Press Release / Dec. 6, 2000

A Crude Awakening – One year on, business as usual!

It is one year since the launch of Global Witness’ “A Crude Awakening” - which examined massive corruption in Angola and the role of the oil and banking industries in Angola’s civil war, and the plunder of state assets. It seems appropriate to take stock of recent events and progress during the year.

“On a positive note, at least some of the oil companies operating in Angola have begun to recognise that their lack of transparency about payments to government, leaves them open to the charge of complicity in the wholesale robbery of the Angolan State”, said Simon Taylor. “However, for all those who have expressed an interest in changing their current reporting practices, there are others who appear not to care less. Such a cynical exploitation of Angola and her resources is clearly unacceptable. It is clear that such complicity could potentially become a serious risk for share-holder investments, as any new Angolan Government at some stage in the future is likely to look long and hard at the complicity of companies in the current process of state robbery”.

Companies urgently need to understand that “corporate social responsibility” is an issue that goes far wider than the provision of social programmes. Currently, the oil companies operating in Angola are interested in investing some US$ 40 million annually in Sonangol’s “Social Development Programme”. The value of such an initiative is questionable, given past corporate “social programmes”, many of which appear to have had more to do with corporate PR than with value for Angola, or even value for money. Global Witness hopes these investments represent an improvement. At any rate, given the scale of Angolan State looting (one of the numerous off-shore companies involved in the arms trade kick-back process has had more than US$ 1 billion through its accounts in 2000 alone!) an investment of US$ 40 million is no substitution for corporate transparency.

The time of the “oiligarchy” appears to be almost over. The arrest and jailing of Pierre Falcone and the Director of Brenco International, together with the start of a serious investigation into arms trading practices with Angola, promises to shed further light on those involved, the scale of kick-backs and the locations of secret bank accounts. “It is clear that France has a special responsibility to ensure that these investigations are allowed to proceed to their furthest point, in order to get the bottom of where we might find Angola’s missing US$ billions”, said Taylor.