A Golden Racket: The true source of Switzerland’s “Togolese” gold

© Pep Bonnet/Noor/Keystone
Where do Swiss imports of gold from West African Togo, which doesn’t produce any gold, actually come from? With the support of witness statements and exclusive documents, in September 2015, Public Eye revealed that the gold comes from small-scale artisanal mines in Burkina Faso, where tens of thousands of children haul it out of the ground in life-threatening conditions. The valuable good is then smuggled to Togo, where a Geneva-based trader imports it and sells it on to the Tessin-based refinery Valcambi. The case shows the need for a statutory duty of due diligence for Swiss companies.

Report: A Golden Racket

The True Source of Switzerland’s “Togolese” Gold

The true story behind the “Togolese” gold that is refined in Switzerland once again demonstrates that companies’ voluntary measures fail to prevent human rights abuses. On the one hand, the Federal Council has recognised the risks associated with the gold sector and has stressed the importance of improving standards of quality in relation to transparency and responsibility. Yet despite this growing awareness, not enough is being done to prevent gold associated with corruption, environmental damage or human rights violations being imported into Switzerland.

  • © Pep Bonnet/Noor/Keystone
  • © Pep Bonnet/Noor/Keystone
  • © Pep Bonnet/Noor/Keystone

To counteract such scandals, together with over 100 Swiss NGOs, Public Eye launched the Responsible Business Initiative in April 2015. It aims to oblige companies headquartered in Switzerland to ensure that their activities neither directly nor indirectly cause human rights violations or environmental damage.

With this research, Public Eye managed to get the Council of States to accept a postulate from Senator Luc Recordon, calling on the Federal Council to produce a report on how to prevent the import to Switzerland of gold if human rights were violated to produce it.

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