Article: U.K. Fraud Unit Finds Bribe Network Behind World’s Cobalt Hub

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U.K. Fraud Unit Finds Bribe Network Behind World’s Cobalt Hub

Michael Kavanagh, 15 July 2021

U.K. prosecutors have told Swiss authorities they have proof of an alleged money-laundering ring spanning from Africa to Europe that paid almost $380 million in cash bribes to authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Companies repeatedly bribed officials to further their business interests in the mineral-rich nation, according to the Swiss court judgment that cited information from U.K. prosecutors. Congo is Africa’s biggest producer of copper and supplies about 70% of the world’s cobalt, a critical input for the batteries that power electric vehicles.

The $379 million that was allegedly siphoned off in bribes over a five-year period is more than Congo’s total spending on health care last year. According to the World Bank, about one of every six people living in extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa is in Congo, a country the size of Western Europe with a population of more than 90 million.

The evidence of alleged bribery was presented when an unidentified company tried to block the transfer of its banking records, which were requested in a U.K. investigation into allegedly corrupt mining deals in Congo and a related money-laundering network. The ruling on March 30 by Switzerland’s Federal Criminal Court has since been posted on its website, with coded initials to shield the identities of individuals and entities mentioned.

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