Congo opposition calls for investigation into expensive passports

Tue Apr 18, 2017 6:57am GMT

DAKAR (Reuters) - Top opposition leaders in Democratic Republic of Congo called on the new prime minister on Monday to investigate revelations 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 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.

    The Congolese presidency, Wangoi and Semlex did not respond to requests for comment for last week's story.

    Speaking to reporters in the capital, Kinshasa, Felix Tshisekedi 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 on its Twitter feed by saying that Congo "is hostage to a band of stealers and criminals."

    A government spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday.   Continued...

An immigration official displays a Congolese biometric passport in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital Kinshasa, February 10, 2017.   REUTERS/Stringer
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