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AP Worldstream: African corruption focus of case at World Court

EXTRACT: …Diallo won a court decision in 1995 against Zaire Shell. Guinea charges that rather than pay, Zaire Shell teamed up with the other companies Diallo was suing _ Zaire Mobile, Zaire Fina and Gecamines _ to bribe Prime Minister Kengo Wa Dondo to expel him.

THE ARTICLE

By: ARTHUR MAX
Published: Nov 27, 2006

Corruption in the oil trade is the focus of hearings beginning Monday at the International Court of Justice in a dispute between two west African nations.

The case between Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo, raising allegations of massive bribery versus the exploitation of a nation’s wealth, will help define the liability of a successor government for the corrupt practices of its ousted predecessor.

In opening arguments in The Hague, Guinea was to explain Monday its demand for US$36 billion (A27 billion) in damages from Congo for jailing and then expelling a Guinean businessman who was trying to recover debts from the state and from oil companies.

Congo denies it should be held accountable for actions taken under the corrupt regime of Mobutu Sese Seko, who was overthrown in a 1996 coup.

It also says the amount sought _ six times its annual gross national product _ would be “materially impossible and irrevocably harmful” to its economy.

Congo will give its oral response Tuesday to the tribunal, also known as the World Court. A verdict could take several months. The court has 15 permanent judges and two special judges, one each representing the litigants.

The case involves Guinean entrepreneur Ahmadou Sadio Diallo, who moved to Congo in 1964, the year before Mobutu seized power, and set up Africom-Zaire and Africacontainers to trade and ship oil and minerals.

Owed millions of dollars (euros) in arrears from several companies, Diallo won a court decision in 1995 against Zaire Shell. Guinea charges that rather than pay, Zaire Shell teamed up with the other companies Diallo was suing _ Zaire Mobile, Zaire Fina and Gecamines _ to bribe Prime Minister Kengo Wa Dondo to expel him.

After 32 years in Congo, Diallo was deported in early 1996 as an illegal resident.

“The real reason for this absurd and arbitrary measure was simply a desire to get rid of Mr. Diallo,” and to protect the “untouchable” oil companies, Guinea said in its written application to the World Court.

Congo responded that Diallo had no right to claim damages because his own hands were not clean.

“For over 10 years, Diallo, like nearly all foreign investors throughout the Congo’s long sad history, corroborated with an illegitimate government in order to profit from the people and the natural resources of the region,” Congo said.

The International Court of Justice, the U.N.’s highest judicial body, only hears disputes between states, not criminal cases against individuals.

Guinea says it is acting as Diallo’s “protector,” and that the nation “suffered injury as a result of injustice and inhuman and degrading treatment inflicted upon its national.”

Copyright 2006 Associated Press

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