expertise in management to LCB Bank. The cost of the technical assistance or expertise from BMCE to LCB Bank stood at FCFA 500 million annually.  In my calculation, within 4 years, BMCE will be able to recuperate their investment into the local bank and still remain shareholders without disbursing any amount. What I have not been able to make or prove was whether, BMCE entry into the board LCB bank, was simply a shrewd way from Sassou Nguesso to take money away from Congo and secure it in Morocco? Furthermore, BMCE will still be earning dividends and also paid for the above mentioned contract for their expertise. My investigations also led me into discovering that, Sassou Nguesso had lot of investments in Morocco either through his son, Denis Christel, his son’s friend, Willy Etoka or perhaps under the cover of one of his friend: the Maylin couple. The mention of Maria Maylin is mere speculation, but the proximity of the President with the Maylin couple breeds all kinds of suspicions. Given that, Maria, the wife of Prof Claude Maylin, had acted as intermediary between Atijaree Wafa bank another Moroccan bank and President Sassou Nguesso; it gives grounds to suspect Mrs. Maria Maylin especially that, she is of Moroccan ancestry. The chair of the board of director of Atijaree Wafa bank has visited Brazzaville on several occasions. It is true that, the Moroccan bank bought over the Congolese subsidiary of Credit Agricole bank, which is a subsidiary of France’s Credit Agricole.  What I have not been able to establish is whether Maria Maylin, played in any role in the takeover bid.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Congo Brazzaville: Straw men of the regime


In every corrupt system and not to mention a Kleptocracy, those benefiting from the system most often do not have the expertise to manage their wealth or investments. They are either unqualified or woefully incompetent or both in some sad cases. And sometimes in order not to attract attention, beneficiaries of Kleptocracies most often chose to hide or operate through straw men and women. This way they hope, they can best dissimulate their loot. In Congo, those helping the ruling Nguesso family to siphon state funds are an intractable web of mostly “strange” men whose opaque business successes are always glamorized in their state media and alleged private media. However among the tentacle of straw men of the Nguessos, those who standouts are: Denis Gokana, Paul Obambi, Willy Etoka, Vincent Gomez and Lucien Ebata. Some of them: Paul Obambi and Vincent Gomez, have been profiled in this book (See who is who in Congo).  The list of straw men or women working on behalf of the Kleptocratic family latter mentioned is not an exhaustive. But at least, those mentioned are present in strategic areas of the Congolese economy.

Pierre Cardin Communist

Officially, Denis Sassou Nguesso, in strict respect to his communist ideology doesn’t want to own any colossal property, at least, officially. And he also pretends not to have amassed wealth. In fact, he claims to lead a frugal life style. But the reality is different. He is referred to as a “Pierre Cardin Communist” because of his taste for French designer suits and also the recent disclosures of his excesses and those of his children by anti corruption NGOs based in London and Paris such as Global Witness, Sherpa and Transparency International. He is also accused of having amassed enormous fortune in foreign banks. While I don’t dispute the preceding claims, I would like to focus on what I have found out during my investigations in Congo. 

Sectors they control

Revelations were made to me by people who are around the president, but who won’t want to be named. They reveled to me that: Denis Sassou Nguesso besides officially being involved in farming and animal husbandry, he is unofficially involved in publishing through his firm known as Agence d’information de l’afrique Central abbreviated ADIAC. This company owns one of the most modern printing presses in the country besides that of Ayessa Printing Press, owned by Maurice Nguesso. ADIAC is the publisher of the only daily in the country: Les Depeches de Brazzaville. This simply means that, the first publishers in the country are Denis and Maurice Nguesso.

 Covered up


ADIAC media group is managed by a French journalist called Jean Paul Pigasse. In order to make sure that all traces of his investments are well covered up and is not challenged by any forms of internal competition; he has maneuvered for the national printing press to be run aground. Hence the national daily: La Nouvelle Republique has become a sporadic publication, while his daily, Les Depeches de Brazzaville blossoms with regular publications. In destroying both the national printing press and the national daily, Sassou Nguesso is certain that, Les Depeches de Brazzaville will remain the only daily in the country promoting his regime and his printing Press winning all other deals. Besides being into the media/publishing, the president is also into the banking sector through a straw man.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Other specialty of some members of the ruling Nguesso family

