By Brian Smith
As Moise Katumbi continues his public relations campaign across America in an attempt to undermine orderly elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an intriguing mystery has emerged: who is behind the shadowy Delaware company, Ask LLC, that is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to help Katumbi lobby American legislators and media?
Katumbi is a former Governor in the Eastern DRC state of Katanga who fled the country rather than face charges of selling a house he did not own. He was convicted in absentia, and sentenced to 3 years in jail. Rather than appeal, he ran to Europe, a base from which he has agitated the Congolese people towards civil unrest in an effort to return. His years as governor of Congo’s mineral rich state left him spectacularly wealthy. He was aided by his brother, Raphael Soriano, a reputed arms dealer who, according to British court documents, was caught up with Katumbi’s wife Carine in a scheme to defraud the nation of Zambia of more than $20 million.
But most interesting of all may be Ask, LLC, controlled by Delta Airlines pilot Daniel Piraino. Ask has registered with the US State Department as a foreign agent representing Katumbi, and, according to State Department records, has spent at least $180,000 hiring white shoe law firm Akin Gump to lobby legislators on Katumbi’s behalf. What does this mysterious business have to gain?
According to its own website, one of Ask’s companies, Amaizing Grains, LLC was granted the rights by Katanga Province to develop a 160,000 acre farm… where Moise Katumbi formerly ruled as governor. There is no indication what amount, if any ASK is paying for access to this huge piece of arable land. There is no indication if any progress has been made, or who is investing money in it.
But the ties between Piriano’s ASK LLC and Moise Katumbi may run deeper than that. To date, no reporter has asked Moise Katumbi to clarify his relationship with ASK, LLC, Daniel Piriano, and ASK’s various businesses, which also includes a so-called heavy freight business shipping machinery weekly to, you guessed it, the capital of Katanga province, Lubumbashi. And the owner of this company, the Delta airline pilot, is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby elected officials for Moise Katumbi here in the United States, at his own expense.
More intriguingly, one of Daniel Piriano’s other businesses entered into a trust agreement to manage a private jet owned by Katumbi’s wife Carine, who was part of Raphael Soriano’s arms running fraud in Zambia. This agreement allowed the $8 million plane to be reregistered in the United States as N2SA, and seek insurance coverage here. Piriano obtained this insurance, and subsequently the jet crashed on February 12, 2012, killing a prior governor of Katanga (the same state where Katumbi was governor), Augustin Ktumba Mwanke. Ktumba was a very close ally of DRC President Joseph Kabila.
The insurer sued Piriano’s (Lima Delta) and Katumbi’s (Socikat) companies for fraudulent misrepresentation, and won, rescinding the insurance policy. Which is bad enough, but the larger questions remain unanswered.
How does Delta Airline pilot Piriano come to control several very valuable companies, including one developing a massive piece of land in the DRC, while continuing to fly planes for an airline? Why is Piriano bankrolling an expensive lobbying campaign for Moise Katumbi, a fugitive from justice in his home country? How did Piriano come to control the management of a jet owned by a company controlled by the Katumbi family that killed one of the closest aides of Katumbi’s obstacle to power, President Joseph Kabila?
When will Moise Katumbi stop lying about his motivations for creating unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo? Isn’t it time for the truth?