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Sierra Leone: BSG Resources diamond mine faces lawsuit over alleged human rights abuses incl. water pollution & crop destruction
Author: Will Fitzgibbon, International Consortium of Investigative Journalism, Published on: 25 March 2019
"Panama Papers Trail Offers Hope To West African Villagers Seeking Compensation", 11 March 2019.
...Attorneys representing 83 poor households from Sierra Leone’s eastern Kono district appeared before the High Court last week in a groundbreaking case that seeks damages from a diamond mining company that is part of Israeli billionaire Benjamin Steinmetz’s BSG Resources. Villagers allege that Koidu Ltd. has been complicit in polluting air and well water, destroying crops and homes and provoking violence. Police have killed four villagers and injured others during anti-mine protests since operations began in 2007...
Jalloh and his colleagues’ efforts have been stymied by a legal quirk that makes it difficult to identify the companies with legal responsibility for the mine. In a common practice within the mining industry, the Sierra Leonean assets – which include cash and bank accounts that could be used to fund compensation in the case of a later ruling in the villagers’ favor – are instead owned by BSG Resources and Koidu Ltd.’s parent company, Octea. Jalloh said Koidu Ltd. could claim that it has no assets in its name, adding, “the consequences are that even if you obtain a judgment, it will be a hollow judgment. “The only way we can overcome that from the onset is to have the courts in Sierra Leone ‘pierce the veil’ and recognize Koidu Ltd. and all the Octea companies as one.”...Jalloh believes that documents from the Panama Papers may be crucial. “Those documents will show that they are one body, one single entity operating in Sierra Leone,” Jalloh said. “And therefore we can bring an action against them.”...In 2016, ICIJ reported on leaked documents from the Panama-headquartered law firm Mossack Fonseca that revealed Koidu Limited was owned through a chain of offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands, Guernsey and Liechtenstein. At the top of the chain was Benjamin Steinmetz’s family foundation...Sierra Leone’s High Court will decide on Wednesday whether to recognize the request to treat as one Koidu Ltd., the Octea group of companies and BSG Resources. If successful, Jalloh and his team will then sue the companies over alleged human rights abuses...