Holding accountable those that fuel war and conflict

Media Alert: Open Letter to PM of Mauritius–Never Too Late for Justice: Arms Trafficking Inquiry Warrants Attention

10 August 2015 – In an open letter to the Prime Minister of Mauritius, Conflict Awareness Project’s (CAP) executive director Kathi Lynn Austin called today for a renewed inquiry into an international arms trafficking network alleged to have operated within the country, as well as the role of individuals within the Mauritian government who may have obstructed the investigation. The illicit operation is said to have targeted conflict zones in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and Syria.

The government of Mauritius is reputed to be one of Africa’s least corrupt nations. Yet despite calls from an international investigative group and concerned citizens of Mauritius, as well as official pledges to address the matter, an investigation of a transnational arms trafficking operation with potential links to government officials has been stymied.

“Without a proper inquiry,” says Kathi Lynn Austin, “an opportunity is missed to thwart black market traffickers who not only threaten rule of law in Mauritius but the peace and security of the global community.”

CAP’s 2012 report “Viktor Bout’s Gunrunning Successors: A Lethal Game of Catch Me if You Can,” exposed an illicit arms trafficking operation, lead by two Russian nationals, that was launching in Mauritius. The report, which prompted multiple official investigations in Mauritius, details a global operation also involving entities and individuals in the United States, United Kingdom, Finland, South Africa, Australia, United Arab Emirates, and Iran.

For media inquiries, please contact: CAPMediaContact@gmail.com

Interview Transcript: SLS Radio: Kathi Lynn Austin: «Pourquoi avec SAJ ce sera différent» (In French)


12 August 2015

L’express Maurice has published a French translation of CAP ED Kathi Lynn Austin’s recent LSL Radio interview. Austin discusses her 10 August open letter to the PM of Mauritius, in which she asks him to reopen an arms trafficking network inquiry.

Read the Interview Translation (in French)

L’avocat de Kathi Lynn Austin réclame une enquête sur « fuite d’information »

Teeluckdharry_Interview_Pic_11Aug2015Tuesday, 11 August 2015 17:46

Radioplus Mauritius gets commentary from Vikash Teeluckdharry, CAP ED Kathi Lynn Austin’s attorney, on the Mauritius arms trafficking inquiry.

Listen to the Interview (in French)

Interview: SLS Radio: Kathi Lynn Austin: «Pourquoi avec SAJ ce sera différent»

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 1.23.47 PM“Justice must always be served no matter who is in government,” said CAP ED Kathi Lynn Austin about her appeal to Mauritius’s new PM Jugnauth to reopen the inquiry into an alleged global arms smuggling network based within the country’s borders. In this interview with Mauritius’s LSL Radio, Austin talks about the case, as well as the persistence required to pursue criminals who operate across international borders and to bring them to account. The alleged perpetrators have fled Mauritius, but there may be valuable evidence that will keep them from setting up shop in other countries.

“One must always continue to try and persevere and remain determined to see that justice is served. In other cases around the world, for example, when I was trying to see Viktor Bout, the big gun runner, arrested, it took me 15 years and I continued to knock on the door of government after government,” said Austin.

Listen to Interview

L’express Maurice: Trafic d’armes : Kathi Lynn Austin réclame la réouverture de l’enquête qui vise Maurice

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 1.54.21 PMNote: Mauritian newspaper L’express Maurice’s coverage of CAP’s open appeal to Mauritius PM Jugnauth, calling for a reopening of an investigation into an alleged international arms trafficking ring operating out of Mauritius.

“Sans une enquête approfondie, on perd l’opportunité de contrecarrer les plans des trafiquants d’armes sur le marché noir, qui pourraient nuire à la sécurité de Maurice et de la communauté internationale.” C’est en ces termes que la directrice de Conflict Awareness Project (CAP), Kathi Lynn Austin, espère convaincre le Premier ministre de rouvrir l’enquête sur le réseau de trafic d’armes à Maurice.

Dans sa lettre ouverte publiée aujourd’hui, lundi 10 août, sur le site Web de l’organisation non gouvernementale qui milite contre la prolifération des armes, l’experte en droit de l’homme met surtout l’accent sur le rôle qu’auraient pu jouer certaines personnes au sein du gouvernement pour obstruer les enquêtes à ce sujet.

Read Full Article (in French)

PRESS RELEASE: Swiss decision to close Argor case encourages “head in the sand” attitude


The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAGS) decided not to further prosecute the Swiss precious metals company Argor-Heraeus SA, that handled dirty African gold. While Swiss authorities acknowledged that Argor did refine looted gold and violated its duty of diligence, the case was nonetheless closed, a decision met with disbelief by the three NGOs working on the case. Together with Conflict Awareness Project (CAP), the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) supported a legal complaint filed in November, 2013 by TRIAL (Track Impunity Always), in which the Swiss NGO accused Argor of illegally processing over three tones of pillaged gold from the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to the NGOs, this decision undermines international efforts to eliminate the illegal resource trade that fuels conflicts around the world.

