Kolmar: a flagship from Zug in Marc Rich’s empire

In an investigation published in March 2020, Public Eye and TRIAL International uncovered how, between 2014 and 2015, the swiss trader Kolmar Group AG conducted business with powerful libyan oil smuggling rings. But who is this company from Zug that we haven't heard of before?

To date, Kolmar Group AG has attracted very little attention. The private company was set up in Zug in 1997 under the name Kolmar Petrochemicals AG and was initially active in the petrochemicals trade. According to its incorporation documents, one of its founders is the renown Marc Rich – Marc Rich & Co Holding GmbH – founder of Glencore, which at the time was represented by Moshe Michael Glass. Its two other shareholders are ChemCore SA, owned by Ruth Sandelowsky, a former Phibro employee (the company where Marc Rich started his career), and the Swiss fertilizer giant Ameropa, which is owned by Andreas Zivy.

Kolmar has since grown and been restructured. It entered the petroleum products trade in the early 2010s. Ruth Sandelowsky, currently CEO, and her partner, Rafael Aviner – domiciled in the United States – run the show, though the current shareholders are not publicly disclosed. We do however know that the corporate lawyer Josef Bollag, Ukraine’s honorary consul in Zug, was on the company’s board until July 2019.

Kolmar gained a foothold as one of the small flagships of the Canton of Zug. This image is confirmed by visiting the canton’s business promotion website, which prominently features a nice quote from Ruth Sandelowsky, promoting the authorities of the Canton of Zug as “by far the most professional that I have experienced during my long career.” She adds that Kolmar was “welcomed with open arms”.

The company is not quite on par with large traders like Glencore or Trafigura, but it is an important player in the biofuel market. It has 250 employees and, according to the most recent figures, in 2013 its annual turnover was nearly USD 8 billion. A member of the Swiss Trading and Shipping Association (STSA), Kolmar is present in some 20 countries, including Singapore and the United States, where it opened a branch and purchased a biofuels plant in Connecticut in 2016.

Despite several requests, Kolmar Group AG did not answer the questions asked by Public Eye and TRIAL International prior to publication. It has now, however, requested a right of reply to our report, which is published here.

Public Eye maintains its presentation of the facts.

Our research about Swiss traders