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DRC: No accountability for Glencore crimes until justice is delivered to all victims

Statement by Transparency International, RAID, and CAJJ

Three anti-corruption and human rights groups have urged the US Department of Justice to award compensation to former healthcare employees in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who suffered personal and financial harm as a result of corruption by multinational company Glencore.

Today, Transparency International, UK corporate watchdog RAID, and DRC legal aid centre CAJJ submitted an official request to the US Department of Justice, calling for a portion of the US$262.6 million in financial penalties paid by multinational mining and commodity giant Glencore to be allocated to the Congolese victims of their corruption.

This submission comes two years after the Swiss-based company pled guilty to foreign bribery and market manipulation schemes for their business activities in multiple countries, including the DRC. A settlement was subsequently reached with authorities in Brazil, the UK and the US requiring Glencore to pay US$1.1 billion in combined fines and penalties.

According to the findings of the US Department of Justice, Glencore paid at least US$100 million in bribes to public officials in several countries between 2007 and 2018. In the DRC alone, the company was found to have paid at least US$27.5 million in bribes to secure important business advantages for its mining operations. In December 2022, Glencore paid an additional US$180 million to DRC authorities to cover any further claims for alleged acts of corruption.

In a welcome decision in February last year, a US federal judge also instructed the company to pay a further US$30 million in restitution to Ian and Laurethe Hagen, the founders of Crusader Health, which provided medical services to Glencore’s Congolese mine workers and their families. The healthcare provider collapsed after Glencore paid a bribe to a Congolese judge for a favourable ruling in a contract dispute. Dozens of employees – including nurses, cleaners, gardeners, drivers and administrative personnel – lost their jobs. The US judge made no provision for the impacted Congolese employees as they were not represented in court.

In efforts to ensure Congolese victims of corruption were identified, researchers at RAID and CAJJ collected evidence and testimonies from 28 of the former employees. They described significant hardships as a result of losing their jobs, including receiving little or no severance pay, prolonged periods of unemployment and lower pay in subsequent employment.

The formal submission was presented by the counsel representing the interests of the former employees, Mark Silver, to the Department of Justice’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section for their consideration, under their administrative remission procedure.

Anneke Van Woudenberg, Executive Director, RAID, said:

"There is an undeniable link between Glencore’s corruption, the collapse of Crusader Health, and the personal hardships endured by its Congolese employees. Yet because these workers lack the means to access US courts, they have had no opportunity to be heard or to claim compensation. Corruption is not a victimless crime and there are likely many others who have suffered due to Glencore’s illegal schemes. It’s time comprehensive efforts are made to identify and compensate those affected, especially the most vulnerable.”

Maíra Martini, Head of Policy & Advocacy (Interim), Transparency International, said:

"It’s great that Glencore are starting to see some consequences for the tens of millions paid in bribes to officials in the DRC, and we welcome the work that the US Department of Justice have done to recognise the impact of Glencore’s corruption on some of the victims. However, Glencore’s accountability is incomplete without justice being delivered to all the victims of their crimes. This submission seeking justice for victims in the DRC is a unique opportunity for the Department of Justice to deliver a more equitable outcome for those who have suffered from Glencore's actions.

Unfortunately, foreign bribery has been treated as a victimless crime for far too long. When grand corruption cases are successfully investigated and companies are hit with fines and penalties, victims usually don’t receive compensation. Countries must develop transparent and accountable mechanisms to ensure justice for those who directly suffer from such corruption."

Josué Kashal, lawyer, CAJJ, said:

"Victims of corruption in the Global South are frequently ignored by both foreign and domestic courts. In Congo, the impact of Glencore’s corrupt acts was keenly felt, even if the specifics were not widely known. When Crusader Health was shut down, the repercussions were devastating for its employees. With no viable path to justice through local DRC courts, these victims are left with almost no option for remedy. We hope the US Department of Justice will seriously consider our submission and address the severe harm experienced by Congolese health workers due to Glencore’s corruption."

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