American mistakenly accused of involvement in Democratic Republic of Congo coup attempt

Written by on May 21, 2024

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(NEW YORK) — A U.S. national has been mistakenly accused of involvement in last weekend’s attempted coup in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Cole Patrick Ducey, an engineer living in Eswatini, told ABC News Monday that he was not involved, despite reports online and in the media. DRC government officials also confirmed to ABC News that Ducey was not involved in the coup attempt over the weekend.

Ducey told ABC News he has been the subject of a “huge case of mistaken identity,” with his name appearing in social media posts and news articles that erroneously suggest he was arrested Sunday in the DRC.

“I learned of what happened yesterday on the news just as you did,” he said.

Authorities in the DRC told ABC News that the coup attempt was led by Christian Malanga, a DRC businessman and politician with U.S. ties. Malanga was killed in the coup attempt, the officials said.

The officials also told ABC News that a U.S. national, Benjamin Zalman-Polun, had been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the coup attempt. ABC News wasn’t immediately able to locate a legal representative for Zalman-Polun.

Ducey verified his identity by sending ABC News a video in which he displayed an identifying document. ABC News further verified Ducey’s identity by reviewing public records.

Ducey told ABC News that he attended the University of Colorado with Zalman-Polun in 2006 and 2007. The two lost contact for many years, Ducey said, until Zalman-Polun contacted Ducey in 2020 about a business opportunity in the mining sector. At that time, Ducey said Zalman-Polun introduced him to Malanga in a phone call.

In 2022, Ducey said, the trio met in Mozambique to review mining concessions. Ducey said they started a limited liability corporation but failed to find a viable spot to mine and did not continue working together.

Zalman-Polun, Malanga and Ducey are listed as partners in that LLC, according to records from the government of Mozambique’s official bulletin.

Those records, which are publicly available, appear to have led to the case of mistaken identity.

However, Ducey claims, and DRC government officials affirm, he was not a part of the attempted coup over the weekend in any capacity.

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