Read the Press Release

Swiss Info: Swiss Dismiss Criminal Case Against Gold Refiner Argor-Heraeus

Jun 2, 2015 – 15:54

(Bloomberg) — Switzerland’s attorney general dismissed a criminal investigation of Argor-Heraeus SA, saying no evidence had been found to charge the gold refiner with money laundering after it processed looted Congolese ore.

Accusations that Argor assisted in the perpetration of war crimes by refining about 2,950 kilograms of raw gold “very probably pillaged in the Democratic Republic of Congo from July 2004 to June 2005 cannot be sustained,” the federal prosecutor said in a decision dated March 10 and sent by e-mail on Tuesday.

The probe was initiated in November 2013 after Swiss authorities received a criminal complaint against the company from TRIAL, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization. The complaint alleged Argor knew or should have known the ore was plundered by an armed group that financed its operations in Congo by trafficking the precious metal.

Read the Full Article

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…

Download Release

Human Rights Summit 2013


Human Rights Summit
December 4-5, 2013
Washington DC

CAP executive director Kathi Lynn Austin speaks on “How Can the U.S. Disrupt Transnational Criminal Networks that Enable Atrocities?”  Austin joins US Attorney Preet Bharara, US Treasury Department/OFAC Director Adam Szubin, and Reuters Diplomatic Editor Warren Strobel.

PANEL: “How Can the United States Disrupt the Transnational Criminal Networks that Enable Atrocities?” 
Thursday, December 5, 11:45am

Perpetrators of mass atrocities rely on third parties—enablers—to supply the weapons, supplies, services, and financing necessary to terrorize populations. Some of these enablers are transnational criminal networks. This panel will discuss how these networks enable genocide and other mass atrocities, and what the international community—in particular the U.S. government—is and should be doing to disrupt them as part of broader strategy to prevent slaughter.

Register to attend this and other panels, and for more information:

Financial Times


Swiss investigate Congo gold bought by biggest refiner

By Katrina Manson (Nairobi), James Shotter (Zurich), Jack Farchy (London)
November 4, 2013

Swiss authorities have opened a criminal investigation into one of the country’s biggest gold refiners to determine whether it committed war crimes by knowingly buying gold from a militia group in eastern Congo.

The legal proceeding is the strongest yet by Switzerland against one of the companies key to the country’s multibillion-dollar gold industry. It is the first time that anyone has attempted to deploy against a business the charge of “pillage” – to describe stealing and illegally removing natural resources in the context of war – since the aftermath of the second world war.

“The most important deterrent would be a war crime of pillage – that is what is going to make corporate actors stop doing what they’re doing,” said Kathi Austin, an investigator whose work has been taken up by Trial and who was a member of the UN team that produced the 2005 report.

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Read Full Article (FT Website)

Jersey Evening Post

War gold linked to Jersey:  Island companies helped rebel ‘pillagers’ to buy arms, pressure group alleges

JerseyEveningPost_WarGold_07Nov2013Thursday 7 November 2013 –   Allegations of international ‘war crimes’ have been made against two Jersey registered companies amid claims that they helped fund the illegal purchase of African gold.

It is alleged that the companies, based in St. Helier, facilitated the purchase of illegally obtained gold during a conflict in eastern Congo around 10 years ago.

Following a nine-year investigation by international pressure groups the Conflict Awareness Project, the allegations were put before the Swiss Attorney General in Zurch this week which implicat3 a number of trust companies and finance houses around the world, two of which are based or have offices in Jersey. Their paperwork names the directors of those companies. The companies are not being named by the JEP for legal reasons.

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Washington Post


Swiss Open Criminal Probe Against Metals Refiner Over Congo Gold From War Crimes

By Associated Press, Updated: Wednesday, November 6, 7:51 AM

GENEVA — Swiss prosecutors confirmed Wednesday that a criminal investigation has been opened against one of the world’s largest processors of precious metals over allegations that it laundered gold obtained through war crimes.

Earlier this week, the Geneva-based campaign group TRIAL announced at a news conference it had filed a criminal complaint against Swiss refiner Argor-Heraeus, claiming the company processed three tons of gold ore between 2004 and 2005 that was obtained by an unlawful armed group through pillaging in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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Sunday Times (South Africa)

SundayTimes-logoSouth African Company Refined DRC ‘Conflict Gold’

17 November 2013

THE South African gold refinery that produces the world-famous Krugerrand, processed “conflict gold” from the Democratic Republic of Congo in contravention of a UN embargo. It did this for at least a year, according to an international report published last week.

But the head of Rand Refinery, based in Germiston, Gauteng, and the biggest gold refinery in the world, this week denied knowledge of any dodgy dealings.

