THE PILLAGE OF EASTERN CONGO GOLD:
A CASE FOR THE PROSECUTION OF CORPORATE WAR CRIMES
A new Conflict Awareness Project briefing report by Kathi Lynn Austin
This report highlights the results of a nine-year international investigation of an unlawful conflict gold enterprise originating in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Foreign companies have taken advantage of armed conflict to make millions of dollars in illegal profit, while perversely incentivizing war and widespread atrocities.
The trail covers each step of the “blood gold” supply chain: illegal mining by a rebel group, smuggling across DRC’s border into neighboring Uganda, re-export of the gold ore by a Ugandan trader to refineries in South Africa, Switzerland, and United Arab Emirates, laundering of the refined gold through international banks — and how this illegal trade was orchestrated by two British firms as the ultimate beneficiaries.
UPDATE: The Prosecutor General of Switzerland has opened an investigation of the Swiss refining giant Argor-Heraeus SA, for money laundering and complicity in the war crime of pillage.
Since the end of the Cold War, the illegal mining and sale of natural resources has emerged as a primary means of financing armed violence within conflict zones. In countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, East Timor, and Liberia, this practice has not only funded some of the most brutal hostilities in recent history, it has created a perverse incentive for warfare. Far away from these hotspots, foreign companies profit from the illegal trade in “blood resources” and fuel conflicts—yet they are rarely held accountable.
“Corporate War Crimes: Prosecuting the Pillage of Natural Resources” provides a blueprint for prosecutors, advocates and others who wish to revive the prosecution of the war crime of pillage and hold accountable companies that illegally trade in conflict commodities. Written by Professor James G. Stewart of the University of British Columbia, and published by the Open Society Foundation Justice Initiative, this report examines recent cases and the law governing pillage in detail.
INVESTIGATION: Viktor Bout’s Gunrunning Successors: A Lethal Game of Catch Me if You Can
In April 2012, convicted international arms trafficker Viktor Bout was sentenced to 25 years in a US prison on charges of terrorism. However, questions remained about the fate of his billion-dollar gunrunning network. CAP set out to investigate, and busted open a major weapons ring targeting Sudan, Congo and Syria.
This CAP report documents the longevity and adaptability of holdovers from Bout’s war profiteering business, including entities and individuals in the US, UK, Finland, Mauritius, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and Iran. It outlines how these traffickers set up arms and military material supply chains, and details the loopholes and gaps Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) negotiators need to close if they are sincere about curtailing the activities of these illicit middlemen.
FILM: ‘A Short Film about Guns’ Wins at Tribeca
Pictured (left to right): ‘Guns’ Director Minos Papas, stars Ishmael Beah and Kathi Lynn Austin, and
producer Louis Belanger celebrate at a Control Arms reception during the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.
‘A Short Film About Guns,’ a firsthand look at the international illegal arms trade, won Best Short Film at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival. Directed by Minos Papas, the film features CAP founder Kathi Lynn Austin, former child soldier Ishmael Beah, war photographer Paul Conroy, and Rear Admiral (ret.) Stuart Platt, who recount their experiences with the black market trade in areas of conflict and how the unlawful flow of weapons across the globe facilitates loss of life and devastation.
NY TIMES OP-ED: Stopping the Trade in Death
“On a dark November morning in 2004, I woke up in my bungalow overlooking Lake Kivu, tense with anticipation. Our small United Nations team was about to undertake a surprise inspection of three airfields in eastern Congo, notorious for smuggling operations. With the backing of U.N. peacekeeping forces and a U.N. Security Council mandate, we searched almost every incoming and outgoing aircraft that day. By evening, we had the evidence…”
INTERVIEW: International Weapons Trafficking Ring Exposed in Mauritius
CAP Executive Director Kathi Lynn Austin speaks with PRI anchor Marco Herman about an international gunrunning operation, centered in Mauritius, which was found to covertly transport weapons and ammunition into UN-sanctioned conflict zones. Austin discusses CAP’s investigation into this gunrunning ring, as well as the steps the government of Mauritius took to disrupt traffickers’ operations, launch its own investigation, and cooperate with other countries to help prevent dealers from setting up elsewhere.