Press Release: Two Cameroonian NGOs File a Complaint in the United States against SGSOC/Herakles Farms for Corruption

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Yaoundé - June 13, 2013: Today the Center for Environment and Development (CED) and The Network to Fight Against Hunger (RELUFA), two Cameroonian NGOs, filed a complaint with the American Government via its OECD National Contact Point concerning allegations of corruption in SGSOC’s—an affiliate of the American company Herakles Farms—proposed 73,000 Ha palm oil plantation in South West Cameroon. The organizations are calling for an investigation to be opened urgently.

Numerous acts of corruption directly involving SGSOC employees have come to light in the past few months. A report by the Cameroonian Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife and a program of the German Technical Cooperation called the “Program for the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources” observes:

The [fact-finding] team has collected during its fact finding mission in 20 villages a lot of information showing the way SGSOC is operating. The negotiation [for land] is done with lot of intimidation and bribery, targeting the chiefs and some few influential decision - making members of the communities.

Additionally, the French newspaper Le Monde reported further details of corruption in its May 23rd edition:

In an interview, a high-level civil servant in the Cameroonian Ministry of Lands also says that he was promised employment for his relatives by Hamilton James, the Operational Director of Herakles Farms in Cameroon.

Finally, a report by Oakland Institute and Greenpeace International published in May 2013 reveals serious allegations of corruption:

The Oakland Institute and Greenpeace International have evidence that suggests that Herakles Farms’ employees have used bribery, cash gifts, and promises of employment to win support for its project in Cameroon.

When asked about this issue, a Herakles Farms employee responded: “Of course envelopes were distributed […] that’s how you facilitate your way.” The employee added that the former Herakles Farms Plantation Director “distributed a good number of envelopes and huge sums of money.”

Information containing similar allegations of corruption involving other Herakles Farms employees, including expatriate staff, has been provided to the Oakland Institute and Greenpeace International.

These allegations are very worrisome and could lead to judicial action, which will have consequences for SGSOC’s future in Cameroon. The company has never responded to allegations of corruption. This formal complaint filed with the American Government targets the opening of an official investigation to understand the truth. CED and RELUFA have also filed a complaint with the CONAC—Cameroon’s National Anti-Corruption Agency.

Samuel Nguiffo, Executive Director of CED, “we are not against palm oil development, nor are we against foreign investors who are welcome in our country. But it is important to attract viable investors that respect the rules of the game; not investors that try to perpetuate bad governance in our country which tarnishes Cameroon’s image and limits our ability to attract serious investors.”

Jaff Bamenjo, RELUFA coordinator, proclaimed, “Cameroon must have a zero tolerance policy for corruption in the private sector; by letting these acts go unpunished it gives the unfortunate impression that the government approves of them.”

 

Download the complaint

En francais

 

For additional information, contact:

1. Jaff Napoleon BAMENJO, RELUFA [email protected]; +237 99 20 73 92

2. Samuel NGUIFFO, CED [email protected]; +237 99 95 28 49