Society Magazine

PROFILE: Rev. Jean-Paul Moka, a Belgian Confidence Man Born in the Congo (First in an Occasional Series)

Posted on the 22 August 2013 by Aengw @alexengwete

PROFILE: Rev. Jean-Paul Moka, a Belgian Confidence Man born in the Congo (First in an Occasional Series)

(PHOTO: Rev. Jean-Paul Moka is nabbed by Brussels cops for disorderly conduct in 2011. YouTube video screen capture by Alex Engwete)


In the evening of Tuesday, September 20, 1988, in one of the conference rooms of the sprawling Harvard University campus near Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a motley group of about twenty black students and activists had convened a press conference for the launch of a new, nebulous group calling itself "Aids for South African Students (ASAS)."

The "president of the new group," wrote reporter Liam T. A. Ford who was covering the event for the Harvard University daily student newspaper The Harvard Crimson, was "Kennedy School student Moka Ngolo Mpati."


Moka, who hailed from Kinshasa, Zaire, and who had just barely turned 23 a month earlier, had singlehandedly managed to garner the support of several black students, including one Saths Cooper, who was the head of the likewise obscure "South African Zanani Movement (SAZM)"--an organization he claimed was representing "about three-quarters of Black South African students studying in the United States" at the time.

The political agenda of Moka's organization was all but nonexistent, whereas its fundraising objectives were lofty and apparently devoid of any built-in accountability mechanism.

But in those waning years of the second term of the divisive presidency of Ronald Reagan, with the anti-apartheid "divestment movement" sweeping through American colleges and universities, the spiel of anyone showing up on campus grounds to advocate in behalf of the disenfranchised black South African people would readily fall on sympathetic ears.

Moka and the others in the group, reported Ford, were keen to just "concentrate on raising money for [school] materials to send to South Africa."


"ASAS members plan to raise money and buy school materials, such as computers, science textbooks and paper, then ship them to schools that either the Harvard Graduate School of Education or SAZM has targeted as needy, Mpati said. Group leaders also said they hoped to send U.S. teachers to South Africa to work in Black schools and to help train Black South African teachers."

Oddly enough, despite this apparently grandiose mission statement and high-profile launch within the prestigious precinct of Harvard University, Moka, conspicuously, wanted to keep his organization under the radar, according to Ford:

"ASAS does not plan to become an official Harvard organization, Mpati said, because it hopes to become a national group working to improve the education of South African students.

"'We are for students at many U.S. universities, not just one,'Mpati said."

There's no other documented account on the internet of the history of this organization set up by Rev. Jean-Paul Moka in 1988. 

In hindsight it's striking, however, that ASAS evinces the same modus operandi as subsequent other charity confidence games pulled off by Moka decades later--including his "Marshall Plan for the DRC," to which I have already alluded on this blog on more than one occasion and which I'll touch upon again in one of the upcoming installments of this occasional series.

What's more, ASAS' narrow objective on fundraising--i.e. money in plain English--happens to be similar to most common charity scams set up in the Congo even today.

It therefore stands to reason to infer that Aids for South African Students (ASAS) was the first charity confidence game ever created and staged by Moka.

And its simple method serves as the blueprint for all the other scams that Moka would pull off in his three-decade career of a confidence man:

1. Identify a worthwhile cause able to stir empathy among people of good will. The more outlandish the cause, the better. 

(In the 1980s, the universal popular cause young Moka identified and tapped in was helping the victims of the apartheid regime in South Africa. And nowadays, Rev. Moka bets on the DRC, which has fallen victim to cyclical wars. Scavenging on victimhood is thus the favorite stock in trade of Moka in his confidence games.)

2. Set up a bogus organization that would sustain the fundraising drive.

One has to give the devil his due: In his grifts, Moka has always been keen to aim high when choosing his "marks" (or victims) or setting up his operations (bogus banks, phony presidential campaigns, fake run for the chairmanship of the electoral commission, etc.)

For example, no one really knows what had transpired between Moka and Ms. Kim Reed, who served as the 2008 Obama campaign's senior advisor for Democrats Abroad.

But it seems that Moka had somehow bamboozled Reed into a confidence game involving the DRC.

In any event, by February 2011, the exiled Congolese opposition journalist and blogger Roger Bongos was investigating Moka, who at the time was attempting to assert himself as the leader of the DRC opposition abroad--and boasting to be connected with Obama and Reed. 

When Bongos wrote to Reed to get her opinion on her alleged fruitful collaboration with Moka, he got this acrimonious reply: 

"Thank you for your email. I am glad you are continuing to pursue justice for your countrymen. 

