A British Oil firm Soco International paid an amount totaling to $15,600 to an army officer in Democratic Republic of Congo to cover up its illegal oil exploration activities in Virunga National Park, Global witness has revealed.
The UK based NGO has published scanned copies of bank cheques which the firm issued to a one Major Burimba Feruzi from a local bank account belonging to soco’s Congolese subsidiary in May last year.
The same Major Burimba Feruzi appeared in hidden camera section of the Oscar-nominated documentary ‘Virunga’, offering a $3,000 bribe to a senior park ranger. Feruzi is also accused of ordering the beating and detention of Soco’s opponents. His inhuman excesses are documented in the Global Witness report titled ‘Drillers in the Mist’ .
In yesterday’s exposure, Global witness also published a scanned copy of a handwritten note of Feruzi consenting receipt of the alleged bribe.
Soco has been on spot over alleged involvement in illicit oil exploration activities in the protected areas of Virunga national part. It was earlier reported that firm was involved in bribery and other undercover operations to silence critics of its activities. The Company has since denied the allegations.
However, Global witness said its released document will help to pin the company more
“These documents show that, despite Soco’s repeated denials, the company has paid tens of thousands of dollars to an army officer accused of bribing and intimidating those trying to stop oil exploration in one of Africa’s natural treasures,” Nathaniel Dyer of Global Witness said.
The NGO was optimistic this would help to push the Multinational firm to account
According to AP news, the Congolese government in 2010 granted French oil giant Total and British group Soco permits to explore concessions in Virunga park, but the resulting outrage caused it to suspend them a year later.
Total and Soco subsequently agreed not to enter into the limits of the park. It is alleged Soco has not honored this agreement.
Global witness said the revelations would only be tip of the iceberg noting that there could be more hidden scandals out of the public knowledge. The NGO called on Britain’s Serious Fraud Office and the US Department of Justice to launch a full investigation into Soco’s practices in Virunga
“The UK Serious Fraud Office and the US Department of Justice must launch a full investigation into the company’s practices in Virunga, especially into whether it breached bribery and corruption laws. The company should not be allowed to sell its block before an independent and credible inquiry is undertaken and published, and appropriate action is taken.” Global witness noted in a statement