French Wine Giant, Castel Group Linked to Funding Militia in C.A.R

French Wine Giant, Castel Group Linked to Funding Militia in CAR (News Central TV)

A US graft watchdog, The Sentry’s investigations has accused a subsidiary of French’s largest wine producer, Castel Group of negotiating with a violent militia group in the Central African Republic to have its sugar operations and market shares in the country protected.

According to ‘The Sentry’, SUCAF RCA negotiated a security arrangement with the Union for Peace (UPC), one of Central African Republic’s largest militia groups to have its factory and sugar cane fields protected and to ensure free movement on key roads necessary for the provision of supplies in late 2014.

This was allegedly at a time when the country was at the height of political and security unrest following renewed violence in the CAR.

The report indicated that the company’s financial support to UPC lasted till March 2021.

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The United Nations (UN) has in the past linked UPC militias to mass atrocities that may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity since their inception in late 2014.

These include mass killings, abductions, torture, child soldier recruitment, and sexual and gender-based violence.

According to notes from UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, the UPC was also responsible for a brutal attack on a camp of 18,000 displaced people in the town of Alindao that resulted in the massacre of over 112 civilians, most of them women and children in November 2018.

The Sentry report indicates that UPC’s self-proclaimed General Ali Darassa and his confidant at the time of the Alindao attack, Hassan Bouba, who is the current Minister of Livestock and Animal Health should be held responsible for the massacre and were the primary beneficiaries of the financial agreement with SUCAF RCA.

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Payments made by the sugar company to the two UPC leaders account for a total of about $258,000 in over five years, as calculated by The Sentry.

The future of the deal, however, remains uncertain due to the deployment of governmental and Russian forces in territories formerly controlled by the UPC.

The Sentry Co-Founder, John Prendergast has therefore called for investigations into companies operating in CAR’s sugar sector for any complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity that they may have committed.

In its response, Castel Group announced it will launch an immediate investigation in response to the report.

Castel Group, a family-owned food and beverage empire with some 240 subsidiaries in 50 countries ranks as the third-largest wine producer globally, second-largest brewer in Africa and a major bottling partner for Coca-Cola in Africa.


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