(Paris/Ottawa, October 30, 2017) French anti-corruption organisation Sherpa and Canadian mining watchdog MiningWatch Canada today released a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, alerting him to the apparent failure of Canadian authorities to investigate serious bribery allegations against Kinross Gold. The organisations had submitted documentation to the RCMP in December 2015. Similar allegations are currently under investigation by the FBI and the SEC in the United States.
The organisations say the documentation shows that Kinross Gold, directly and through subsidiaries, appears to have engaged in illegal business activities in its West African operations. The detailed report, which the organisations say is too sensitive to be made public, is based on testimonies from whistleblowers – Kinross workers and/or former workers – along with corroborating information.
According to Sherpa director, renowned French lawyer William Bourdon, the evidence should have been sufficient as the base for an investigation. Bourdon commented, “For reasons which we do not fully understand, despite the quality of the evidence presented – evidence specific to a major Canadian mining operator – the investigation in Canada seems to have been stalled or suspended.”
Bourdon confirmed that the organisations had had direct contacts with the RCMP, who had indicated that they were not in a position carry out substantial investigations.
The Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act is the only Canadian law that regulates the operation of Canadian companies operating outside the country. Jamie Kneen, spokesperson for MiningWatch Canada, said that his organisation has become disillusioned with the Act’s enforcement. “Canadian officials will acknowledge that Canadian companies may be involved in corruption, but it’s OK because we have a law against it,” Kneen commented. “But if that law is not enforced, if there isn’t any investigation, much less prosecution, it’s not much help.”
Canada enacted the CFPOA in 1998 to fulfill Canada’s obligations under the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery in International Business Transactions, and amended it in 2013 in response to criticism from the OECD. However, enforcement efforts do not seem to have increased, leading to concern that the government is simply not committing the resources needed to investigate and prosecute notoriously complex and difficult corruption cases.
In the letter, Sherpa and MiningWatch point to Prime Minister Trudeau’s stated support for the fight against corruption at the national and international level, and also his concern to promote better ethical behaviour for major business leaders.