Wednesday 22nd Nov, 2017

Glencore wrapped up in Paradise Papers leak

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Commodities giant Glencore is among a group of multinational companies named in the latest massive leak of confidential legal and financial documents, probed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

ICIJ, which last year dug through the controversial Panama Papers, this week revealed the findings of its investigation into another set of documents, dubbed the Paradise Papers.

Among those named in the 13.4 million confidential electronic documents, originally leaked to a German newspaper, are names like Facebook, Uber, Apple, Nike, Queen Elizabeth II, and Glencore.

The documents have been leaked from Appleby, an offshore law firm, as well as corporate services firms Estera and Asiaciti Trust, and are believed to involve around US$10 trillion in combined wealth around the globe.

While no clear allegations of wrongdoing have been made against Glencore as a result of the leak, the multinational is implicated in a number of contentious issues.

Perhaps the most notable; according to an ICIJ and AFR report, the papers reveal Glencore was fighting off allegations linking one of its senior partners with Iran, money laundering and bank fraud, while it was gaining Australian approval for its US$90 billion merger with Xstrata in 2013.

The papers show Glencore made an effort to not associate itself with a shipping company, SwissMarine, despite being the company’s largest shareholder, with 47% of voting stock owned via another business, Sidhalu.

A 2003 note leaked from Appleby states, “We provide 3 directors to this company … We are providing these directors at the request of Glencore International AG but this is very confidential information. Accordingly do NOT associate Glencore with Swissmarine under any cicrumstances.”

A 2009 email further states, “We represent an entity by the name of Sidhalu which is ultimately connected with Glencore but the fact of and nature of this connection is extremely hush hush and we must never disclose this in any communications.”

In 2013, Greek shipowner Victor Restis – SwissMarine’s second-largest shareholder – somehow remained a SwissMarine director despite being in jail, awaiting trial for fraud, money laundering and embezzlement, according to the report.

Restis was allegedly linked to an Iranian scheme to smuggle oil into China, but was released on bail in July 2013, before his charges were dismissed in October 2016.

The Restis case related to wide-ranging allegations of violations of sanctions against Iran, which Glencore was also implicated in when the UN reported in 2013 it had agreed to swap alumina shipments to Iran for aluminium, allegedly for use in the country’s nuclear program.

Glencore responded to the ICIJ’s announcement this week, saying it held an investment in SwissMarine (SMC) since 2001.

“For commercial reasons, Glencore’s investment in SMC was not widely disclosed,” the company said. “Where required, Glencore has disclosed its beneficial ownership in SMC, shuch as to banks or tax authorities. SMC is not a subsidiary of Glencore nor is it a significant investment for the company.

“Glencore complies with its tax obligations in line with the laws and regulations in the countries and territories in which we operate,” the company continued.

“We provide public disclosure of our economic contributions, including our tax, royalty and other payments to Governments. In 2016, Glencore paid $4bn in taxes and royalties to our host governments.”