Swiss NGO Public Eye has filed a criminal complaint with the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland against the activities of Swiss commodities giant Glencore in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The Office of the Attorney GeneralExternal link on Tuesday confirmed receipt of the complaint but said further details were currently not possible, according to the Swiss News Agency.
Glencore told swissinfo.ch it had nothing to say about the Public Eye criminal complaint as it had not yet seen it.
In a statementExternal link on Tuesday, Public Eye said that with the Paradise Papers, “there are now even more elements pointing at embezzlement surrounding the acquisition of mines for the legal authorities to launch an investigation. It’s overdue for them to rule on the legality of operations, whose dubious nature has been brought to the fore by the press and NGOs for more than five years”.
Public Eye said that since 2007, Glencore had been acquiring stakes in copper and cobalt mines worth billions of dollars in the DRC, “a country that epitomises the resource curse”.
To do this, it said the Zug-based company had taken major risks. “For instance, it did not hesitate to partner with Dan Gertler, a businessman with a dodgy reputation it simply could not ignore and whose dubious links with Congo’s political elite had been highlighted on several occasions,” it wrote.
“The recent revelations in the Paradise Papers have added yet more damning elements to this momentous saga. They show, for example, that Katanga, the mining company which Glencore was in the process of taking over, issued a mandate to Dan Gertler on several occasions for him to negotiate with the Congolese authorities.”
In November, the Paradise Papers documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed details of business dealings involving numerous individuals and companies, including Glencore.
Public Eye says these documents show that at the beginning of 2009, Glencore granted one of Gertler’s offshore companies a loan worth $45 million (CHF44.4 million), contingent upon the success of these negotiations. Following this intervention, Katanga was able to secure a “sensational reduction” in the signing bonus from $585 million to $140 million.
According to Resource Matters, a Brussels-based NGO, Katanga allegedly paid the Congolese government a sum four times lower than most of its competitors. Glencore and Gertler deny any wrongdoing.
Glencore made a statementExternal link on Katanga in November after the Paradise Papers broke.
Public Eye said on Tuesday that despite the “numerous articles and reports published by the press, and by NGOs such as Global Witness, the Swiss prosecution authorities have never taken an interest in this case. In lodging its complaint, Public Eye is asking the Office of the Attorney General to open legal proceedings, in particular to ascertain whether Glencore has failed, as a company, to prevent illegal practices in upholding its legal duty of care”.
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