Published On: Wed, Jun 10th, 2015

UK Oil Firm “Soco International” Reportedly Bribe Congolese Military For Oil Exploration

Verunga Park

Documents leaked by Global Witness show Soco paid $42,000 to a military officer.

Leaked documents appear to show Soco paid $42,000 to officer

The UK oil firm Soco International is believed to have allegedly offered a $42,000 bribe to Major Burimbi Feruzi, a Congolese military liaison officer for oil exploration in Virunga National Park, according to documents leaked by leading NGO “Global Witness”, on Wednesday.

Major Feruzi who allegedly tried to bribe opponents over oil exploration in the oldest national park of Africa and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, appears to have received the large sum from Soco International.

Global Witness published scans of four cheques amounting to $15,000 suspected to be issued by Soco’s Congolese subsidiary to Feruzi. Receipts of cheques signed by the officer confirming $26,650 of money received were also published by the British NGO.

Those payments might only be the tip of iceberg said Nathaniel Dyer of Global Witness. The published documents shows that despite Soco’s repeated denials, the company had paid tens of thousands of dollars to an army officer accused of bribing and intimiditating those attempting to stop oil exploration in one of Africa’s treasures, said Dyer.

“Soco has never denied that it funded the work of the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) army in providing a security escort to ensure the personal safety of its staff and contractors during seismic operations, or that major Feruzi was the DRC army’s military liaison officer assigned to Socco’s security,” the oil company earlier stated, “However, we strongly refute any suggestion that this funding was in any way improper or connected with alleged acts of intimidation or violence. During our seismic operations in the DRC, we were unable to enter the area without a military escort. The soldiers assigned to Soco’s security escort were always under the full command and control of the DRC army.”

Soco had appointed law firm Clifford Chance to look into the allegations over the Virunga project, last year. The review had concluded that the allegations of bribery were “substantially inaccurate”, and there was no evidence of the firm intimidating opponents.

There were “non-material instances where those with whom the company worked made payments in breach of group policy. These are subject to remedial advice,” stated the review.

Soco expressed that it will be receiving advice from Clifford Chance on “improvements in employee/contractor policies and processes”, to provide immunity from similar allegations in the future.

Despite this Global Witness has received information from local and international NGOs where they have reported involvement of Major Feruzi and his troops beating, detaining and even killing opponents of Socco’s project.

DRC have permitted French major oil firm Total and UK’s group Soco to explore concessions in Virunga park previously in 2010, which was then taken back a year later due to outrage. The two oil firms subsequently agreed not to step into the park while Soco said that it was to carry out a seismic study requested by the government, adding that it will not be involved further with the concession after completion of the seismic study in mid 2015.

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