Coal giant Drummond “demands” NGO retract accusations it funded paramilitaries in Colombia

Posted on Jul 3 2014 - 5:33pm by Today News
(Photo: Drummond)

Dutch peace organization PAX must answer for “defamation, slander, and possibly criminal acts” after they accused American coal giant Drummond of financing paramilitary groups in the northern state of Cesar, the coal company said Thursday.

Drummond Ltd. along with Swiss multinational mining company Glencore were accused of financing paramilitary groups responsible for 2,600 homicides, massacres, forced displacement, and disappearances in the state of Cesar, as was detailed an investigative report released Monday by the NGO PAX.

MORE: Why Drummond and Glencore are accused of exporting Colombian blood coal

Drummond Ltd. Colombia released a 23-page response to the allegations made by PAX. According to the multinational, PAX’s report relied on the “convicted mass murderers who contradicted their own statements repeatedly.”

The mining giant brought to light several inconsistencies in the PAX report regarding the testimonies of several paramilitaries, but in all their statements, Drummond did not address the testimonies of victims, violence in the region, and how they managed to operate in paramilitary territory.

This latest response is an escalation just days after Drummond sent out their initial communiques denouncing the report.

MORE: Colombia’s biggest coal companies dodge specifics over “payment to armed groups” allegations

Discrediting testimonies

The main argument of Drummond is that the much of the report is based on testimony from former paramilitary commanders, who had a financial incentive to provide testimony to a lawyer pursuing legal action against Drummond.

According to court documents used in the cases Drummond vs. Collingsworth and Balcero vs. Drummond, the testimonies given were conflicting with the original statements made by the paramilitaries when they entered the justice system under the Justice and Peace Law.

That law dealt reduced sentences to demobilized paramilitaries in exchange for information useful to authorities.

Drummond makes the case that paramilitaries changed their testimonies to implicate the mining multinational after receiving financial incentives given by lawyer Terry Collingsworth to acquire beneficial statements from the paramilitaries in his case against Drummond

Drummond attempts to discredits the statements of the following people quoted in the PAX report:

  1. Jairo de Jesus Charris Castro – former security coordinator for Drummond subcontractors and convicted in the murder of two Drummond labor unionists
  2. Jhon Jairo Esquivel Cuadrado alias “El Tigre” – former army officer turned paramilitary and commander of the JAA paramilitary front from 1999-2000
  3. Alcides Mattos Tabares alias “Samario” – former chief of security for JAA paramilitary front that operated in the Cesar mining region
  4. Jose del Carmen Gelvez Albarracin alias “El Canoso” – former army intelligence officer working for Glencore subsidiary, Prodeco
  5. Libardo Duarte alias “Bam Bam” – close friend of AUC founder, Carlos Castaño and was responsible for security along Drummond railroad line
  6. Jaime Blanco Maya – owned food company contracted by Drummond and convicted in the murder of two Drummond labor unionists

During the deposition given by Charris Castro after he was arrested in 2008 for the murder of two union leaders, Charris said he had know knowledge of links between paramilitaries and the mining companies Drummond asserts that Charris began to change his story after meetings with Collingsworth and subsequent payments from his law firm to his wife, totaling over $38,000.

In 2010, El Tigre testifies to Colombia’s Prosecutor General that, “At no moment have I heard or have I had any knowledge that there have been links of [Drummond] with the self-defenses,” after he wrote a statement that PAX used speaking of his knowledge of links between paramilitaries and Drummond.

Regarding El Canoso, Drummond states in their press release that during his six testimonies under the Justice and Peace Law, he never mentioned links between paramilitary groups and mining companies. Coincidentally, a week after El Canoso gave a statement to Mr. Collingsworth, $2,084 was sent to El Canoso’s wife from Collingsworth’s lawfirm.

Two women contacts given by Libardo Duarte also received a total of $10,000 from Mr. Collingsworth law firm. Alias ‘Bam Bam also gave a description of the Drummond mine but the coal giant says his description of the mine does not match satellite imagery.

Jaime Blanco Maya gave Mr. Collingsworth a declaration in 2011 implicating Drummond in financing the AUC after his law firm reportedly discussed paying Blanco’s criminal legal fees worth up to $100,000. Drummond also highlighted several inconsistencies in the testimonies regarding the timeline of events and meetings.

Statements still valid: NGO, lawyer

The lawyer in the case, Terry Collingsworth was not available for comment on Thursday, but told Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper on Wednesday that, “Of course the accusations are false. We moved the families of three witnesses that were receiving death threats due to the fact that they were about to testify against Drummond. We extensively documented these threats.”

“Even if it should transpire that witnesses were paid by Mr Collingsworth, there is no reason for the witness statements not to be taken into account for the purpose of this report. That the witnesses were allegedly paid, whether or not to protect them and their families, does not, of course, mean that their testimonies are false,” says the PAX report.

PAX states in their reports that several of the paramilitaries told them that they were afraid to testify because the legal system could not protect them or their families. El Canoso survived an assassination attempt in prison for example.

The PAX report also claims that paramilitaries stayed silent on delicate issues such as mining companies’ support of paramilitary groups because the way in which such a revelation would be handled under the Justice and Peace Law was unclear.

23 pages, but still unanswered questions

The Drummond response to “The Dark Side of Coal” also fails to address the plethora of victim testimonies and the situation on the ground in Cesar.

In addition, Drummond has yet to respond Colombia Report questions regarding the employment of men linked with paramilitaries, how they responded and benefited to and from displacement and massacres in the vicinity of the mines, and how they managed to operate unimpeded in a region with high paramilitary activity.

Sources

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