By Brian Smith
Moise Katumbi presents himself as a man of the people, who understands what life is like for the average Congolese laborer. Yet, in reality, Katumbi is a very rich man, who has used his wealth to bankroll his political career, and used his political career to enrich his lifestyle and his bank account. But Katumbi didn't get his millions of dollars on his own. His brother, Katebe Katoto (also known as Raphael Soriano), is his business partner and has been the family's primary benefactor for decades.
The source of Soriano's significant fortune came from the mining business, a lucrative industry in the Congo. He was given a contract to provide nearly all of the supplies for the thousands of laborers who work at the Gecamines mine operation, the largest mining site in the country. By delivering provisions, such as fish and other food, he wielded enormous influence over mine workers' productivity. Through questionable relationships with Congo's much-maligned former leader, Mobutu Sese Seko, Soriano grew wealthy by plundering the nation's resources -- not an uncommon occurrence during much of Mobutu's reign. Mining continued to be a successful family business -- when Moise Katumbi was elected governor of the mineral-rich Katanga province, he reportedly divested of his significant interests in mining and put them in his wife's name.
Profiting off of government connections was another lucrative business for Raphael Soriano. He was hired by the government of Zambia to represent the country during a $100 million arms and equipment contract negotiation. Soriano was given wide discretion by the Zambian government to secure the deal, and arranged a lucrative fee for himself as the middleman. Funds were deposited into a foreign bank account that belonged to Moise Katumbi's wife, Betti. After payment was made but goods failed to be delivered, Zambian officials realized $20 million was siphoned off by Soriano. Zambia's Attorney General sued Katumbi's wife and his half-brother for restitution, accusing them of laundering the $20 million in a phony arms deal.
Despite having scammed Zambia already, Soriano and Katumbi were recently involved in another corrupt arms deal with Zambia. Despite its precarious fiscal condition, Zambian President Edgar Lungu put off urgent government projects such as roads, and hospitals to quickly find the money for the deal.
Raphael Soriano is considered to be the mentor of his younger brother, to whom he has also ceded the reins of the highly profitable football club "Almighty Mazembe". As president of the team, Katumbi created the "one hundred percent" which consists of young men that owed obedience, loyalty, sacrifice, and devotion to him. It seems the Katumbi family prefers things that way.
Soriano also stands to gain billions from a lucrative deal with the Angolan government which just awarded him a budget of $60 billion to build nearly 600,000 homes.
Just last year, Katumbi was fined $6 million by the Congolese court and charged for hiring mercenaries. As Katumbi angles to return to the Congo and run for president, promising higher wages and economic opportunity, his brother will undoubtedly be looking for business opportunities along the way.