Congo fights back over accusations of corruption

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The Independent Online

The government of the Congo has issued a desperate defence of the way it awards its mining contracts to fend off widespread criticism of corruption in the troubled state.

In a lengthy justification of the way it handed mining concessions to the likes of controversial diamond magnate Dan Gertler, and companies including UK-listed ENRC, its ministry of mines claimed it had acted entirely lawfully and transparently.

The defence follows revelations last week that ENRC was so concerned about the possibility of corruption around its takeover of a mine from Mr Gertler that it tipped off Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency.

ENRC filed a suspicious activity report stating, according to the Global Witness anti-corruption group, that Mr Gertler and his associated companies may have obtained control of the Kolwezi mine "by corrupt means before selling a share of it to ENRC".

In its defence of its actions, the ministry of mines claimed that all sales of state-owned mining assets were conducted "in strict compliance with the legal, regulatory and statutory provisions regulating the company".

That was met with astonishment by several mining experts with experience in the country. The Congolese government famously seized the Kolwezi mine from London-listed miner First Quantum, which says it had invested about $750m (£480.4m) into it. The state then sold it on to a company controlled by Mr Gertler for $60m. He then sold part of the asset, known as Kolwezi, to ENRC for $175m. During the years of dispute, the mine development remained unfinished. First Quantum was later compensated in a $1.25bn legal settlement. At the time, First Quantum described the government's actions as "unlawful, corrupt and harmful". But the ministry statement claimed the non-government organisations criticising it were misguided and that its transactions were "transparent."

ENRC chairman Mehmet Dalman has said he'll fly to Africa for talks with Dan Gertler following concerns that the group is open to corruption allegations