The Swiss multinational Glencore has over the last years been blacklisted by several institutional investors for its exploration programmes in occupied Western Sahara. The former UN Legal Counsel has stated that Glencore violates international law through these operations. The company currently holds the operatorship of the so-called Boujdour Offshore Shallow block, off Western Sahara, signed by the Moroccan government.
Since you're here.... WSRW’s work is being read and used more than ever. But our financial situation is tough. Our work takes time, dedication and diligence. But we do it because we believe it matters – and we hope you do to. If everyone who reads our website or likes us on Facebook, would contribute to our work – 3€, 5€, 27€ … what you can spare – the future of WSRW would be much more secure. You can donate to WSRW in less than a minute here. Morocco, Glencore’s partner, holds that territory under foreign occupation, and refuses to cooperate with the UN to settle the conflict.
Glencore has responded positively to the critique from its concerned owners. Earlier this year, following intense shareholder pressure, Glencore announced to Swiss media that it had sold its interest in Foum Ognit block where it held a minor interest. At the same time, it promised in that it would also sell its interest in the block which it operates, the Boujdour Offshore Shallow. After one year of talks with Morocco, there is no news on that front.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and its Moroccan partner, the newspaper Le Desk, has now offered new information on how the Glencore has structured its operations in the territory. ICIJ has made accessible a searchable database with data from leaked documents from the lawfirm Appleby, a firm which facilitates international company registrations in tax-havens. The leak, consisting of 1,4 terrabytes of documents, reveal numerous Glencore controversies in operations all across the globe.
The graphics below show two Glencore companies associated to the Western Sahara work. Glencore Exploration & Production (Morocco) Ltd. Click on the image for larger version of the tree. Directors: Andrew Gibson, Mark Jonathan Caton, Andrewas Peter Hubman, Steven Frank Kalmin, Sarah C Demerling, Janita K Burke, while its assigned Appleby attorneys are Tammy L. Richardson-Augustus and Alex J. Erskine. The company is found in ICIJ's database here. The structure was according to Le Desk established in November 2014, and is constructed as follows (each company owning 100% of the other): Glencore International PLC (in Jersey), Glencore International AG (in Switzerland), Glencore Group Funding Limited (in the Emirates), Glencore Finance (Bermuda) Ltd, Nevasca Limited (in Bermuda), Glencore Exploration & Production Ltd.
Glencore Exploration (Morocco) Ltd. Click on the image for larger version of the tree. Directors: Andrew Gibson, Janita K. Burke, Sarah C. Demerling, Mark Jonathan Catton, Alex J. Erskine, while its assigned Appleby attorneys are Tammy L. Richardson-Augustus and Alex J. Erskine. The company is found in ICIJ's database here. The structure was according to Le Desk established in September 2014, and is constructed as follows (each company owning 100% of the other): Glencore International PLC (in Jersey), Glencore International AG (in Switzerland), Glencore Group Funding Limited (in the Emirates), Glencore Finance (Bermuda) Ltd, Snowfall Limited (in Bermuda). In a larger article about Glencore's operations in Western Sahara on 10 November 2017, Le Desk has furthermore published a section of one draft Word document, from November 2014, entitled "POWER OF ATTORNEY" with the letterhead of Glencore Exploration (Morocco) Ltd. The document states: "We, Glencore Exploration (Morocco) Limited, a company duly organized and existing under the laws of the Island of Bermuda, having its registered office at Canon's Court, 22 Victoria Street, Hamilton, HM 12, Bermuda (company), HEREBY CONSTITUTE AND APPOINT [IAIN HIGNELL] and/or [SHAUN CHANDE] (collectively, Attorneys), to do the following acts and things in the name and on behalf of the Company with full power or substitution and revocation: to act as the Company's representative and alternate representative, respectively, for the purposes of the petroleum agreement, association contract and joint operating agreement to the Boujdour Offshore Block, Morocco, with full powers".
It is not known whether the draft document was ever concluded and signed.
Le Desk refers to track-changes made in the 'power of attorney' Word file draft, suggesting that these changes indicate that the company wanted to disassociate itself from the ownership of the controversial oil block in case the pressure from investors to blacklist the company, or the media attention, would intensify. In particular, Le Desk refers to changes done in the letterhead of the document. WSRW believes that the track-changes could be read differently, and that the amendments to the document do not indicate that the company had intention to obfuscate anything in - or with - the document itself.
The document has, even after the changes done to the document, a clear Glencore letterhead, and the two individuals given the attorney rights, Mr. Hignell and Mr. Chande, both have backgrounds in Glencore.
The newspaper also questions the motives of the establishment of the structure.
“According to the documents obtained by Le Desk (…), Glencore together with the lawfirm Appelby (…) set up two options, one in September 2014, and the other in November the same year, via shell companies located in various tax-havens, thus allowing them to cover their tracks, notably via a company with the name of Snowfall Limited, created for this purpose on Bermuda. Was this a way to construct a façade under a phony name?”, Le Desk asks.
WSRW cannot immediately see from the information published that the purpose of the establishment of the two synonym-named Bermuda companies Nevesca Ltd and Snowfall Ltd was to hide Glencore's true ownership over the licences.
The Moroccan newspaperTelQuel on 10 November quoted the Le Desk story by stating that Glencore has secretly transferred its minority stake in the Foum Ognit to itself via the Jersey-registered company New Age, and that Glencore could thus still be owning interest in Foum Ognit. WSRW sees no reference in the Le Desk story regarding this allegation.
Confronted by Le Desk, Glencore responded that it is « in discussion with ONHYM to abandon the Boujdour Offshore Shallow block, where it holds 38,25 of the interest ».
More than one year has now passed since WSRW first received information that such talks were taking place. It is not known when, or if, these talks will end.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
At COP22, beware of what you read about Morocco’s renewable energy efforts. An increasing part of the projects take place in the occupied territory of Western Sahara and is used for mineral plunder, new WSRW report documents.