Swiss General Attorney not to prosecute Argor-Heraeus over refining of alleged pillaged gold by illegal armed group in Rep. Dem. of Congo

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Article
2 June 2015

Swiss decision to close Argor case encourages “head in the sand” attitude

Author: Conflict Awareness Project, Open Society Justice Initiative & TRIAL

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAGS) decided not to further prosecute the Swiss precious metals company Argor-Heraeus SA, that handled dirty African gold. While Swiss authorities acknowledged that Argor did refine looted gold and violated its duty of diligence, the case was nonetheless closed, a decision met with disbelief by the three NGOs working on the case.Together with Conflict Awareness Project (CAP), the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) supported a legal complaint filed in November, 2013 by TRIAL (Track Impunity Always), in which the Swiss NGO accused Argor of illegally processing over three tones of pillaged gold from the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to the NGOs, this decision undermines international efforts to eliminate the illegal resource trade that fuels conflicts around the world.On 10 March 2015, the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland...closed the Argor case and concluded that there was no reason to believe that the company had been aware of the criminal origin of the three tons of gold...TRIAL, OSJI and CAP find this outcome hard to believe...

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Article
2 June 2015

Swiss gold refinery’s role in pillaged gold goes unpunished

Author: Berne Declaration

The Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office (FPO) has decided to terminate criminal proceedings opened in October 2013 against the Swiss refinery, Argor-Heraeus SA, denounced by the NGO, TRIAL, for having refined dirty gold originating from the Democratic Republic of Congo...The prosecutor...found that the company had not committed a crime because it had not had any doubts about the provenance of the gold.  But can it be that one of the world’s principal refineries was really that naïve?  Uganda, from where the gold in question was supposed to have come, produces hardly any of the yellow metal, and the country was even well reputed at the time to be serving as a point of transit for pillaged gold from the DRC by armed groups...The impunity enjoyed by Argor is an official invitation to refineries...to ignore information that could lead them to discover problematic issues or to behave as if they had no such information...[I]t is necessary to pass a law requiring companies to know the origin of the products in which they trade, and to ensure that these have note been acquired or produced in violation of human rights...

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Article
2 June 2015

Swiss slammed for closing DR Congo 'dirty gold' case

Author: AFP

Activists on Tuesday accused Swiss authorities of encouraging impunity, after prosecutors shut a case against a company suspected of laundering gold pillaged by armed groups in Democratic Republic of Congo. The Swiss attorney general's office decided in March to close a case against Argor-Heraeus, which faced allegations of "complicity in war crimes and pillage" after it refined three tonnes of gold ore pillaged...In its ruling, which was quietly made public a month later, the prosecutor's office said there was not enough evidence that the Swiss firm...was aware of the illegal origin of the gold...believed to have been illegally mined by a group called the National Integrationist Front...Argor, which claimed ignorance of the gold's origin, welcomed the decision and told AFP it "never doubted the decision since all allegations are without cause"..."It is completely incomprehensible," TRIAL director Philip Grant told AFP, insisting that Argor should have known, or at least suspected, that the precious metal did not come from gold-poor Uganda but had been pillaged in DR Congo... [Also refers to British Hussar, Rand Refinery]

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