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In October 2002, a United Nations Panel of Experts accused 85 OECD-based companies of violating the Guidelines for their direct or indirect roles in the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Panel alleged that “elite networks” of political and military elites and businesspersons fueled the conflict in order to retain their control over the country’s vast natural resources.
Avient was cited by the Panel, because of its involvement in military activities, including bombings. The Panel alleged that Avient provided military supplies to both the Congolese Army and the Zimbabwe Defence Force. Also, Avient provided crews for Antonov26 aeroplanes and MI 24 helicopters, which were used in offensive bombings at the time Avient was contracted by the DRC Government. Avient is also alleged to have brokered the sale of six military helicopters to the DRC Government.
The Panel did not identify which provision(s) of the Guidelines they alleged Avient to be in breach of.
The Panel stated in a letter to the UK NCP dated 26 September 2003 that some progress had made with Avient over the allegations but that it could not come to definitive conclusions before the Panel’s mandate expired in October 2003. Avient met with the Panel in May 2003 and corresponded with the NCP, the Panel and the UN on a number of occasions subsequently. Avient were, and remain, unhappy with the conduct of the Panel throughout– although they agreed to cooperate with the Panel, the UK NCP and to abide by the Guidelines. Specifically Avient feel aggrieved that the allegations were presented as fact, but without evidence to substantiate such assertions. Subsequently these allegations have been produced by banks, organisations and governments as reasons as to why they cannot conduct business with the company.
OECD Watch reports that RAID, having been accepted as a Complainant, was locked out of the process. In September 2004, the UK NCP issued a statement, which accepted Avient’s contention that it was working within a contractual arrangement with the officially recognized governments in the area. The NCP’s recommendations merely highlight the existence of a few provisions of the Guidelines, but did not declare breaches or offer specific actions a Multinational is expected to take to remedy the breaches.
Following a September 2006 expose in the UK’s Sunday Times , RAID called on the UK NCP to reopen the case. RAID has reportedly gathered extensive documentation to show that Avient was engaged in mercenary operations in the DRC, including bombing missions. But given the gravity of the allegations against Avient, Raid is trying to encourage the UK Attorney General to investigate Avient for complicity in war crimes.
OECD Watch case story page: http://oecdwatch.org/cases/Case_40