Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville)

Oil is the lifeblood of the Republic of Congo’s economy, accounting for up to three quarters of state revenues. Yet the country’s opaque national oil company and other key private and public sector institutions have been captured by a clique surrounding President Sassou-Nguesso, currently the fourth-longest serving authoritarian leader in the world. Meanwhile, the country stumbles in and out of financial crises, citizens go months without wages, pensions and medicines, and a third of the population live below the poverty line.

Read this content in:

Global Witness is working to expose the mixture of mismanagement and corruption that has siphoned funds away from the public purse . We use these exposés to put pressure on the Congolese government to manage the country’s resources for the benefit of their citizens rather than lining their own pockets, on backers like the IMF to make the government accountable for their borrowing, and on companies investing in Congo to observe best due diligence and governance practices.

Back in 2004, we covered the scandal over former French national oil company Elf Aquitaine, revealing how a top oil officialrwas secretly selling hundreds of millions of dollars in cut-price oil to private companies he himself owned. We later showed that one of those companies was involved in a series of opaque oil deals, which financed lavish spending sprees by the president’s son in Paris, Marbella and Dubai.

Since then we have exposed numerous shady deals at the heart of Republic of Congo’s oil sector. We revealed how local oil companies connected to powerful individuals received lucrative stakes in several oil fields. We uncovered links between Total, Eni, a former International Monetary Fund (IMF) official and a middleman at the centre of a foreign corruption probe. We showed how an anonymous company with links to a close relative of the president was favoured in an oil deal struck by a UK public company that breached Congolese law.

We also exposed strong evidence of high-level corruption relating to Eni’s oil permits in Congo Brazzaville. Our report came just weeks after news broke that Eni’s CEO and his wife were under investigation in Italy.

We’ve also shown how President Sassou-Nguesso’s family and close allies have used the tools of the global financial system in order to siphon, hide and potentially launder millions of dollars that should be invested in a better future for Congolese citizens. For example, how the president's daughter used millions of dollars of apparently stolen state funds to buy a luxury Trump apartment in New York City, while his luxury-loving son appeared to have pocketed over $50 million of public funds and funnelled it through six European countries, the US and the British Virgin Islands.

Finally, for almost two decades, we have scrutinised Congo’s harmful habit of borrowing billions against oil from private companies. Wherever struck, these loans lock countries into oil production for decades to come, jeopardising any efforts at a ‘managed decline’ as per the Paris Agreement. What’s more, these deals represent broken promises to Congo’s other main banker – the IMF – who granted the country another massive bailout in 2019. We are now calling on the IMF to use its leverage to push the Congolese government for transparency in the oil sector, to stop signing oil-backed loans and to account for the billions it has borrowed.

Presidential Profiteering

A company linked to Republic of Congo’s president stands to earn millions from new fee in what is suspected to be the family’s latest illicit scheme
Djeno terminal