(Ottawa/Toronto) Four years ago, nine Canadian organizations filed a complaint requesting that the RCMP investigate Blackfire Exploration and its Mexican subsidiary for bribery of a foreign public official under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (‘the Act’). Today, the groups have reiterated their demand that charges be laid against Blackfire and its senior officials.
Documentation sent on March 10, 2010, demonstrated that Blackfire made payments totaling at least CDN $20,000 to Julio César Velásquez Calderón, then mayor of the municipality of Chicomuselo in the State of Chiapas, Mexico. The company operated an open-pit barite mine in Chicomuselo from 2007 to 2009, when it was closed on environmental grounds mere weeks after the murder of community activist Mariano Abarca in late November 2009.
In July 2011, the Canadian organizations welcomed news that the RCMP had raided the offices of Blackfire Exploration, investigating the allegation that Blackfire had paid mayor Calderón to “keep the peace and prevent local members of the community from taking up arms” against Blackfire’s operation. But there has been no public movement on the investigation since then.
Overall, there have been relatively few prosecutions and convictions under the Act. The August, 2013, Ontario Superior Court of Justice conviction of former business executive Nazir Karigar was the first case under the Act to actually go to trial.
In 2011, the OECD criticized Canada’s enforcement of the Act, and while commending increased RCMP investigation efforts, said that Canada “must urgently boost efforts to prosecute.”
“The Karigar case relied almost entirely on documentary evidence, without requiring evidence from the foreign government or corporate decision makers,” observes United Steelworkers lawyer Mark Rowlinson, adding, “This considerably lessens the legal hurdles to such prosecutions.”
Rowlinson adds, “The Karigar case also establishes that jurisdiction should not prevent prosecution, and that it is only necessary to establish conspiracy to commit bribery, rather than proof the bribe was offered or paid – even though that’s something we actually have in this case.”
The Act was amended in June, 2013, to extend its jurisdictional reach and make it easier for Canadian authorities to launch prosecutions regardless of where the alleged bribery took place, among other things.
Based on these observations, the Canadian organizations consider that there is sufficient jurisdiction and more than enough circumstantial and documentary evidence against Blackfire and its senior officials to lay charges under the Act, and urge the RCMP and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada to proceed as expeditiously as possible.
For more information:
- Mark Rowlinson, United Steelworkers, mrowlinson(at)usw.ca, (416) 544-5952
- Jen Moore, Latin America Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, jen(at)miningwatch.ca, 613-569-3439
- Raul Burbano, Program Director, Common Frontiers – Canada, burbano(at)rogers.com, (416) 522-8615
- Stuart Trew, Trade Campaigner, Council of Canadians, strew(at)canadians.org, (416) 979-0451