Congo knocks back British aid - Sunday Times

Now Congo knocks back British aid

Isabel Oakeshott

29 April 2012

The Sunday Times

BRITAIN should stop giving aid to the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to one of the country's leading politicians.

Willy Vangu, an opposition leader, says the £200m a year that UK taxpayers send to the Congo would be better spent cleaning up corruption in firms registered in tax havens and linked to the City of London.

He claims British aid is no compensation for the wealth being stripped from his country by unscrupulous UKbased speculators.

His intervention is an embarrassment for Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary, who insists the money is well spent.

Speaking during a visit to London, Vangu said: "We are asking the British government and IMF to stop spending public money on aid packages and loans to the Congo. It demeans Britain in the eyes of the world that dodgy deals are done by their firms and then they just turn around and say, 'Well, we give you £200m a year in aid, so what's the problem?'

"We say the money would be better spent preventing deals that strip ordinary citizens of their rightful assets."

An investigation by Eric Joyce, the Labour MP, suggests as many as 59 dubious "shell companies", 55 of which are based in the British Virgin Islands or have other British links, have been set up to plunder the Congo's mineral resources.

Critics, including a number of Tory MPs, believe the companies are being used by London-listed firms working with corrupt Congolese officials to circumvent antibribery legislation. They estimate that as a result the Congo has lost £5.5 billion in natural resources in recent years.

Vangu's appeal will put pressure on Mitchell to justify cash to the Congo. The money supports charities and NGOs, but critics believe poverty would be better alleviated by protecting the Congo's copper and coltan assets.

Pauline Latham, a Tory MP and a member of the international development select committee, said: "British shell companies and London-listed firms are at the centre of the siphoning off of DRC wealth."

Mitchell recently travelled to the Congo to assess how UK money is being spent. He said the UK was supporting efforts to tackle corruption in the mining industry.