The report, authored by the Conflict Awareness Project, was based on a nine-year investigation into “corporate war crimes” in the eastern Congo. It links several companies to “conflict gold” and has triggered criminal charges against a large Swiss refinery, Argor-Heraeus…

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CAP Media Release

CAP Media Release – 5 November 2013

(Geneva, Switzerland) – The Conflict Awareness Project and its partners TRIAL and Open Society Justice Initiative welcome the decision of the Swiss Federal Prosecutor to open a criminal investigation into the activities of the Swiss refinery company Argor-Heraeus SA for laundering of looted gold and complicity in war crimes.

This decision follows the filing of a denunciation against the Swiss company, by the NGO TRIAL (Track Impunity Always) on 1 November 2013. The Swiss association against impunity along with Open Society Justice Initiative and Conflict Awareness Project welcomes the opening of the criminal investigation by the Swiss Federal Prosecutor.

“The opening of the investigation is a strong signal to corporations fueling war. Countries at war are not law-free zones and impunity is no longer ensured to those who break the law. The private sector can also be held accountable,” said Philip Grant, Director of TRIAL.

“The Conflict Awareness Project is pleased that the Swiss Prosecutor is investigating Argor for criminal charges. For far too long, Argor has claimed that it was exonerated by the United Nations for its criminal involvement in the pillage of gold from Congo, which is not the case. The forensic evidence leaves no doubt that Argor was refining gold supplied by unlawful armed groups in the DRC,” said Kathi Lynn Austin, Executive Director of the Conflict Awareness Project.

“The Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s decision appears to be the first effort to hold corporate actors accountable for pillage and related offenses since the Second World War. This case goes far beyond Switzerland to the international commodity and financial markets. Companies who choose to trade directly or indirectly with unlawful armed groups must understand that they risk prosecution for the war crime of pillage,” said Kenneth Hurwitz, Senior Legal Adviser at Open Society Justice Initiative.

The three NGOs now await the result of the investigation with trust and great interest.

Download press release (English)

Download press release (French)

Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS)

Enquête contre une entreprise suisse accusée d’avoir raffiné de l’or pillé
(Investigation of a Swiss company accused of refining pillaged gold)

04.11.2013 20:28

by Yves Steiner, Laurent Burkhalter

In this French language news segment, featuring CAP Executive Director Kathi Lynn Austin, Swiss journalists Yves Steiners and Laurent Burkhalter investigate the criminal probe into Swiss gold refiner Argor-Heraeus SA, accused of refining gold pillaged during armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Ed.


Watch the Video

Radio France Internationale

Interview with Kathi Lynn Austin

Interview: Radio France International  04 November 20134 November 2013  –  A coalition of NGOs are calling on European governments to take legal action against companies that are suspected of having looted gold in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The NGOs, including TRIAL, the Open Society Justice Initiative, and the Conflict Awareness Project, argue that looting gold during times of conflict is a war crime. They say a Swiss and British companies mined gold illegally during the conflict in Ituri region a decade ago.

At the time, ethnic clashes between the Hema and the Lendu degenerated into large-scale massacres. Tens of thousands died, and hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes.

Kathi Lynn Austin, a Conflict Awareness researcher, says prosecutors in Switzerland and the UK should take legal action action the alleged culprits.

Listen to the Interview

Le Matin (Mauritius)

Argor-Heraeus visé par une enquête pour trafic d’or
(Argor-Heraus under investigation for gold trafficking)


This French language article details the Swiss NGO TRIAL’s 1 November 2013 request for an investigation of gold refining giant Argor-Heraeus, for knowingly processing ore pillaged from a conflict zone within the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The request is based on CAP Executive Director Kathi Lynn Austin’s 9-year investigation into this blood gold pipeline. TRIAL is also investigating other companies suspected of complicity in pillage, and is launching a campaign to raise public awareness about the issue. Ed.

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Switzerland opens probe into gold refiner Argor for Congo dealings

* Attorney General opens money laundering probe
* Argor-Heraeus denies allegations
* NGO says gold went to Switzerland via Uganda

By Tom Miles and Emma Farge
Nov 4, 2013

GENEVA/DAKAR, Nov 4 (Reuters) – Switzerland said it had opened an investigation into Argor-Heraeus, one of the world’s largest gold refiners, for suspected money laundering and complicity in war crimes.

The probe follows a criminal complaint filed by Swiss NGO TRIAL on Nov. 1 which accused the refiner of processing close to three tonnes of gold sourced from an armed group in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Swiss refiner Argor accused of laundering DRC gold

BBC News Europe
4 November 2013 Last updated at 14:08 ET

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.

Argor-Heraeus has strongly refuted all allegations in a statement.

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Associated Press (AP)

Swiss Metals Refiner Accused of Laundering

Tuesday Nov 5, 2013

GENEVA (AP) A Swiss nonprofit campaigning group is calling on the country’s federal prosecutor’s office to open a criminal investigation into one of the world’s largest processors of precious metals.

The organization, TRIAL, told a news conference Monday it filed a “criminal denunciation” against Swiss refinery Argor-Heraeus, based on evidence collected by former U.N. investigator, Kathi Lynn Austin.

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