Russian bank assigns $12bn loan to African state ‘by mistake’
State bank VTB admits loan to Central African Republic is an operational error
London/Moscow — The impoverished state of Central African Republic (CAR) landed a windfall on Tuesday, at least on paper, when Russian state bank VTB reported it had lent the country $12bn, but the bank then said it was a clerical error and there was no such loan.
The loan was mentioned in a quarterly VTB financial report published by the Russian central bank. The report included a table listing the outstanding financial claims that VTB group had on dozens of countries as of October 1.
In the table next to CAR was the sum of 801,933,814,000 roubles ($12bn), more than six times the country's annual economic output.
When asked about the data by Reuters, the bank said the loan to the former French colony did not, in reality, exist.
“VTB bank has no exposure of this size to CAR. Most likely, this is a case of an operational mistake in the system when the countries were being coded,” the lender said.
VTB did not say who was responsible for the mistake or how such a large figure could have been published without being spotted.
CAR government spokesperson Ange Maxime Kazagui, when asked about the Russian data, said: “I don’t have that information. But it doesn’t sound credible because $11bn is beyond the debt capacity of CAR. We are members of the IMF. When a member of the IMF wants to take on debt ... it has to discuss that with the IMF.”
There was no indication in the data published by the Russian central bank of who was the recipient of the loan, the purpose of the loan, or when it was issued and on what terms.
CAR is a nation of 5-million people emerging from sectarian conflict, with a GDP of $1.95bn, according to the World Bank.
Russia has built up security and business ties with the country in the past few years.
Muscling aside former colonial power France, Moscow has provided arms and contractors to the CAR military and a Russian national is security adviser to President Faustin-Archange Touadera.