Congo, one of the poorest nations on Earth, offered former President Bill Clinton a speaking fee of $650,000–a sum equal to annual per-capita income of 2,813 Congolese. Indeed, the International Monetary Fund ranks the Democratic Republic of the Congo dead last in its global income rankings. What did it expect in return for its investment?
In the proposed 2012 contract, the organizers expected a speech and at least one photograph each with the leaders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Congo, which appeared to be splitting the princely honorarium. (Since there are two nations known as Congo, in this article, unless otherwise specified, I am referring to the Democratic Republic of the Congo whenever I write “Congo” alone.) That doesn’t seem like much of a return, two snaps and a chat. So the question is: What else did Congo want for its money?
Congo’s extraordinary offer to Clinton first surfaced in a batch of Hillary Clinton’s emails released this past August, where it won little attention at the time. Newly leaked documents, known as the “Panama papers,” shed new light on the mystery as well as the misdoings of Congo’s corrupt rulers.
While Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, America’s top official dealing with foreign leaders, former President Bill Clinton travelled the world giving speeches to world leaders and overseas interests–earning at least $48 million while his wife was America’s top diplomat. Why weren’t the payments to one Clinton not considered a bribe to the other Clinton?
Precisely to prevent this perception, the State department had to vet all of the international speeches of the former president. Thus, the foreign policy director at the Clinton Foundation, Amitabh Desai, emailed Clinton’s request to accept the $650,000 to a State department official, writing “WJC [William Jefferson Clinton] wants know what state thinks of it if he took it 100% for the foundation.”
This a favorite camouflage of the Clintons. The money was destined for the non-profit Clinton Foundation, which is controlled by the Clintons and their daughter, where it would be used for healthcare, schooling and other good works. Using money to help your fellow man isn’t self-enrichment, they say. True, but beside the point. Giving money to charity doesn’t address whether that money was received as a bribe. To answer that key question, one would have to know what foreign leaders wanted in exchange for their donations. After all, Congolese leaders aren’t worried about charitable deductions on their U.S. tax forms. So why did they proffer so much of their poor country’s money?
Apparently Foggy Bottom nixed Clinton’s plans to travel to Congo as well as his request to give a paid speech in North Korea. In any event, he didn’t go. But the offer itself is the issue.
What could Congo President Joseph Kabila want? While the possibilities are endless, two seem most likely: he sought U.S. permission to ignore Congo’s constitution and stay in power beyond his two-term limit, which expires in 2016, and he wanted to shield his overseas assets from international investigators.
Bill and Hillary, especially when she was secretary of state, could be helpful on each count, if they wanted to be. Staying in power and keeping billions in shadowy gains would certainly be worth $650,000, if that was the deal that Kabila had in mind.
It is time for the Clintons and their foundation to disclose all of their communications with Kabila and his regime. How was the $650,000 sum arrived at? What did Congo want in return? Did the Clintons offer to provide any help with U.S., UN, EU or other international officials?
Why Did Congo Offer Clinton $650,000 For Two Pics And A Speech? – Forbes
And, what about Kabila’s offshore accounts?
New evidence from the “Panama papers,” a massive trove of some 200,000 offshore companies incorporated by the law firm Mossack Fonseca, were leaked to the German daily Suddeutsche Zeitung and then to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. A dozen current or former national leaders, and more than 100 other elected officials from North American and European countries, have had their names found in this massive pile of purloined papers.
The twin sister of Congo President Joseph Kabila also appears in the “Panama papers” owning a shell company whose value may exceed $100 million. Kabila’s sister, Jaynet Kyungu, opened the company soon after her brother came to power. The initial directors were listed as Kalume Nyembwe Feruzi and “Ursula Kyungu,” which is a name Jaynet Kyungu sometimes uses in corporate records. Feruzi’s family reportedly have been close to the Kabila family since Laurent Desire Kabila, Joseph Kabila’s and Jaynet Kyungu’s father, was president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
It seems likely that she owns these assets partly because her twin brother is president of the Congo. Power is a family business among the Kabilas.
And among the Clintons. Consider the case of Lundin Mining. Lukas Lundin, a Swedish investor who founded the company, donated between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation between 2007 and 2013. (The foundation only reports ranges, not exact amounts, for some of its donors.) Lundin Group pledged another $100 million to the Clinton Foundation, according to a 2007 Clinton Foundation press release. Lundin Mining has substantial operations in the Congo. A partner of Lundin in its Congo operations, Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold, gave the Clinton Foundation as much as $500,000, according documents released by the foundation that present its contributions in the $250,000-$500,000 range. What did the mining giants get in return?
The State department, under Clinton’s leadership, entered into talks with the Congo in 2010 over its dispute with Lundin and Freeport-McMoran in what The Financial Times characterizes as “in support of Freeport.” Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer tells a similar tale. The result speaks for itself. Congo gave up its efforts to seize some of the world’s most lucrative copper mines from Lundin and his partners in exchange for increasing its share of the profits by less than 3%.
So what did Kabila expect in return for his proffered gift to the Clinton Foundation? Clearly, he had seen other businessmen in his country (like Lundin) prosper after their generosity with the Clinton Foundation. Perhaps it is a coincidence that one event followed the other? Either way, Kabila knew that a donation might be a good way to hedge his bets. After all, he knew about the allegations, during the Clinton presidency, that Clinton had traded overnight stays in the Lincoln bedroom for campaign cash. Is the Clinton Foundation simply the same idea on a larger scale? One can see why Kabila, accustomed to the ways of a corrupt continent, might think so.
Now that Hillary Clinton seems on her way to clinching the Democratic Party nomination for president, it is time to ask: What does her namesake foundation owe to the foreign leaders and others who fund it?
Postscript: The last time I wrote about corruption in the Congo it reportedly led to Zoe Kabila, President Kabila’s younger brother, to allegedly beat unconscious Congo’s parliament speaker, Evariste Boshab in 2014. African press reports specifically mention that he was beaten due to a “Forbes article written by Richard Miniter.” The attack took place after Zoe Kabila and Kabila’s twin sister, Jaynet Kyungu, accused Evariste Boshab of having been an anonymous source for my article in Forbes. President Kabila was reportedly present during the abusive interrogation, which apparently took place on a farm he owns near Kinshasa. Afroamerica News describes its source for the beating story as an unnamed “official close to Rwandan President Paul Kagame.” For the record, the parliament speaker was not my source for that article nor is he among the sources for this one. This beating is just one more alleged injustice of the Kabila regime.