NGO Reports Illegal Gold Imports By Refiner by Paula Dupraz-Dobias, swissinfo.ch
Swiss and Peruvian authorities are working on a case involving a Neuchâtel refiner, Metalor, for suspicion of money laundering and the purchase of illegal gold, according to a Swiss NGO.
The Bern-based Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) published a report on Wednesday claiming that the major refiner continued to import illegally produced gold from Peru even after that country took widespread measures forbidding production by most of the country’s estimated 100,000 wildcat miners.
The report had been written with a Peruvian investigative journalist, Oscar Castilla.
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In January 2014, Peruvian authorities confiscated gold belonging to Famyr Group EIRL, allegedly destined for Metalor. The NGO explained that the Peruvian prosecutor’s office “assumed” that the gold had come from an illegal source.
A communiqué explained that “Metalor addressed its suspicions to the Swiss money-laundering reporting office in April 2014” before the office transferred the case to the attorney general, while requesting further information from Peruvian authorities.
STP wrote that “it is yet to be seen whether Metalor would be the subject of a preliminary investigation”.
Meanwhile, the NGO said the Peruvian prosecutor in charge of money laundering is expected to request mutual legal assistance from Switzerland in its investigation of Famyr’s confiscated gold.
STP wrote that Metalor denied transforming any gold originating from Madre de Dios, a jungle region in southern Peru, where vast areas have been affected by deforestation and mercury pollution due to illegal gold mining.
Metalor was one of three refiners to join the Swiss Better Gold Initiative in 2013, established with the support of Switzerland’s State Secretariat of Economic Affairs (SECO), to promote sustainable gold production in Peru.
Gold is overwhelmingly Peru’s most important export to Switzerland, representing 99% of all exports.
Switzerland is home to four of the world’s biggest gold refiners, including PAMP, Argos-Hereaus and Valcambi, which was recently sold to the Indian group Rajesh Exports. Some 70% of gold traded worldwide transits though Switzerland.
Metalor did not respond to swissinfo.ch’s requests for a comment.