By Kevin Silverstein
Imagine that a gigantic corporation privately informs the government that it won an important deal overseas that might have involved the bribery of foreign officials. Journalists discover a confidential document written by the company itself that highlights its concerns. But they can’t write about the story because the corporation hires a white shoe law firm that threatens legal action against media outlets that make inquiries about the document.
That’s the scenario playing out now around a company called Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation, or ENRC, of Kazakhstan, whose founding shareholders are three oligarchs close to that country’s despotic leader. With the help of right-wing Israeli businessman Dan Gertler, it won control of a vast mining concession in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of the world’s most corrupt, resource-cursed failed states. Gertler is known for his friendly ties to the Congo’s president, Joseph Kabila.
Gertler has also worked closely in Congo with Glencore, the Swiss-based commodities and mining giant founded by American businessman Marc Rich, who fled the U.S. in 1983 just before the Justice Department issued an indictment against him on charges of racketeering and illegal trading with Iran. Rich, who is no longer affiliated with Glencore, spent years on the FBI’s Most Wanted List before receiving a controversial pardon by President Bill Clinton on the latter’s last day in office.
100 Reporters has obtained a confidential British government document showing that ENRC believes that Gertler sold it a concession in Congo that the Israeli might have paid bribes to acquire. ENRC has threatened legal action against at least three British and American media outlets that have obtained the document, demanding not only that they refrain from publishing it but that they return it to the company as well.
Thus far only Africa Confidential, a small but influential newsletter, has published a story about the document, but it withdrew it from the web after a threat of legal action by Jones Day, a law firm retained by ENRC. “ENRC had wanted a court order to compel us to reveal the name of our source,” the newsletter’s editor, Patrick Smith, told 100Reporters. “Obviously, we couldn’t comply with that and would appeal any judgment that went against us.” ENRC and Glencore trade on the London stock exchange and are part of the FTSE 100, the rough equivalent of the Dow Jones Index. ENRC’s current market cap is about $9.1 billion.