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Report: Gunvor in Congo

Oil, cash and misappropriation: the adventures of a Swiss trader in Brazzaville (PDF, 6.2 MB)

Diving into the troubled waters of commodity trading, this investigation examines the affairs of Gunvor in the Republic of Congo. This Geneva company, longtime specialist in the sale of Russian oil, tried to diversify its business in the early 2000s by stocking up in Africa. In order to secure itself a place in Congo – a much-coveted yet risky market – the fourth-largest petrol trader in the world had to call on its links to the Kremlin, while at the same time publicly disputing the Russian connection. In 2011, Gunvor struck gold when it obtained a very profitable contract for oil from the Congolese national oil company, meanwhile granting loans to the African state in violation of international commitments entered into by Brazzaville. And the company seemingly has no problem using dubious door openers either: two of them that had been bountifully remunerated then had their Swiss bank accounts frozen by prosecution authorities.

This report documents Gunvor’s reaction once the affair had been revealed. In fact, the company tried to scape-goat a former employee, accusing him of having acted without its knowledge and to its detriment. But on the basis of exclusive information, Public Eye can show that the affair continued to be played out long after the company said it had. Emblematic of the role of traders in the perpetuation of the resource curse, this case illustrates perfectly the consequence of having no regulation in this sector. Furthermore, it shows that the arguments used to oppose stricter oversight of trading do not correspond at all to the reality.

Download the report here (PDF, 6.2 MB).

Also available in French.

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