Compensation claims are measures used by the Swiss justice system to ensure that the fruits of corruption do not benefit the convicted company. They are therefore set according to the profits made by the company as a result of the corruption. In the case of Gunvor, this amounted to CHF 90 million. This sum was paid to the Swiss Confederation.
Swiss law provides for the sharing of compensation claims with the country where the corruption took place only if there was judicial cooperation between the two countries. In the Gunvor case, the presidential family of Sassou NGuesso is directly involved in the corruption case, according to the judgment of the Federal Criminal Court of 28 August 2018, so the Confederation kept the CHF 90 million.
However, it seems unfair that thes compensation claims ultimately benefit Switzerland. The victims of these corruption cases are the population of the countries where these companies engaged in corrupting practices and these victims should be able to ultimately benefit from these "ill-gotten gains". In the case of Gunvor, this is the Republic of Congo and the Ivory Coast. The money should therefore be redistributed to their inhabitants through projects of development, promotion of human rights or fight against corruption, via local or Swiss civil society organisations, or via the Swiss development agency.
In addition to the CHF 90 million from the Gunvor case, Switzerland has benefited from several tens of millions of francs from other corruption cases.
National Council member Christian Dandrès asked a parliamentary question in the June 2022 session in order for the CHF 90 million in compensation claims paid by Gunvor be redistributed to the people of Congo Brazzaville and Côte d'Ivoire. The Federal Council declined:
Mr Dandrès then tabled a parliamentary initiative in the September 2022 session asking that the Gunvor case not be repeated and that the "ill-gotten gains" be redistributed to the wronged populations:
Article from newspaper Le Courrier on those initiatives :
6 October 2022
Letter to the Federal Council and parliamentary petition
31 Swiss associations have signed a letter to the Federal Council demanding that "a significant part of the CHF 90 million in compensation paid by Gunvor be allocated to development, human rights and anti-corruption projects in the Republic of Congo and Côte d'Ivoire".
Action de Carême ; Alliance Sud ; Attac ; Bergbau Menschen Rechte ; Botteghe Del Mondo ; Brücke Le Pont ; Bruno manser fonds ; Campax ; CCPR Center ; CETIM ; Connexio develop ; E-changer ; FIAN ; Frauen für den Frieden Schweiz ; Groupe de Travail Suisse Colombie ask ; Helvetas ; Humanrights.ch ; Juristes progressistes Genève ; Magasins du Monde ; Mission Évangélique Braille ; Mouvement pour la coopération internationale ; Neno ; PeaceWomen Across the Globe ; Public Eye ; Société pour les peuples menacés ; Solidar Suisse ; Solifonds ; SWISSAID ; Terre des Hommes Schweiz ; Travail.Suisse ; Unité.
This letter was also tabled as a parliamentary petition which was rejected.
Screening and debate
The Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights organised a screening of the movie, followed by a debate:
Maison de la Paix, Geneva
29 November 2022
Agathe Duparc, Investigator, Public Eye
Brice Mackosso, Coordinator, Commission Justice et Paix
Yves Bertossa, First Prosecutor, Ministère Public de Genève
Christian Dandrès, National Council member and lawyer
Sara Brimbeuf, Advocacy Officer for grand corruption and illicit financial flows, Transparency International
TRANSPARENCY OF PAYMENTS
Transparency of payments is a key element in the fight against corruption. It involves trading companies declaring the amounts they pay to foreign officials to buy oil. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative has developed guidelines suggesting the level of detail and granularity of these disclosures.
In 2021, Switzerland amended its code of obligations regarding public limited companies and included an article on this topic:
Companies [...] involved in the extraction of minerals, oil or natural gas or in the harvesting of timber in primary forests must produce a report each year on the payments they have made to state bodies. (Art. 964d of the Swiss Civil Code)
However, this article only applies to companies in the extractive industry and not to trading companies. According to the Swiss NGO Public Eye, there are 4 extractive companies in Switzerland and 400 trading companies.
The article contains a provision that would extend the scope of the law to trading companies:
The Federal Council may stipulate as part of an internationally coordinated procedure that that the obligations in Articles 964a–964e shall also apply to companies trading in raw materials. (Art. 964i).
The decision is now in the hands of the Federal Council.
The Bern Political Forum, together with les Productions du Noyer, held a discussion on Thursday 18 November 2021 on the following theme:
Lisa Mazzone, Member of Conseil des États, Green party - protagonist of the film
Marc Ummel, SwissAid - protagonist of the film
Adrià Budry Carbó, Public Eye
The round table was moderated by journalist Lise Bailat
The recording of the discussion is available here.