"I am not, unfortunately, in a position to help. I have been greatly harmed by Jean-Paul Moka (who owes me a great deal of money and turned out to have lied to me about almost everything), and I simply cannot use my personal contacts and reputation again on DRC politics. My contacts have been built up over 20 years of very hard work, and I will not further risk my reputation for a venture that could lose money for my contacts and for me.  

"The very unfortunate result of my experience with Moka is that I do not trust anyone involved in DRC politics right now --please do not take this personally, it has nothing to do with you or your integrity--I have had an extremely negative and painful experience with Moka and I must step back from DRC right now. 

"I continue to care deeply about the plight of the Congolese people, but I cannot risk my family's well-being and my professional reputation again. I am sorry and wish you the best of luck.

"Best regards, 

"Kim Reed"

Thus, Moka is most definitely not a sympathetic and likable con artist out there to correct, through confidence games, injustices inflicted by the powerful ones or the crooks upon ordinary people--the kind of memorable vigilante grifters you'd encounter in TV series like "Hustle" (BBC) or "Leverage" (TNT). He's a sociopath whose victims are real, decent people who may never recover from his cons.

And it needs to be stressed, as I mentioned hitherto, that Moka still refers to his former victims as his "friends" who could recommend him when he introduces himself to new potential marks he'd be casing.

Moka still goes around telling people he's got the email address of Obama... on Gmail! An email address he got from Kim Reed...

Moka had the balls to tell that Obama Gmail lie to one of his most recent marks in the grift called "Marshall Plan for the DRC," Dr. Faustin Mukela Luanga, a Congolese economist based in Zurich, Switzerland, where he works for the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Luanga told me he dared Moka to have Obama send an actual email to him, Luanga. Unbelievably, a handle called "Obama" readily sent an email to Luanga. But unfortunately for Moka, Luanga is Internet-savvy and confronted the con artist with the Brussels IP address of the fake Obama.

Uncannily, Moka kept insisting with a straight face that it was the real-deal, genuine Obama who'd sent the phony email. 

"Well, could be that Obama sent the email while he was on a trip to Belgium then?" Luanga told Moka with utter contempt before breaking up his collaboration with the confidence man...

That's why one has to take with a grain salt Moka's claim that he studied at the Kennedy School--his only proof nowadays for that claim being the single mention of his name in The Harvard Crimson. The man lies like a rug, after all.

Be that as it may, let's go back to that very earliest known scam of Moka at Harvard University and from there, fast forward to 10 years after the launch of that bogus group Aid for South African Students (ASAS)... to Friday, January 29, 1999, when the London tabloid The Mirror reported:

"A trickster commuted by Eurostar to fleece two councils out of thousands of pounds in housing benefit, a court heard yesterday. 

"Jean-Paul Moka Ngolo Mpati, 33, made the trip from Belgium every fortnight for seven months to defraud cash-strapped Hounslow and Harringey councils in London. 

"He used a stack of false documents to get benefit on two houses, one in his name and another under a created identity, the Old Bailey heard. He was arrested at a JobCentre ain Hounslow and was carrying bogus tenancy agreements. 

"Mpati - a Belgian national born in the Congo - denies eight specimen charges of obtaining pounds 4,653 by deception. He said one of the claimants was his twin brother. The case continues."

That case was continued to Tuesday February 1, 1999, when Moka was finally convicted and sentenced as reported in the crime beat section of The Guardian of Wednesday February 2, 1999:

"Benefit thief is jailed

A man who traveled from Brussels by Eurostar every fortnight to claim housing benefit was jailed yesterday for 18 months. Jean Paul Moka Ngola Mpati, aged 33, a Belgian national born in the Congo, had no address in the UK but used false names to claim housing benefit from Hounslow borough council, in west London."

Reading about these accounts of the benefit thefts perpetrated by Moka on two London councils 15 years ago, a detail leaps out: by 1999, Moka was already naturalized Belgian citizen.

Now, according to the DRC Constitution, the Congolese citizenship is "one and exclusive." 

Which means that you lose your Congolese citizenship once you get naturalized as a citizen of another country. 

Why has then Moka, a Belgian national, attempted to run for president of the DRC? And why was he eyeing the chairmanship of the Congolese independent electoral commission? Has he ever heard of Pierre-Jacques Chalupa, who Congolese authorities charged of being a self-proclaimed Congolese? Is he aware that Chalupa is doing hard time at Kinshasa Makala Prison for allegedly usurping Congolese nationality?

The simple answer to those rhetorical questions is the following: Rev. Jean-Paul Moka is a scofflaw who goes about his illicit business day in day out, till the day he's nabbed--as it happened to him in London in 1999 or in Kinshasa in 2003...

(To be continued)

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