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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 April, 2003, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
Congo promises dirty money crackdown
A rebel soldier with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher
Both sides are using local proxies to keep control
The Democratic Republic of Congo is looking at new anti-money laundering laws to help it shake off its image as a dirty money paradise.

Throughout its history, the country's resources have been stolen by colonists, corrupt rulers and most recently neighbouring countries, with the proceeds laundered via a dizzying array of methods.

But now, Central Bank Governor Jean-Claude Masangu told a conference on fraud in Kinshasa, the authorities urgently need to start plugging the holes in the DRC's financial system.

The bank, he said, "must pursue the restructuring of the financial system in order to create a healthy, well-regulated banking system with modern payment methods".

All sides want to control the oil, gold and diamonds produced in north-east Congo... and the local population is caught in the middle

That means new laws designed to crack down on money laundering, he said.

The Bank has set up a committee to examine just what new legislation and structures are needed, and is expected to report back by October 2003.

Back on the road

Help from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, both of whom returned to the DRC in 2001, has helped encourage some inward investment, and a dozen banks have reopened.

And a long-negotiated peace deal was finally signed earlier in April, setting up a transitional government to try to guide the country to its first elections in four decades.

But even new laws may make little difference, given the lawlessness that prevails across much of the country.

The DRC remains a black hole for criminals and others bent on exploiting its riches, as a United Nations Security Council expert panel has found.

According to the panel's reports, Congolese elites are conspiring with top military and political figures in Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe - with help from a selection of US, European and Russian figures - to extract gold, coltan, oil, diamonds and cut timber.

Daggers drawn

Recently, as BBC News Online reported, renewed fighting across the oil- and mineral-rich north-east has been exacerbated by rivalry between Uganda and Rwanda over who should control the valuable resources.

The economy of the whole of Central Africa, the UN expert panel said, is now warped by what became known as "Africa's world war", which according to some estimates has now killed as many as 4 million people.

The chaotic state of most of the DRC means that most transactions are informal and cash-based and the borders are porous.

That makes it easy to launder money through banks, bureaux de change, money transfer services, brokers and diamond traders, not to mention through inflated invoices on otherwise legitimate deals.




SEE ALSO:
Uganda fears Congo vacuum
17 Apr 03  |  Africa
Resource fight in north-east Congo
12 Mar 03  |  Business
Rwanda denies DRC plundering
18 Feb 03  |  Business
DR Congo plunder denied
22 Oct 02  |  Africa
Q&A: Plunder in Congo
21 Oct 02  |  Business


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