UPDATE 1-DR Congo opposition calls for investigation into expensive passports

Mon Apr 17, 2017 9:57pm GMT

(Adds government reaction)

DAKAR, April 17 (Reuters) - Opposition leaders in Democratic Republic of Congo called on national authorities on Monday to investigate a report by Reuters last week that most of the money paid by Congolese citizens for new passports goes overseas.

Documents reviewed by Reuters of a 2015 deal between Congo's government and a Belgian company called Semlex to produce biometric passports show that most of the $185 price for a new passport goes to Semlex and a small company called LRPS in the United Arab Emirates.

According to a person with direct knowledge of the country's passport deal, the UAE-registered company - which receives $60 for every passport issued - is owned by Makie Makolo Wangoi, believed to be a close relative of Congo President Joseph Kabila.

Neither the Congolese presidency nor Wangoi or Semlex responded to requests for comment on last week's story.

Felix Tshisekedi, speaking to reporters in the capital, Kinshasa, said the main opposition bloc that he leads would only speak to incoming Prime Minister Bruno Tshibala once he takes action over the passport affair.

"He should start by resolving the problem of the scandal taking place in the republic today - the scandal of the passports," Tshisekedi said. "Tshibala should show his independence by resolving this problem and then we will speak."

Claudel Andre Lubaya, an opposition member of parliament and former provincial governor, also called on the attorney general to investigate the matter.

The youth activist group Lucha reacted to the story by saying on Twitter that Congo "is hostage to a band of thieves and criminals."   Continued...

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