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Glencore faces new corruption probe in Switzerland

  • Author
  • Diana Kinch and Filip Warwick
  • Editor
  • Jonathan Fox
  • Commodity
  • Electric Power Metals

London — Sources close to Glencore said June 19 they expect "business as usual" at the Swiss-based international trader and miner even following the opening of a fourth investigation in less than two years into how the company runs its business.

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Glencore said in a statement June 19 that it has been informed by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland that the OAG has opened a criminal investigation into Glencore International AG "for failure to have the organizational measures in place to prevent alleged corruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo, currently under investigation by the OAG."

Glencore said it will cooperate with the investigation by the OAG.

The investigation won't affect operations, sources close to the company said.

Market sources told S&P Global Platts they believe the latest investigation is a follow up from the US Department of Justice investigation opened in July 2018 which also mentions Glencore's operations in the DRC, as well as in Venezuela and Nigeria.

In April 2019, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) launched an investigation into whether Glencore had violated certain provisions of the Commodities Exchange Act. The CFTC is also investigating the Swiss-based trading and mining company, and its subsidiaries, over potential corrupt practices in connection with commodities, it said in a statement.

Glencore confirmed in December 2019 that the UK government's Serious Fraud Office had opened up an investigation into suspicions of bribery at the company.

Glencore is the largest copper producer on the African continent, and has recently boosted production at its Katanga mine in the DRC, where it also produces cobalt.

The DRC produces more than 60% of the world's supplies of cobalt, demand for which has jumped in recent years for use in mobile phone and electric vehicle batteries. It also has some of the world's richest untapped reserves of copper, vital to the energy transition infrastructure chain. Ivanhoe Mines and China Molybdenum Company's Tenke Fungurume Mining are among other major miners active in the country.

In 2018 the government of the DRC introduced a new Mining Code which sought to raise royalty levels and state participation in mining companies at the same time placing emphasis on empowering local business and downstream investments. Members of the country's Chamber of Mines said at the time that the new code had led to a series of negotiations between government and international miners who were unhappy with the terms of the new code.

Late last year Glencore said it was joining the Responsible Sourcing Blockchain Network (RSBN) to support responsible sourcing and production practice industry-wide. The initiative is designed to improve supply chain traceability and transparency and integrate good practice with supply chain partners, and was to be implemented at Glencore's cobalt businesses, later to be extended to its businesses in other battery metals.