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Anti-corruption organizations and citizens of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday denounced the contract between Kinshasa and the Belgian company which manufactures Congolese biometric passports, which is the subject of a judicial investigation in Brussels.
In total “51 Congolese citizens have joined as a civil party in the ongoing judicial investigation in Belgium against the company SA Semlex Europe”, indicated the anti-corruption platform “The Congo is not for sale” during a press conference in Kinshasa.
In Brussels, the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office confirmed to AFP that an investigating judge has been investigating suspected fraud against this company for three years.
For its part, through the voice of its lawyer Me Luc Stalars, the Belgian company recalled that since 2017 “it refutes all the malicious innuendo reported against it”.
The contract signed by Semlex with the Congolese state “was executed to the satisfaction of the Congolese authorities and citizens”, without any “grievance concerning the quality of the work”, added the lawyer in an email.
But “at 185 dollars, the Congolese passport is among the most expensive in the world,” accused the Congolese anti-corruption platform. “Of this amount, 60 dollars are reserved for a front company called LRPS”.
“With more than 600,000 passports sold since the entry into force of the Semlex contract, the front company could have collected more than 36 million dollars,” according to this platform.
This market was concluded in 2015 under the regime of ex-president Joseph Kabila.
The “Congo is not for sale” movement called on the “Congolese government not to renew this contract under any circumstances” which expires on June 10, 2020. It is asking for “a transparent invitation to tender”.
“If the Democratic Republic of Congo finds its account in this market, and if we find that things are done in accordance with public market standards, the Congo will renew this contract. Otherwise the DRC will not renew it,” said Government spokesman David-Jolino Diwampovesa Makelele, interviewed by AFP.
The 13 Congolese organizations also ask “the Congolese justice to open an investigation for corruption” towards “the people implied in the negotiations of the contract of 2015”.
In 2017, activists organized demonstrations against the price of the Congolese passport and the invalidation of old semi-biometric passports.
The Pan African Network for Combating Corruption (UNIS), the International Federation for Human Rights and the League for Human Rights have also filed complaints.