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NGO files complaint against Swiss company over 'pillaged' gold

The non-profit group TRIAL has filed a criminal complaint against a Swiss company for allegedly laundering gold pillaged from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The company, Argor-Heraeus, has denied any wrongdoing.

In the criminal complaint, Track Impunity Always (TRIAL) accused Argor-Heraeus of complicity in “war crimes and pillage.” The Swiss NGO said that the company refined three tons of gold pillaged from the DRC by the militant group National Integrationist Front (FNI).

Argor-Heraeus, the world's largest processor of precious metals, rejected TRIAL's allegations, saying that it had been cleared of similar charges by two Swiss and one UN investigation in the past.

“Eight years after the conclusion of the case, the allegation arrives like a bolt from the blue for Argor-Heraeus,” the company said in a press release.

According to TRIAL, the gold in question was illegally mined by FNI and then sold in Uganda by a Congolese middleman, Kisoni Kambale, who trades in gold and owns an air transport company. Kambale allegedly resold the gold to a Kampala-based company named Uganda Commercial Impex Limited (UCI). That company then sold it to Hussar Limited of Britain.

The gold was originally refined by South Africa's Rand Refinery. But Rand stopped when it began to suspect that the gold has been acquired illegally, according to TRIAL. Argor-Heraeus then allegedly stepped in and picked up where Rand left off.

“By turning this illegally obtained gold into ingots, Argor-Heraeus made it impossible to identify the criminal origin of the gold,” TRIAL said.

But Argor Heraeus claimed it had stopped processing material from Uganda and “other instable places” and also severed ties with Hussar in 2005.

slk/jr (AFP, AP)