Press Release / / 08.20.21

Castel Group Responds to Sentry Report on Links to Violence in Central Africa

Castel Group to Open Investigation In Response to Allegations in Sentry Report

Published This Week, The Sentry’s Investigative Report Reveals Sugar and Beverage Giant’s Subsidiary Funded 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 20, 2021 (Washington DC / Paris) – In a statement released yesterday, Castel Group, the French sugar and beverage giant, announced it will launch an immediate investigation in response to The Sentry’s report “Cultivating Atrocities.” The investigative report, published this week, revealed potential complicity in mass atrocities, possible conflict financing, and the apparent failure to protect employees in the Central African Republic (CAR) by Castel Group subsidiaries, Paris-based Food and Agricultural Industries Management and Development Company (SOMDIAA) and CAR-based African Sugar Refinery of the Central African Republic (SUCAF RCA). The militias highlighted in the report have been 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.

Nathalia Dukhan, Senior Investigator at The Sentry, said: “Castel Group’s decision to open an investigation into the allegations of potential complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity by Castel Group’s subsidiaries is a welcome first step. We encourage Castel Group to undertake an open, transparent, and independent investigation into the alleged links between their businesses and armed conflict in CAR and disclose to relevant authorities all materials in their possession connected to these allegations. The relevant companies and their respective boards of directors should also urgently initiate a full human rights and anti-corruption due diligence audit of their Central African operations through an external third party. Lack of accountability by economic and financial operators in CAR has greatly contributed to fueling brutal armed conflict and great human suffering, and the victims deserve justice.”

J.R. Mailey, Director of Investigations at The Sentry, said: “While we welcome Castel Group’s decision to open an investigation into its operations in the Central African Republic, it’s not enough for the company to simply investigate itself. The gravity of the allegations necessitates investigations by independent third parties, including prosecutors in Paris and in The Hague. Other businesses—including major financial institutions—doing business with Castel Group and SUCAF RCA should also conduct their own due diligence to assess whether those engagements are consistent with their standards and values.”

The Sentry report includes an extensive body of evidence detailing how 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.

Evidence in The Sentry’s report documents how SUCAF RCA and its parent 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.

Read The Sentry report: “Cultivating Atrocities: French Sugar and Beverage Giant Castel Group Linked to the Funding of Brutal Militias in Central African Republic

Read Castel Group’s response.

 

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact: Greg Hittelman, Director of Communications, +1 310 717 0606, gh@thesentry.org

 

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.