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DR Congo banks vow to tackle money laundering at US request

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Kinshasa (AFP)

Lenders in the DR Congo will move to tackle money laundering at the request of the United States, which has expressed support for new president Felix Tshisekedi, the mineral-rich country's banking association said.

The US Treasury and State Department had asked Congolese banks to put measures in place against sanctions-busting, money laundering, the financing of terrorism, and corruption, the Congolese Association of Banks (ACB) said in a statement received by AFP on Thursday.

In response, the ACB said it had asked all banks to "raise the level of anti-money laundering mechanisms" and urged "rigorous monitoring of the accounts of politically-exposed people".

The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Congolese officials for obstructing free and fair elections and violation of human rights ahead of a national vote last December.

These individuals are barred from the United States and their dollar-based assets frozen.

In March, three officials of the country's electoral commission were placed under US sanctions for alleged corruption.

For fear of being sanctioned themselves, many foreign banks refuse to send dollars to, or receive them from, Democratic Republic of Congo.

In 2017, Israeli mining magnate Dan Gertler, a close ally of ex-president Joseph Kabila, had all his assets and accounts in the United States frozen.

He is accused of using the friendship to obtain lucrative mineral rights at bargain prices before selling them on at huge profit margins.

The Treasury Department said that between 2010 and 2012 alone, the DR Congo reportedly lost more than $1.36 billion in state revenues from underpriced mining assets sold to offshore companies tied to Gertler.

Long ravaged by bloody civil conflict, the DR Congo is the third-poorest country on Earth when ranked by per capita GDP, according to the US Central Intelligence Agency.

Tshisekedi was received by State Secretary Mike Pompeo in Washington in April for his only trip outside Africa since taking office in January.

Pompeo hailed the new president's "change agenda".

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