A British oil firm has been accused of paying a Congolese officer who was filmed offering cash to opponents of oil exploration in Virunga national park.
Soco International has denied claims it was involved in bribery in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – where a Congolese officer was filmed allegedly attempting to bribe opponents to oil exploration in the country’s national park.
Global Witness, a leading NGO that combats corruption across the globe, has leaked documents that suggest Soco paid an officer $42,000 (£27,000) – the same officer that was filmed trying to bribe opponents to Soco’s presence.
According to Global Witness, Major Burimbi Feruzi was filmed back in 2013, “by undercover camera offering $3000 bribe to a senior park ranger in attempt to have “an accomplice on the inside”.”
There have also been accusations of threatening phone cals and text messages being sent to campaign groups opposed to oil exploration in the area, including WWF.
The firm told the Guardian in a statement: “Soco has never denied that [it] funded the work of the DRC army in providing a security escort to ensure the personal safety of its staff and contractors during seismic operations, or that Major Feruzi was the DRC army’s military liaison officer assigned to Soco’s security.”
“However, we strongly refute any suggestion that this funding was in any way improper or connected with alleged acts of intimidation or violence.”
“During our seismic operations in the DRC, we were unable to enter the area without a military escort. The soldiers assigned to Soco’s security escort were always under the full command and control of the DRC army.”
Documents released by Global Witness in Wednesday include cheques from Soco’s account made out to Major Feruzi totaling $42,250. The documents are released ahead of the company’s annual meeting in London.