The controversial mining group ENRC knew there was a risk that Dan Gertler, the owner of the Kolwezi copper mine in the Congo, may have acquired the business through corrupt means but did the deal anyway, it emerged yesterday.
As ENRC's new chairman, Mehmet Dalman, sought to assure investors at its annual shareholders meeting yesterday that the Kazakh miner was entering a new era of transparency, it came to light that two years ago ENRC reported its suspicion that Mr Gertler may have bribed Congolese officials at the Serious Organised Crime Agency when he bought the Kolwezi mine.
Furthermore, the group threatened court action to prevent the 100Reporters investigative news organisation from disclosing the report's presence, let alone its content, at the end of last month.
Mr Dalman was appointed chairman of ENRC in February in the wake of a corporate governance scandal that saw two senior independent directors ousted from the board – Sir Richard Sykes, the former boss of GlaxoSmithKline, and Ken Olisa, who famously accused the company of "being more Soviet than City".
The controversy stemmed, in part, from the acquisition of the Congolese mining assets that Mr Gertler bought from the government and quickly sold to ENRC for a large profit.
"We need to make our company much more transparent and simple than it has been in the past, Mr Dalman, a former investment banker, said yesterday.
Mr Dalman was speaking after the group's annual shareholders meeting, from which journalists were barred, in a move that is normal for ENRC but highly unusual elsewhere.
He blamed the board he runs for not allowing the journalists into the meeting.
Speaking at the AGM, one shareholder cited ENRC's activity report and said "it had reason to believe that Mr Gertler and his associated companies may have obtained control of Kolwezi by corrupt means before selling a share of it to ENRC".
A spokesman for Dan Gertler's Fleurette Group categorically denied all allegations of impropriety and any wrongdoing in the Congo.