(Bloomberg) — U.K. prosecutors have told Swiss authorities they have proof of an alleged money-laundering ring spanning from Africa to Europe that paid almost $380 million in cash bribes to authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Companies repeatedly bribed officials to further their business interests in the mineral-rich nation, according to the Swiss court judgment that cited information from U.K. prosecutors. Congo is Africa’s biggest producer of copper and supplies about 70% of the world’s cobalt, a critical input for the batteries that power electric vehicles.
The $379 million that was allegedly siphoned off in bribes over a five-year period is more than Congo’s total spending on health care last year.
According to the World Bank, about one of every six people living in extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa is in Congo, a country the size of Western Europe with a population of more than 90 million.
The evidence of alleged bribery was presented when an unidentified company tried to block the transfer of its banking records, which were requested in a U.K. investigation into allegedly corrupt mining deals in Congo and a related money-laundering network.
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