How could two whistleblowers have been sentenced, in absentia, to death, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)? We are talking about two former members of the internal audit department of the bank Afriland First Bank CD, Gradi Koko Lobanga and Navy Malela.
For the bank’s lawyers, these two people, Gradi Koko Lobanga and Navy Malela, were thus condemned because they stole bank documents, would have falsified them and would have joined forces, to do so, with two NGOs Global Witness and PPLAAF which released a report last July based on their information. But for the lawyer of the platform of whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF), this judgment was obtained fraudulently.
Course of the procedure
The bank, Afriland First Bank CD, used a procedure known as “direct citation”. Concretely, this means that there was no instruction or investigation carried out by the Congolese justice. The two former employees were summoned to a hearing, by their ex-employer, to answer criminal charges.
A first summons had been sent to the two men by a bailiff, paid by the bank at the headquarters of the NGO PPLAAF in Paris, for a hearing on September 7. According to the French lawyer from Afriland “ PPLAAF said it does not represent them and the two do not live at this address when it is in its statutes to protect whistleblowers “. For Me Moutet, it is therefore the fault of the NGO if the two men were sentenced to death.
A version that PPLAAF contests. At the time, the two former listeners did not want to acknowledge that they were indeed the source of NGOs. Nevertheless, the platform did send a lawyer to Congo for the hearing on September 7 to denounce the irregularity of this quote. But this hearing will not take place because the bank’s lawyers do not show up.
There will be, the same day, a little later, with the same judges, a second hearing but the lawyer of PPLAAF had already left and, this time, the Congolese lawyers of the bank appear.
For the French lawyer of Afriland First Bank, Me Moutet, this is explained because another direct quote was served on the two defendants. This was not sent to PPLAAF headquarters but to their last known address in Kinshasa, except that obviously the two whistleblowers, both tenants, had not lived there for several months.
According to the bailiff’s documents, this summons was given to two neighbors identified only as “Gisel” and “Madame Claudine” (who did not even sign to acknowledge receipt). The public prosecutor himself admitted during the hearing that there was no evidence that the summons had been delivered. However, the court ignored it and declared itself regularly seized.
A heavy penalty
Regarding the severity of the sentence, after this single hearing, the bank’s lawyers say the judges had no other choice but to impose the most serious sentence, that is to say the death penalty, because the facts were established and the accused absent. But this was not, again, the opinion of the public prosecutor who proposed a sentence of 15 years.
For the Congolese lawyer of PPLAAF, it is elements like these which prove that the judges were determined to condemn them at all costs.
For Afriland’s lawyer, as for the judges, once the judgment is rendered, there is no further discussion of the procedure.