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Glencore faces Swiss probe over alleged Congo corruption

Congolese demonstrations protest outside Glencore’s headquarters in Zug, Switzerland, in July 2018. © Keystone / Urs Flueeler

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) has opened a criminal probe into Swiss-based commodity trader and miner Glencore over alleged corruption in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it mines copper and cobalt.

Glencore said in a statement on June 19 that the Swiss criminal investigation was for the multinational’s “failure to have the organizational measures in place to prevent alleged corruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo currently under investigation by the OAG”.

The Zug-based firm, which is subject to various international inquiries, said it would cooperate with the probe, but declined to comment further.

In a statement on Friday, the OAG said it opened the case against Glencore this month, but it was not possible to predict the timeframe or course of the case.

Prosecutors began investigations against “unknown perpetrators” after receiving a complaint in 2017 on suspicion of bribery of foreign public officials, the OAG said.

That year Swiss NGO Public Eye filed a criminal complaint with the OAG against the activities of Glencore in the DRC. It said at the time that there were “even more elements pointing at embezzlement surrounding the acquisition of mines for the legal authorities to launch an investigation of mines”.

Glencore also faces corruption and bribery investigations by several other entities including the US Department of Justice and Britain’s Serious Fraud Office.

It has said it was cooperating with all proceedings.

Canada’s regulatory authorities fined a Glencore-controlled subsidiary in 2018 after allegations of inadequate financial disclosures in the DRC.

Glencore is the world’s biggest commodities trader, moving millions of tonnes of metals, minerals and oil around the globe. It is also a leading miner and the biggest western company operating in DRC, Africa’s largest copper producer and the source of half of the world’s cobalt.

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