The Pillage of Eastern Congo Gold: A Case for the Prosecution of Corporate War Crimes
A Conflict Awareness Project Briefing Report by Kathi Lynn Austin
The Pillage of Eastern Congo Gold 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 report 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 opened an investigation of the Swiss refining giant Argor-Heraeus SA, for money laundering and complicity in the war crime of pillage. In an early ruling in this case, the Swiss Federal Court upheld a police search and evidence seizure at Argor-Heraeus’ corporate offices.
Doc Film Takes You on the Trail of “Dirty Gold”
In 2014’s Dirty Gold, French independent journalists expose the high price of the international gold trade. “Mined in slave-like conditions, gold has been linked to everything from funding civil wars in Africa to causing environmental disasters in Latin America. The market for gold is enormous with 70% of global production handled by just one country: Switzerland. The industry has been protected by the Swiss state for more than a century, and turning a blind eye here is standard practice.”
Despite the claims of jewelers, middleman, and other profiteers, the origin of gold is often discoverable. Follow CAP Executive Director Kathi Lynn Austin as she visits gold mines in DRC, collects evidence from smugglers in Uganda, and works to bring a legal case against Swiss processors and other parties.
Watch the free trailer or see the complete doc for a small fee, and help support this important work.
Watch Now (In English, French link forthcoming)
50 Celebrating 50: UN and Control Arms Fete Passage of Landmark Arms Trade Treaty
On September 25, 2014, eight countries ratified the landmark UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a multilateral pact that not only regulates the trade in conventional weapons, it compels parties to assess whether they may be used in human rights violations and prevent the distribution of such arms. The signatories pushed the number of state parties over 50, causing the treaty to enter into force on December 25, 2014 and enjoin all UN members to abide by its rules.
20 years in the making, the ATT is the culmination of work by many thousands across the globe. CAP Executive Director Kathi Lynn Austin was honored to be selected by Control Arms as one of their 50 Celebrating 50 initiative, featuring photos and quotes from 50 political leaders, survivors, and campaigners who have worked to make the ATT a reality.
The 50 Celebrating 50 photo exhibit was displayed at UN headquarters in New York in Fall 2014, and is currently available for viewing online. Control Arms and the UN also invite you to add your voice: submit a photo and quote to share why you’re celebrating 50.
MEDIA RELEASE: UK Authorities Called to Act on “Blood Gold” Case Following Swiss Ruling on Argor-Heraeus Appeal
February 5, 2014 – A key ruling by the Swiss Federal Criminal Court has given momentum to a war crimes case against the Swiss gold refining giant, Argor-Heraeus SA, alleged to have laundered millions of dollars of looted gold from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The three NGOs behind the Stop Pillage Campaign, the Conflict Awareness Project, Open Society Justice Initiative, and TRIAL, call on the UK and Jersey Channel Island authorities to follow suit and swiftly investigate the two British firms which were the primary traders of the gold at issue in the case.
To date, the London-based Hussar Services Limited and the Jersey Channel Island-based Hussar Limited, as well as their corporate directors, have evaded accountability for their central role in the lucrative transnational “blood gold” enterprise alleged in the complaint in Switzerland.
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.