• Katumbi retains U.S. law firm Akin Gump until November vote
  • Katumbi summoned for court hearing over mercenary allegations

Democratic Republic of Congo presidential hopeful Moise Katumbi is retaining a Washington law firm to lobby for U.S. support for democratic elections in the central African country, currently scheduled for November.

Katumbi will pay Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP $180,000 between April 1 and Nov. 30 for “advice and representation in Washington D.C. regarding greater U.S. support for democracy in Africa, and free and fair elections in Congo in particular,” documents filed April 22 with the U.S. Department of Justice show.

The former governor of copper-rich Katanga province ended months of speculation on May 4 by declaring his intention to run for president, hours after Congolese Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe ordered an investigation into allegations that he had employed mercenaries. Katumbi resigned from the ruling party in September and has become a vocal critic of what he says are efforts by President Joseph Kabila to delay November’s vote. Kabila, who won elections in 2006 and 2011, is barred from running again by the constitution and is yet to publicly confirm he will step down.

Katumbi has been summoned to appear before a prosecutor on Monday to hear the allegations against him. He denies the charges and accused the government of trying to smear him. The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa said on Friday that it also believed the allegations to be false, in a statement published on its website.

Calls to Katumbi’s mobile phones didn’t connect and he wasn’t immediately available when Bloomberg made calls to his office seeking comment.

Asset Sale

Akin Gump has been retained since 2013 to provide similar services on behalf of a company formerly owned by Katumbi, Mining Company of Katanga, or MCK. In November, Katumbi sold MCK, then-owned by his wife Carine, to Paris-based logistics company NCT Necotrans for an undisclosed fee.

In the six months through December, Akin Gump received $1.44 million from MCK, according to the filing. In the document, Akin Gump doesn’t disclose the value of its fees during the period or specify whether the money was received for consulting services or other purposes.

During the six-month period, Akin Gump made phone calls, sent e-mails and held more than 50 meetings to discuss “U.S. policy on 2016 DRC elections” with a range of U.S.-based individuals including staff at the State Department and the U.S. congressional subcommittee for Africa. The U.S. government has been outspoken about issues of democracy in Congo, with President Barrack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry both calling on Congo to respect its constitution by ensuring timely elections and a transfer of power.

Roger Murry, a policy adviser at Akin Gump, wasn’t able to immediately comment when contacted May 5.

The filings were made under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires U.S. lobbyists working for foreign principals to make periodic public disclosures on their relationships and all related activities, receipts and disbursements. Akin Gump first said it was working with MCK in 2013 before adding Katumbi as a direct client in April.

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