Trial International and Public Eye, two NGOs based in Switzerland, are not giving up. Last March, after a year of investigation, they revealed a “gigantic contraband supermarket” in Libya at war since the fall of Gaddafi in 2011. And the confrontation of two enemy brothers: Faïez Sarraj, the head of government Libyan national accord, and dissident Marshal Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan national army. Relying on criminal groups and corrupt politicians, Western traders came to shop, siphoning diesel from local refineries. If Italian justice has been able to go back to Maxcom Bunkers SA, a company based in Augusta in Sicily (several officials of contraband are currently on trial in Italy), on the other hand, the company Kolmar Group AG, established in the canton of Zug, in German-speaking Switzerland, always escapes the radars.
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50,000 tonnes of diesel in Malta
On May 21, 2020, Trial International therefore filed a criminal complaint for “complicity in looting” against Kolmar Group AG with the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Confederation (MPC). In a press release, the NGO specifies that fuel was diverted from Libyan tanks thanks to the complicity of an armed group, transhipped from Libyan fishing boats to ships chartered by two Maltese businessmen in international waters, then routed to Malta. Between 2014 and 2015, Kolmar Group AG would have bought more than 50,000 tonnes of this diesel stored in the tanks of the Maltese capital (while Maxcom Bunker SA recovered, for its part, 82,000 tonnes).
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Do not look for head lice
According to Trial International, “if a company knowingly purchases stolen raw materials from a country at war, it can be found guilty of complicity in looting, a war crime both under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and ‘after Swiss criminal law’. The NGO adds that it hopes that the public prosecutor of the Confederation “will also shed all the light on this affair”. Because, so far, Swiss justice has never been very pugnacious vis-à-vis trading companies. Knowing that almost half of the oil extracted in the world and more than 60% of the ores and metals are negotiated in the Confederation, the priority is hardly to seek them lice in the head, and to plan their tax advantages. There is no question of scaring the goose that lays golden eggs.
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4% of Swiss GDP
Faced with the attractiveness of Asian markets and London, Switzerland intends above all to retain the multinationals installed on its territory by offering them “attractive framework conditions”. This sector represents 4% of the country’s GDP. In December 2018, when the Federal Council (government) published a report on trading in a rare indigence, recognizing that respect for human rights “remains a challenge for the raw materials sector”, the NGO Public Eye deplored that the purchases of oil that the trading companies “make in billions in countries where corruption is rampant is still secret.” “Five years of federal inaction,” headlined Public Eye.
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Duvalier and Mobutu funds
In April 2020, after the publication of the investigation, Kolmar Group AG (created in 1997 and 8 billion dollars of turnover) insisted on replying that it had “never been involved in smuggling operations” . For its part, the public prosecutor of the Confederation confirms the receipt of the criminal information sent by Trial International, and that “it will be examined in accordance with the usual procedure”.
In spite of everything, we must remain patient. Investigations into the funds hidden in Swiss banks by former dictators Duvalier from Haiti and Mobutu from ex-Zaire have never been successful …