Besides serving as intermediaries for local and foreign businessmen and women who find it difficult to be paid for their jobs or contracts, the other specialty of some members of the ruling Nguesso family is to obtain money from anybody who wants to meet the President of the Republic without using the official trajectory, which is through the Presidential Protocol. Their intermediary service is not done for free but in exchange mostly for cash. Sometimes such services do backfire, when various actors in the illicit tractions don’t get their cuts. One of such is the case of Sun Dance Resources of Australia who through their Congolese subsidiary, Congo Iron bribed their way into the country as they also did in neighbouring Cameroon. This is how the intermediary service of some Nguesso works: Before taking anyone, in chief foreign businessmen and women to see their father or uncle, a deposit of cash is paid and upon meeting with the President, the balance is given. This money doesn’t only go into the pocket of the children or family member, it also greases the bureaucratic chain of command at the presidency, in particular the Presidential Protocol. Nothing can be done in Congo without the Nguessos giving their approval or facilitating it. Most often, the Nguessos compel investors to accept them into the board of national and foreign companies based in Congo and paradoxically, they almost all, want to be board members without buying shares. Most often than not, investors do acquiesce to the excessive demands of the family members of the Nguessos.

Voracious


The Nguessos are so voracious to a point that, they are involved even in informal sector of the economy such as the sale of smoked fish, caught by artisanal fishermen around the waters of Pointe Noire. If you ever wondered why there are empty spaces at the Maya-maya International airport in Brazzaville, it is simply because, Cendrine Otenello Sassou Nguesso, one of the daughters of the President has taken over the all the available space and increased the rents disproportionately. Whereas it was agreed that, all those who had boutiques in the former airport that was demolished to make way for the ultra modern airport, were to have new placements or boutiques within the new airport. Cendrine is also a majority shareholder in Servair, Congolese subsidiary of cookery firm that works in partnership with Air France. Her half sister, Ninelle Sassou Nguesso is in the service, hospitality and construction sectors through a company known a Group Bentsi. Jenifer and Paule Sassou Nguesso owns KlassExpo, a marketing and Communications firm situated at the ground floor of the Immeuble du 5 Fevrier 1979. The Nguessos are all over. The latter ate just a sample of their grip of the Congolese economy. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Congo Brazzaville: Mafia world of the Nguessos


The Nguesso ruling family as already mentioned is present in all sectors of the Congolese economy and not all are big winners. However the system operates like a mafia world, wherein the mafia boss who the President seldom gives written instructions. All recommendations or instructions are given verbally or orally.

Beneficiaries of Kleptocracy

And as a keen observer, I have come to the conclusion that,  the main beneficiaries of the Kleptocratic system in place in Brazzaville are those whose names are mentioned as  main support of the regime: Denis Sassou Nguesso, Antoinette Sassou Nguesso (wife of the president), Maurice Nguesso, Claudia Sassou Nguesso and Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso, others are: Ninelle Sassou Nguesso, Julienne Johnson nee Julienne Nguesso, Cendrine Otenello Sassou Nguesso, Jean Dominique Okemba, Wilfried Nguesso, Edgard Nguesso and Jean Jacques Bouya. However the latter mentioned names are not an exhaustive list.

Overwhelming presence

For example, if a businessman or a contractor that has executed a government awarded contract and as usual, he/she finds it difficult to be paid in any government ministries, he /she doesn’t have to bother. All the businessman/woman or contractor needs to do is to find one of the many children of the President or children of his elder brother, Maurice Nguesso, the specialist, being Rodrigue Nguesso. Once one of the children of the ruling family is found, he/she will take the contractor who has not been paid to the ministry concern. There, just the mention of the name Nguesso and in addition: son or nephew or niece to the president, it will work out miracles. The contractor, along with a member of the ruling family will go straight to see the minister and his/ her unsettled bills will be paid. And when that is done; the son/nephew or niece of the president who facilitated the payment will be given a percentage that is almost always agreed in advance. 

Wamba Sassou Nguesso

While almost all the sons/nephews and nieces of the President are involved in such deals, the one who has taken such services as his job is Arnaud Wamba Sassou Nguesso, one of the most violent sons of Sassou Nguesso. He is married Ikobo Sassou Nguesso, nee Ibata. Besides spending time in night clubs or seizing the wives or girlfriends of Congolese men or brutalizing them, Wamba has no clearly defined profession. Although he has spent sometimes in the United States, it is not clear whether it was for studies and even if it were for studies, it is not clear or known which course  he studied and in which University. Another thing that he is known of while he was in the United States is that, he owns a bank account at the Bank of America, wherein he is reported to have regularly received money wired from the Congolese treasury in Brazzaville. One of his friends told me that, the highest amount he is reported to have been wired from the Congolese treasury in Brazzaville is the sum of FCFA 500 million. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Different forms of Kleptocracy

