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Republic of Congo

Oil dominates the Republic of Congo, and the sector accounts for the vast majority of this central African country’s economy. Oil exports were over $7 billion in 2008, yet the Republic of Congo remains one of the most corrupt and indebted countries in the world, and  its oil wealth has contributed to several bloody wars. While the majority of the population are mired in poverty, a minority surrounding the family of President Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso are able to live in luxury.

The 2003 corruption trial of numerous former executives of the French state oil firm Elf Aquitaine exposed how the company paid off the Congolese political elite in return for access to oil. Elf has even been implicated in the supply of weapons in exchange for oil during the civil war.

Global Witness has consistently voiced concerns about how the Republic of Congo’s vast oil wealth has been managed. The 2004 report Time for Transparency revealed what appeared to be major oil revenue streams that were not reported in the government budget. This investigation also showed how the Congolese government mortgaged a substantial amount of its future oil revenue for ready cash, despite repeatedly promising to end this practice.

Over the last five years the Republic of Congo has struggled to convince the international community that it can wean itself off oil-backed loans and effectively manage its budget.

In 2007 Global Witness revealed how the Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso, son of the President, was spending Congolese oil revenues on personal luxury shopping. In its 2009 report,  Undue Diligence, Global Witness tracked the money flows behind this corruption, exposing how gaps in the global financial system allow banks to do business with corrupt politicians.

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