Two whistleblowers Gradi Koko Lobanga and Navy Malela were sentenced to death in absentia in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The sentence was awarded following the whistleblowers denouncing Afriland First Bank which in turn filed a complaint against its two former employees — accusing them of “theft of documents, violation of banking secrecy, forgery and use of forgeries, slanderous denunciation, all in an organised gang.”
The announcement of the death sentence has prompted outrage from anti-corruption organisations.
In protection of the two sentenced men who are now in exile in Europe with their families, the Platform for the Protection of Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF) released a statement denouncing the sentence ruled by the perceived mock trial in their absence.
“It is outrageous that two individuals, working courageously for the common interest, have been sentenced to death, without even having had the opportunity to be heard or defended,” a statement by fourteen organisations united in the network “Congo is not for sale” (CNPAV) in defence of the men read.
In July 2020, the PPLAAF and the anti-corruption NGO Global Witness revealed — at the alert of Lobanga and Malela, that an Israeli billionaire with mining assets in the DRC, Dan Gertler, appeared “to have used a money-laundering network, stretching from the DRC to Europe and Israel, to evade US sanctions against him.”
The two NGOs claimed that Gertler, who is close to former President Kabila, had “opened bank accounts in the Congolese branches of Cameroon-based Afriland First Bank.”
Immediately after this revelation, the bank in question filed a complaint with the Paris public prosecutor’s office (PPLAAF headquarters) against its two former employees.
There has been a temporary interdiction on the application of capital punishment in the DRC since 2003.
Placed under American sanctions in 2017, Gertler was accused of having caused the DRC to lose “1.36 billion dollars in tax revenues” in the year 2010. The loss came about by his alleged underestimation of the value of mining and oil assets acquired through fraud.
Alleged criminal activity carried out while President Joseph Kabila was in power and of whom the accused was a close friend.
In December 2020, during the last days of the Trump administration in the United States, the nation’s Treasury Department issued a licence authorising Gertler to do business in both the country and with US banks.