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20 Nov 2013

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Argor-Heraeus investigation (re Dem. Rep. Congo)

Status: CLOSED

Date lawsuit was filed
20 Nov 2013
Location of Filing: Switzerland
Location of Incident: Congo (the Democratic Republic of the)
Type of Litigation: Domestic



Snapshot: In 2013 an NGO filed a criminal complaint with the Swiss federal prosecutor's office against Argor-Heraeus SA, a Swiss gold refinery. They allege the company has been involved in money laundering. The prosecutor's investigated the complaint and in 2015 concluded there was not enough evidence to prosecute the case.

On 1 November 2013 the Swiss NGO TRIAL filed a criminal complaint (dénonciation pénale) with the Swiss federal prosecutor’s office against Argor-Heraeus SA, a Swiss gold refinery, alleging that the company had been involved in money laundering.  TRIAL claimed that Argor-Heraeus had refined gold that had been pillaged by an illegal armed group (Front nationaliste et intégrationniste (FNI)) from the northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  The armed struggle to control mineral wealth in this region of DRC has led to extensive human rights abuses.  FNI allegedly used the proceeds from the sale of the gold to finance its operations and purchase arms.

The Swiss prosecutor’s office has opened a criminal investigation into TRIAL’s complaint.  On 10 March 2015, the investigation was closed.  The prosecutor concluded there was not enough evidence that the company was aware of the criminal origin of the gold to prosecute it.

- [PDF] Official dismissal of criminal proceedings (Official German), 10 March 2015, uploaded by James G. Stewart. Also available in English, translation commissioned by Open Society.

- "Swiss slammed for closing DR Congo 'dirty gold' case", AFP, 2 Jun 2015
- “Punish companies that pillage”, James G. Stewart, University of British Columbia in New York Times, 14 Nov 2013
- “Swiss gold refiner accused of abetting Congo war via money laundering”, Kerry A. Dolan, Forbes, 4 Nov 2012

Argor-Heraeus SA:
- [PDF] Press Release – Argor Heraeus firmly refuses any accusation, 4 Nov 2013

TRIAL (Track Impunity Always):
- "Swiss decision to close Argor case encourages "head in the sand" attitude", with Conflict Awareness Project, Open Society Justice Initiative, 2 Jun 2015
- [PDF] Stop Pillage – Pillage is a war crime, 4 Nov 2013