June 30, 2022 (Paris) – The French National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s office today confirmed that it has just opened a preliminary investigation into the potential involvement of Castel Group subsidiaries as accomplices in the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The announcement comes following the publication of an investigative report by The Sentry detailing how a subsidiary of Castel Group, SUCAF RCA, apparently made payments to brutal militia groups responsible for torture, rape, and mass killings, to protect its sugar operation and monopoly in the Central African Republic.
John Prendergast, Co-Founder of The Sentry, said: “Today’s decision by the French National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s office to open a preliminary investigation to examine the apparent role of Castel Group companies and their executives as accomplices in the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes following the allegations exposed in The Sentry’s report “Cultivating Atrocities” is an important milestone towards justice and corporate responsibility in war-torn countries. War profiteering has fueled long-term and devastating armed conflicts throughout the world, too often without legal and financial consequences for the perpetrators. The Prosecutor’s decision, along with the Lafarge case, should send a strong signal to multinational companies that they can be held to account for their criminal operations, even when those operations are in countries—like the Central African Republic—with deficient judicial systems.”
Nathalia Dukhan, Senior Investigator at The Sentry, said: “The decision by the French Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s office represents the culmination of years of independent investigative work conducted by The Sentry in the Central African Republic. It is not surprising that Castel Group has denied all of The Sentry’s findings, despite the extensive evidence in its investigative report revealing the apparent complicity of Castel Group’s subsidiaries and their executives in war crimes and crimes against humanity. Today’s decision is a glimmer of hope for all the victims who deserve the truth and justice.”
Justyna Gudzowska, Director of Illicit Finance Policy at The Sentry, said: “The French Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s decision highlights that placing business interests before civilian lives does not pay in the long term. This should serve as a wake-up call and have a deterrent effect for any other similarly situated commercial actors that think they can associate with violent militias and escape the consequences by hiding under a veneer of white-collar respectability.”
Clémence Witt and Anaïs Sarron, Lawyers for The Sentry, said: “We welcome the opening of this investigation that should shed light on the potential responsibilities of companies and individuals, including of French nationality, in the commission of international crimes of extreme gravity.”
The Sentry’s report, “Cultivating Atrocities,” uncovered that SOMDIAA, the Paris-based parent company of the Central African subsidiary SUCAF RCA, had knowledge of potential financial and logistical support to the Central African Republic’s most violent militia group, the Unity for Peace in Central African Republic (UPC).
The Security Council has confirmed that the UPC has “killed, tortured, raped, and displaced civilians, committed a large number of abuses of human rights… since its creation in 2014.”
The day after publication of the Sentry’s report, Castel Group, the majority shareholder of SOMDIAA, issued a communique announcing the opening of its own investigation into what it called “serious allegations.”
The French Supreme Court ruled in September 2021 that a company providing aid or assistance to groups known to commit crimes against humanity, to pursue its economic activities, can be prosecuted as an accomplice of such crimes.
Since the publication of this report, sanctions from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and the United Nations Security Council have been imposed on Ali Darassa, the UPC’s leader, and the Central African Republic’ Special Criminal Court has charged Hassan Bouba Ali—the UPC’s number two commander during the relevant events—for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The Sentry revealed both men as the main beneficiaries of the funding scheme apparently set up by SUCAF RCA.
Read The Sentry’s investigative report, “Cultivating Atrocities: French Sugar and Beverage Giant Castel Group Linked to the Funding of Brutal Militias in Central African Republic”: https://thesentry.org/reports/cultivating-atrocities/
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About The Sentry
(Short descriptor for press use: “The Sentry, an investigative organization that tracks corruption”)
The Sentry is an investigative and policy organization that seeks to disable multinational predatory networks that benefit from violent conflict, repression, and kleptocracy.
Pull back the curtain on wars, mass atrocities, and other human rights abuses, and you’ll find grand corruption and unchecked greed. These tragedies persist because the perpetrators rarely face meaningful consequences. The Sentry aims to alter the warped incentive structures that continually undermine peace and good governance. Our investigations follow the money as it is laundered from war zones to financial centers around the world. We provide evidence and strategies for governments, banks, and law enforcement to hold the perpetrators and enablers of violence and corruption to account. These efforts provide new leverage for human rights, peace, and anti-corruption efforts.
Co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, The Sentry is a strategic partner of the Clooney Foundation for Justice. Learn more at www.TheSentry.org.