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‘Elite’ criminal networks exploiting wealth in DR of Congo, Security Council told

‘Elite’ criminal networks exploiting wealth in DR of Congo, Security Council told

The head of a United Nations expert panel on the illegal exploitation of natural resources and other forms of wealth in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) today told the Security Council that it had identified three “elite networks” that had carved out separate spheres of economic control in the country over the past four years.

“The elite networks’ grip on the DRC’s economy extends far beyond precious natural resources to encompass territory, fiscal revenues and trade in general,” said Mahmoud Kassem, as the Council began consideration of the panel’s report, written after seven months of field work in the war-torn country.

Mr. Kassem said the exploitation activities of the networks involved highly organized and documented systems of embezzlement, tax fraud, extortion, kickbacks, false invoicing, asset-stripping of State companies and secret profit-sharing agreements, and that these activities were orchestrated in a manner that closely resembled criminal operations.

“The networks collaborate with organized criminal groups, some of them transnational organizations in order to maximize profits,” he said, adding that the networks use those criminal groups for discreet military operations, money laundering, illegal currency transactions, counterfeiting operations, arms trafficking, smuggling and many other activities aimed at political destabilization.

Mr. Kassem said the war economy directed by these networks functions under the cover of armed conflict, manipulation of ethnic tensions and generalized violence that generate enormous profits for “small coteries of powerful individuals or the commercial wing on military institutions." The activities drain the DRC’s treasury of revenues at the national and local levels and leave the population without basic services.

The Chairman said his panel would be willing to provide extensive first-hand testimony and evidence based on insider information and documents. “Knowledgeable sources and a long paper trail have permitted the panel to also identify numerous intermediaries that help in marketing minerals and other commodities, the institutions that provide financial services, the companies that buy, process and re-sell the extracted resources and the criminal organizations that provide transport, arms and other services,” he said.

Voicing hope that the report would be used as a constructive tool by the Council to motivate parties to honour their obligations under the recently signed peace agreements, the Chairman said the panel’s investigations and recommendations aimed at promoting peace and stability.

Following Mr. Kassem’s briefing, the Council decided to allow more time to consider the panel’s report and postponed discussion of it until a later date.