Glencore in the DRC: Public Eye calls upon Swiss justice to take action

Public Eye has today filed a criminal complaint with the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland on account of the activities carried out by the Swiss commodities giant in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 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

Since 2007, Glencore has been acquiring stakes in copper and cobalt mines worth billions of dollars in the DRC, a country that epitomizes the resource curse. To do this, the Zug-based giant has 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. Furthermore, a report submitted to the UN Security Council outlined Gertler’s transactions within the diamond industry already back in 2001 as a “nightmare” for the DRC’s government.

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. At the beginning of 2009, Glencore granted one of Gertler’s offshore companies a loan worth USD 45 million, contingent upon the success of these negotiations. Following this intervention, Katanga was able to secure a sensational reduction in the signing bonus from USD 585 to USD 140 million. According to Resource Matters, an NGO, Katanga allegedly paid the Congolese government a sum four times lower than most of its competitors. Glencore and Gertler deny any wrongdoing.

The Zug-based giant decided to distance itself from Gertler following a court agreement (“Deferred Prosecution Agreement”) in connection with an investment fund issued by a US court in September 2016. The court documents pointed at more than USD 100 million in bribes having been paid to Congolese officials by “an Israeli businessman” and others over the course of ten years. That businessman has been identified by several media as being Dan Gertler. At Glencore’s general shareholders’ meeting, held in May 2017, the company was still claiming to have carried out a “thorough and comprehensive” due diligence before joining forces with him.

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.

For more information, click here or contact:

Marc Guéniat, Head of Investigation, +41 21 620 03 02,
Oliver Classen, Media Director, +41 44 277 79 06, 

This version is a translation of the original document which was written in French. This translation is made available for reference purposes only. In case of discrepancy between the different versions, the original French version will prevail. Public Eye will not be held liable for any damage on account of errors, inaccuracies or misunderstandings stemming from this translation.