Case story

  • United States

OECD NCP USA - FoE US & RAID vs. Trinitech

Democratic Republic of the Congo 2004

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Story

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.

Trinitech Holdings is the holding company for the Ohio-based mining and distribution companies Trinitech International Inc. and Eagle Wings Resources LLC. Eagle Wings Resources International (EWRI) is described in the report of the Belgian Senate’s “Great Lakes Commission of Inquiry” as a joint venture between the Dutch company, Chemie Pharmacie Holland BV (CPH) and Trinitech Holdings.

The Panel alleged that “[t]he manager of Eagle Wings in Kigali has close ties to the Rwandan regime” and that the company “operates in the [DRC] as a Rwanda-controlled comptoir with all the privileges derived from this connection.” The Rwandan regime has been severely criticized by the Panel for mass-scale looting, systemic exploitation, and the organization of an elite network centrally located in the Rwandan Defense Department with the express intent to capture revenues through the exploitation of the DRC’s natural resources. In so doing, it has intentionally perpetuated the conflict in the DRC. According to the Panel, “Eagle Wings collaborates with RPA [Rwandan Patriotic Army, the official Rwandan army] to receive privileged access to coltan sites and captive labour” and is named with other comptoirs who “have obtained their own mining sites and conscript their own workers to exploit the sites under severe conditions.”

RAID and FoE have raised the specific instance due to a lack of adequate investigation by the State Department into allegations raised by the UN panel of Experts' concerning the direct or indirect comlicity of the company in fueling the natural-resource driven war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Outcome

On August 23, 2004, the US NCP rejected the complaint on the grounds that the allegations “have not been adequately substantiated, denied by the firms concerned, and called into doubt by the party that originally made them”. The NCP stated that he was “prepared to make further inquiries with the UN regarding the availability of any further information on the US firms mentioned in the UN Panel’s report”.

In a follow-up meeting in January 2005 in Washington, DC, the Complainants provided the NCP with a copy of a contract between EWRI and RCD-Goma to export coltan from the eastern DRC. According to a report by the Belgian Senate, Eagle Wings Resources International had a long-term contract to supply Cabot with coltan. The Panel asserted in its October 2002 report that “no coltan exists from the eastern [DRC] without benefiting either the rebel group or foreign armies.” In that meeting, the US NCP stated he had not sought additional information from the UN. The NCP offered to see if the companies would participate in an “informal” dialogue with RAID.

When the Complainants followed up in September 2005, the US NCP confirmed that the companies had received his letter, but that they never responded to his offer. The US NCP never addressed the Belgian Senate’s findings that Cabot Corporation had a long-term contract with EWRI and the additional evidence provided by the Complainants in this regard.

In August 2006, RAID wrote to all the US companies asking whether the UN Panel’s allegations led to changes in business and management practices. No response has been received from any of the companies.

References

OECD Watch case story page:  http://oecdwatch.org/cases/Case_46

Contributor(s): This article was modified by Kyle (3), Nicolaclayre (3), and Ejfturnbull (1).