Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Congo Gold

Argor-Heraeus SA, owned partly by German company Heraeus, Commerzbank, and the Austrian Mint,  a major Swiss gold refiner is being investigated on suspicion of money laundering linked to the processing of gold allegedly looted from DR Congo.

Swiss federal prosecutors confirmed criminal proceedings against Argor-Heraeus SA, over claims it knew gold it handled in 2004 and 2005 had been taken from DR Congo during an armed conflict. The case has been brought by the Swiss non-governmental organisation TRIAL. The Swiss federal prosecutor's office said on Monday that after reviewing the criminal complaint submitted by TRIAL, it had decided to initiate proceedings against Argor-Heraeus "for suspected money laundering in connection with a war crime and complicity in war crimes".

TRIAL alleges that gold looted from DR Congo in 2004 and 2005 was smuggled to Uganda and then refined in Switzerland by Argor-Heraeus. According to TRIAL, the refinery knew or should have assumed that the gold resulted from pillage, a war crime. TRIAL says the sale of the gold "contributed to financing the operations of an unlawful armed group in a brutal conflict".

A report at the time by a UN Group of Experts recommended sanctions against Argor, saying the company must have known the gold was obtained illegally.

Sanctions were imposed only on Ugandan businesses involved in the trade. TRIAL alleges that Argor escaped sanctions because of pressure applied at the UN by Swiss diplomats.

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