Investing in companies with complex ownership is not unusual for the IFC. A recent report by Oxfam found that 84 percent of the IFC’s investments in sub-Saharan Africa in 2015 used “secrecy” jurisdictions.
But the roots of the New Liberty Gold project stretch back before 1995, when a resource extraction license was issued by former warlord turned president Charles Taylor to a mysterious company called KAFCO.
The permit changed hands a few times and, today, Avesoro holds its permit via a wholly-owned subsidiary, Bea Mountain Mining Corp – a company created in 1996 by Keikurah B. Kpoto, one of Taylor’s closest associates.
The exploitation of Liberia’s gold and diamonds allowed Taylor, convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in 2012 and now serving a 50-year prison sentence in the UK, to fund his war effort.
In 1998, foreign interests bought Bea Mountain Mining. The beneficiaries of the sale were well hidden. According to a document IRIN procured, three quarters of its capital belonged to a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. The rest was held by owners of bearer shares.
Bearer shares are the vehicles of choice for the corrupt because they are owned by whoever holds the paper certificates, just like cash. There is no trace of their owner in company records and they can easily become covert payments for pretty much anything.
The World Bank nevertheless wrote that it had undertaken due diligence on New Liberty Gold, an investigation that included “desktop reviews, several meetings with Aureus management and a site visit”.
Over the past decade, the IFC has spent more than $200 million on projects like New Liberty Gold. It has a seemingly unshakable faith that commercial mining can deliver development that will trickle down to communities like Kinjor.
As for Siah: Her last-born is now buried. If she once believed the promises of New Liberty Gold, that is certainly no longer the case. “The company is doing nothing for us,” she told IRIN. “If the company had built a hospital here, [his death] would not have happened.”
(This investigative report is being jointly published by 100Reporters, IRIN and Le Monde Afrique. 100Reporters is an award-winning investigative news organisation based in Washington, DC. Its objective is to reveal untold stories on corruption, transparency and accountability. IRIN delivers unique, authoritative and independent reporting from the front lines of crises to inspire and produce a more effective humanitarian response. Le Monde Afrique is a pan-African francophone media for news, reporting, analysis and debates.)
– The mainroad of new Kinjor
– Yarpawolo Gblan sitting in front of his “temporary house”
– Unfinished “new houses”
– A child’s hand after the chemical spill
– Left to right: Tambakai Jangaba, Taylor, Foday Sankoh (leader of the Sierra Leonean rebel RUF), and Kpoto