Castel Group Subsidiary Funded and Provided Support to Violent Criminal Militia to Protect Business Interests, Despite Knowledge of Extreme Brutality Against Civilians in the Central African Republic, Including Mass Killings, Rape, and Torture
August 18, 2021 (Washington DC / Paris) – A new investigative report released today by The Sentry reveals that the Central African subsidiary of Castel Group, a multibillion-dollar food and beverage conglomerate, has funded and provided support to a brutal militias responsible for mass killings, abductions, torture, child soldier recruitment, sexual and gender-based violence, and deadly attacks on displaced camps sheltering tens of thousands of people.
The Sentry report, “Cultivating Atrocities: French Sugar and Beverage Giant Castel Group Linked to the Funding of Brutal Militias in Central African Republic,” includes an extensive body of evidence detailing how the Castel Group subsidiary African Sugar Refinery of the Central African Republic (SUCAF RCA) secured a security arrangement with the notoriously brutal criminal group, the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC). The apparent purpose of the tacit agreement was to secure SUCAF RCA’s factory and sugar cane fields, ensure the free movement of truckers on key roadways, and assure the company’s monopoly on sugar distribution in several prefectures. In return for the UPC’s support, SUCAF RCA financed the violent militia through direct and indirect cash payments, as well as through in-kind support in the form of vehicle maintenance and fuel provision. The militia’s leader, self-proclaimed General Ali Darassa, and former UPC political coordinator and current Minister of Livestock and Animal Health Hassan Bouba have both been the primary beneficiaries of the financial arrangement with SUCAF RCA.
John Prendergast, Co-Founder of The Sentry, said: “The Central African Republic is besieged by predatory operators both foreign and domestic that profit from a state of permanent war. The international community should urgently address the financial motives that fuel mass atrocities in the Central African conflict and ensure that business advantages are not gained by funding criminal groups that commit grave abuses. Companies such as the Castel Group subsidiaries operating in CAR’s sugar sector should be investigated and held fully accountable for any complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity they are determined to have committed. Prosecutorial investigations should be launched immediately in every relevant jurisdiction, and the victims should be compensated.”
Nathalia Dukhan, Senior Investigator at The Sentry, said: “The near-monopoly in the sugar sector that Castel Group’s subsidiaries have enjoyed for the last twenty years has not benefited Central Africans. Not only are people forced to pay for the most expensive sugar in Central Africa, but the money they pay as sugar consumers has helped finance the very gangsters and deadly weapons that are terrorizing and killing them.”
Evidence in The Sentry’s report documents how SUCAF RCA and its Paris-based parent company Food and Agricultural Industries Management and Development Company (SOMDIAA), as well as SOMDIAA’s security contractor, retired French General Bruno Dary, have been regularly informed of the egregious human rights violations committed by the UPC, an array of atrocities the United Nations has identified as potential war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Sentry’s investigation found that, despite this knowledge, SUCAF RCA management still provided financial and logistical support to criminal groups, primarily but not exclusively the UPC, for more than six years, thus helping to fuel armed conflict in CAR.
Oliver Windridge, Senior Advisor at The Sentry, said: “This report alleges corporate involvement in international crimes of the most serious nature. The reported deadly links between corporate actors financing militia groups that have committed mass atrocities require an immediate, focused, and transparent response at both domestic and international levels. This response will be a litmus test for corporate responsibility for atrocities not seen since the Lafarge case.”
Justyna Gudzowska, Director of Illicit Finance Policy at The Sentry, said: “Given the revelation that a Castel Group subsidiary has potentially provided logistical and financial support to armed groups involved in atrocities in CAR, it is incumbent upon financial institutions and other private sector actors that engage in business with the entities named in this report to conduct enhanced due diligence to ensure that they are not indirectly funding violent militia groups. Until the relevant subsidiaries of the Castel Group ensure that all such support has ceased and make full disclosures to the authorities, anyone doing business with them could be taking on significant legal, regulatory, and reputational risk.”
In response to the report’s findings, The Sentry offers a series of urgent policy recommendations, fully detailed at the end of the report and highlighted below.
Read the full report: https://thesentry.org/
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About The Sentry
The Sentry is an investigative and policy team that follows the dirty money connected to African war criminals and transnational war profiteers and seeks to shut those benefiting from violence out of the international financial system. By disrupting the cost-benefit calculations of those who hijack governments for self-enrichment, we seek to counter the main drivers of conflict and create new leverage for peace, human rights, and good governance. The Sentry is composed of financial investigators, international human rights lawyers, and regional experts, as well as former law enforcement agents, intelligence officers, policymakers, investigative journalists, and banking professionals. Co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, The Sentry is a strategic partner of the Clooney Foundation for Justice.