UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - In an apparent violation of U.N. sanctions, gold from conflict-torn Democratic Republic of Congo was exported to other African states with the aid of fake United Nations certificates, a new U.N. report says.
Trade in gold and other minerals from Congo has helped fund years of fighting between militants and government forces in the country’s eastern provinces.
The jewel industry has banned trade in so-called “blood” diamonds from militant-controlled areas of countries like the Congo. While no such industry restrictions on gold exist, the purchase of minerals from parts of the Congo controlled by militants is barred under U.N. Security Council sanctions.
But buyers and dealers continue to buy and sell gold and other minerals in violation of the ban, said the report from the U.N. Group of Experts on the Congo, which monitors compliance with the U.N. sanctions regime.
“The Group has obtained documented evidence showing that between March 2009 and February 2010, several fraudulent ‘United Nations certificates’ were forged by persons unknown to facilitate the sale of Congolese gold to buyers in regional states,” said the report, which was obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.
It did not say where the gold came from or whether U.N. officials were involved. It also did not specify which “regional states” had obtained the gold. It noted that Congo’s ministry of mines has “confirmed that all of the documents in question were false.”
The Security Council will discuss the report on Thursday.
Seven years after a 1998-2003 war that claimed more than 5 million lives, Congo is still plagued by insecurity with Rwandan Hutu and local Mai-Mai militias at large in its east and Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army rebels in the north.
The report said that mineral buyers and dealers “continue to purchase minerals from sites controlled by armed groups and that this material is being sold on to refineries or smelters and thence to end users, all in violation of U.N. sanctions.”
It added that the Kinshasa government was trying to identify and map which Congolese mineral deposits are controlled by which militant groups.
The Group of Experts report said that some foreign buyers have violated the sanctions regime by purchasing minerals fully aware that militant groups have illegally taxed them, one of the ways armed groups fund themselves.
It listed other violations of the sanctions regime. Among the breaches of U.N. restrictions were “extensive local, regional and international support networks” helping Rwandan Hutu rebels and other groups in eastern Congo.
Editing by Xavier Briand