The war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been a terrible ordeal, costing an estimated 6 million lives since 1997.
Part of what funded the long conflict was gold mined illegally in the resource-rich Congo. So far the parties that have been sanctioned by the United Nations for illegal mining and exploitation of the gold have all been African.
Now the net has widened. The Swiss nonprofit TRIAL announced Monday that it was targeting a Swiss gold refinery part owned by Commerzbank and the Austrian mint for refining gold from the Congo.
TRIAL said it filed a criminal complaint against gold refiner Argor-Heraeus, accusing the firm of refining 3 tons of gold ore pillaged from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. TRIAL suspects Argor-Heraeus “of being guilty of the crime of laundering the proceeds of a major crime … and handling goods pillaged during an armed conflict,” it said in a statement.
According to TRIAL, Argor-Heraeus knew, or at the least should have assumed, that these raw materials were the proceeds of pillage, which is a war crime. TRIAL is petitioning the Swiss criminal authorities to determine if Argor-Heraeus did indeed commit criminal acts.
The criminal complaint comes after nearly a decade of investigation. In 2004, the United Nations Security Council convened a group of experts to investigate illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Congo.
The UN-appointed team, including a U.S. investigator named Kathi Lynn Austin, documented the role of several organizations and individuals involved in the pillage and smuggling of gold from…