Kleptocracy in my opinion is not a one style fit all ideology in the way its functions. It varies nonetheless from one country to the other with its only common denominator or hallmark being, the unbridled desire of those in position of power to steal state wealth by all means. In the Republics of: Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, the form of Kleptocracy in practice, according to my view or interpretation is a “family base Kleptocracy”. This simply means that, the main beneficiaries are members of the ruling families in the latter mentioned countries. It is what I refer to as “family based or family oriented Kleptocracy or Kleptocracies”. However in countries such as Angola, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the form of Kleptocracy in practice are national based Kleptocracies. In this form, the profiteering based is wider, it is not only family oriented, the beneficiaries are spread or they come from all parts of the country, creating a melting pot of “state thieves,” even though the fulcrum remains the presidential family. I refer to this second form as a “national select Kleptocracy”. And finally, there is a third form of Kleptocracy. This one is use in Chad perhaps they are in use in Central African Republic, in particular under Francois Bozize and also Burundi. It is a combination of the first and the second. It is what I refer to as a “hybrid Kleptocracy”, a system in which, the President’s family and the President’s tribe have preponderant roles but influential individuals from other parts of the country are co-opted  to give an illusion of equity in theft of state wealth , this in a bid  to assure or guarantee  the survival of the system.

Consequences of Sassou Nguesso’s long reign


In Congo, the long reign of Denis Sassou Nguesso has not made the country to develop into an intermediate economy or the aspired emerging economy, as it is the current trend. What the long reign of Sassou Nguesso has instead produced is a culture of impunity and crass corruption and also the preponderant presence of his family in all sectors of the Congolese economy and social life as already mentioned. Although the Nguessos are present in all sectors of the economy, sometimes it is almost impossible to prove it because they most often than not, operate through proxy or straw men. However, the country being a place where secrets are seldom well kept, whatever strategies in state theft dissimulation are employed, it more often than not, ends up to the knowledge of the people.  Like in any system, not all the Nguessos are beneficiaries. There are only  a handful  fronting for the entire clan, a clan that is growing rapidly as their pockets enlarges from the loot of the state treasury or from various business deals and transactions that, they have done or carried out. Another aspect with the various Nguesso ruling family is that, while they are present in both the formal and informal sectors of the economy, they are nonetheless choosy in the sectors that they get involved in. Their sectors of choice are: Oil, mining, Construction, Banking, Telecommunications, Media/Publishing and Agro-industry.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Understanding Kleptocracy in Congo Brazzaville


Kleptocracy in Congo is sustained by one man: Denis Sassou Nguesso. And as you had already read, especially in the preceding chapter and some aspects of which will be developed here, Kleptocracy is not only about sustained corruption and the abuse of power, it also involves how a system influences negatively the social, political and economic behaviors internally and externally. While the Congolese diplomat whom I met in Washington DC and whose conversation with me was abundantly mentioned in the preceding chapter thinks Marien Ngouabi bears the responsibility in the current state of the country, on personal view, I don’t think Marien was a Kleptocrat. He was perhaps a rabble rousing dictator. However the Nguessos through Sassou have negatively influenced the country and also neighboring countries. Since the Republic of Congo became independent from France in 1960, the country has known at its helm, 6 leaders: Fulbert Youlou, Alphonse Massamba-Debat, Yhombi Opangault, Marien Ngouabi, Denis Sassou Nguesso and Professor Pascal Lissouba. Among the above, none has exercised or exerted control over the state and stayed in power longer than Denis Sassou Nguesso has.


Furthermore, Sassou Nguesso has also achieved a feat by being the only Congolese leader who has held the mantle of power twice or the job of President, twice. He came to power in 1979 and only left in 1992, when he lost to Pascal Lissouba and he came back to power again in 1997 until date through a brutal civil war. Another achievement of Denis Sassou Nguesso, if it could be considered as one, is that, he is also the only Congolese leader who has the most involved his children and close family member into the management of the country. Sassou Nguesso’s children, grand and great grand children and close family members are present in every sector in Congo like octopuses. However to the discharge of Sassou Nguesso and his family, they are not the only ruling family within the central Africa sub region who has introduced their children and family members into all layers of governance. The best known case within the central Africa region is Omar Bongo who seems to be the regional mentor in administrative nepotism. Even though before him, there was Mobutu in Zaire. Besides Gabon, the other ruling families who are in power, some for close to 5 decades are: the Obiangs in Equatorial Guinea and the Santos in Angola. Both families and their fathers came to helms of their respective countries in 1979 and they don’t seem to have the desire to leave power. The other rising ruling family is that of Laurent Desire Kabila, whose son, Joseph Kabila is in power in the DRC since 2001.