New Glencore scandal: First Paradise Papers, now graft stench hovers over executives

EDINBURGH — The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) lifted the lid on industrial scale tax avoidance in an analysis of the Paradise Papers. Commodities trader Glencore Plc was one of the top clients of a law firm firm at the centre of the scandal. Appleby even had a “Glencore Room” at its Bermuda office that kept information on the trader’s 107 offshore companies, according to the ICIJ investigation, reports Bloomberg. (Peter Grauer, the chairman of Bloomberg LP, is a senior independent non-executive director at Glencore.) The Paradise Papers show how corporations, hedge funds and others may have played a game of tax avoidance. Glencore, meanwhile, faces another a scandal on the other side of the world – again for creative accounting. This time the spotlight is on dodgy financial records. – Jackie Cameron

By Tom Wilson

Two weeks after the Paradise Papers leak brought a wave of scrutiny over Glencore’s dealings in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the company is facing another scandal.

The issues stem from Katanga Mining Ltd., a Congolese copper producer owned by Glencore. The African company restated financial statements and is under investigation by Canadian regulators for its corporate governance and accounting practices.

Swiss commodities trader Glencore’s logo is seen in front of its headquarters in Baar, near Zurich, in this February 6, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Romina Amato/Files

In a major sign of how toxic the problem has become for the Swiss commodities giant, three executives including billionaire Aristotelis Mistakidis resigned from the board of Katanga.

Mistakidis is a key part of Glencore. Among management, he’s the third-biggest shareholder and longtime lieutenant to Chief Executive Office Ivan Glasenberg. He helped lead the company’s ascent from a scrappy trader to a commodities giant and world’s third-biggest copper miner.

While Katanga is financially a small part of Glencore’s overall business, it faces an ongoing headache over the past relationship with controversial Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler.

An internal review found among other problems that Katanga had failed to disclose compensation paid to some executives and overstated copper output in 2014. In some cases, senior management and executive directors were responsible for overriding control processes.

Dan Gertler, Israeli mining investor, left, takes a tour of the Katanga Mining Ltd. copper-cobalt mine complex, in Kolwezi, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Canada’s Ontario Securities Commission is also investigating the accuracy of Katanga’s financial reporting, corporate governance and the conduct of some directors and officers. It’s also reviewing disclosures related to bribery and anti-corruption laws.

Glencore nominated three new directors to the Katanga board, including Chief Financial Officer Steven Kalmin. It will strengthen controls across its copper division, Glencore said in a statement.

Katanga’s business dealings in Congo and Canadian disclosures have been questioned before. In March, Global Witness said more than $100 million in payments due to state-owned Gecamines were instead paid to a firm controlled by Gertler. The payments were not clearly described in Katanga’s reporting, according to the London-based advocacy group.

In filings between 2013 and 2015, Katanga either said the payments went to Gecamines or didn’t specify the recipients.

At the time, Glencore said it made the payments to Gertler’s Africa Horizons Investments Ltd. at Gecamines’s request, and complied with all Canadian disclosure rules.

Glencore owns about 86 percent of Toronto-listed Katanga Mining. It began investing in the business a decade ago through the merger of Katanga and Nikanor Plc, in which Gertler also held shares. In February, Glencore cut ties with Gertler and bought out his stake in Katanga.

Katanga will be one of Glencore’s biggest copper mines when it restarts production. It suspended mining in 2015 to invest in new processing facilities, but will produce as much as 300,000 tons of copper and 20,000 tons of cobalt a year from the unit by 2019.

  • Peter Grauer, the chairman of Bloomberg LP, is a senior independent non-executive director at Glencore
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