US imposes sanctions on former head of DR Congo’s wildlife agency

The former leader of DR Congo’s wildlife agency and two former colleagues have been added to the US sanctions list for their involvement in trafficking protected species such as gorillas and chimpanzees, according to the United States.

US State Department statement issued on Wednesday said the three individuals have been prohibited from entering the United States.

The restriction affects Cosma Wilungula, previously the director general of the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN); Leonard Muamba Kanda, former head of DR Congo’s commitments management under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and ICCN director; and Augustin Ngumbi Amuri, who served as a CITES coordinator and legal advisor to the ICCN.

“As public officials responsible for wildlife protection, they abused their public positions by trafficking chimpanzees, gorillas, okapi, and other protected wildlife from the DRC, primarily to the People’s Republic of China, using falsified permits, in return for bribes,” the statement said.

“Their corrupt, transnational criminal actions not only undermined rule of law and government transparency in the DRC but also long-standing wildlife conservation efforts.”

After leading the ICCN for a tenure of 16 years, Wilungula was suspended by Environment Minister Eve Bazaiba in August 2021 due to allegations of “poor management.” The ICCN oversees the management of wildlife parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Equivalent penalties were imposed on the entire administrative board of the ICCN, resulting in their replacement by newly appointed individuals.

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