23 Jul 2021
According to the Swiss federal criminal court last week, the corruption destroying the Democratic Republic of the Congo – where devastating conflicts over minerals used in our electronics have killed more than six million people – is inextricably linked to the UK, Gibraltar and Switzerland.
It was a significant moment exposing corruption that has fuelled not only grinding poverty, famine and unemployment in DRC but also the impunity and violence required to sustain it. Yet, unless there is accountability, it won’t change.
According to the ruling, between 2006 and 2011, at the height of ex-president Joseph Kabila’s rule, individuals and entities in the UK, Gibraltar and Switzerland paid almost $380m (£280m) in cash bribes to authorities in DRC through an array of shell companies and subsidiaries – and, in this case, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office told the Swiss court that it has the evidence to back it.
In return, Kabila offered some of DRC’s strategic gems and minerals, including cobalt, an essential component of lithium-ion batteries used to power electric vehicles. The country is home to about 60% of the world’s known cobalt reserves, which makes some of Kabila’s corrupt friends in the UK, Gibraltar and Switzerland almost indispensable in the global supply chain of electric cars, while Congolese die daily from violence required to sustain their corrupt deals.
Now that the ruling is in, where are the criminal charges? This is not the first time that plunder in this former Belgian colony has been exposed or linked to the killing of Congolese people.
In 2003, a groundbreaking UN report named about 125 individuals and entities, including at least 16 from the UK, directly or indirectly involved in conflict minerals.
By Vava Tampa, The Guardian, 21 July 2021
Read more at The Guardian
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