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Swiss prosecutors launch Glencore criminal probe over Congo

Zandi Shabalala and Helen Reid
FILE PHOTO: The logo commodities trader Glencore is pictured in Baar

By Zandi Shabalala and Helen Reid

LONDON/JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Switzerland's Attorney General's Office (OAG) has opened a criminal probe into commodity miner and trader Glencore <GLEN.L> over allegations it failed to have measures in place to prevent corruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The Swiss-based, London-listed multinational, which is subject to various international inquiries, said it would cooperate with the probe, but declined to comment further.

In a statement on Friday, the OAG said it opened the criminal proceedings against Glencore this month, but it was not possible to predict the timeframe or course of the case.

Prosecutors began investigations against "unknown perpetrators" after receiving a complaint in 2017 on suspicion of bribery of foreign public officials, the OAG said.

Glencore also faces corruption and bribery investigations by several other entities including the U.S. Department of Justice and Britain's Serious Fraud Office.

It has said it was cooperating with all proceedings.

Canada's regulatory authorities fined a Glencore-controlled subsidiary in 2018 after allegations of inadequate financial disclosures in the DRC.


QUESTIONS OVER FORMER ISRAELI PARTNER

The numerous probes and exposure to coal have seen Glencore's shares underperform peers.

Glencore mines copper and cobalt from Congo, where its links to former partner and Israeli billionaire businessman Dan Gertler have been the subject of scrutiny.

Gertler was sanctioned by the United States in 2017 over allegations he used his friendship with former DRC President Joseph Kabila to secure sweetheart mining deals.

He denied all allegations of impropriety at the time.

Congo Mines Minister Willy Kitobo Samsoni and a spokesman for the presidency were not immediately available to comment.

Congo is the world's largest producer of cobalt, used in batteries for electric vehicles, and Africa's biggest miner of copper.

The top brass at Glencore is expected to step down this year after years of leadership under South African CEO Ivan Glasenberg.

Glencore's founder Marc Rich was indicted in 1983 for exploiting the U.S. embargo against Iran, tax evasion, fraud and racketeering. He fled to Switzerland, where he remained a fugitive pursued by the Justice Department until he was pardoned by then President Bill Clinton in 2001.


(Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru, Zandi Shabalala in London, Michael Shields in Zurich, Helen Reid in Johannesburg, and Hereward Holland in Calstock; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)