BBC: Swiss refiner Argor accused of laundering DRC gold
A BBC article crosses our path today, alleging yet more murkiness regarding the destiny of minerals and resources originating in troubled DR Congo: “a major Swiss gold refiner is being investigated on suspicion of money laundering linked to the processing of gold allegedly looted from DR Congo.”
Swiss federal prosecutors are instigating criminal proceedings against Argor-Heraeus SA, over claims by Swiss NGO TRIAL that in 2004 and 2005 it knowingly handled gold removed from DRC during armed conflict.
The article goes on to say that Argor-Heraeus stated the allegation "arrived like a bolt out of the blue" and there had been "no request or contact whatsoever from TRIAL beforehand… Argor-Heraeus has been cleared of… allegations [referring to an investigation at the time by the UN, SECO and FINMA]”.
The firm said it would "collaborate in complete transparency with the authorities" to prove its innocence.
Some context: It’s worth remembering that between five and six million people are believed to have died in DR Congo since 1997. It’s a conflict often overlooked in the international press, in contrast to what seem more reportable, sexier conflicts in the middle east; yet the numbers are staggering. According to War Child UK, in DRC:
- 2.7 million of the dead have been children.
- 1 in 5 children will die before their fifth birthday
- Average life expectancy is 47 years (UK average is 79)
- The government spends an average of $2 per person, per year on healthcare for its citizens (in contrast the UK figure is $2,939)
- More children under 5 die every year in Congo (pop. 63m) than in China (pop. 1,325m).
- More than 200,000 women and girls have been the victim of rape or sexual violence
- More than 1m people have been forced to flee their homes.
- At 20,000 UN troops, Congo is home to the largest peacekeeping mission in the world.
- The UN Human Development Index report (2009) ranks D.R. Congo as 176th out of 182 countries.
IMAGE: "Étude op 21: Blood And Gold" by Subash Thebe. Via degreeart.com