Despite multiple accusations that the Colombian branch of Anglo-French oil company Perenco funded paramilitary organization AUC, the company is only investigated for the alleged bribing of government officials, newspaper El Espectador reported Sunday.
Apart from the alleged paramilitary funding, the oil company has come under increasing pressure by locals and its workers’ union for an oil spill allegedly due to the company’s disregard of environmental protection procedures and the ongoing harassment of unionists.
According to newspaper El Espectador, five paramilitary commanders have testified before prosecutors that paramilitary groups in the Casanare department received cash and free fuel from Perenco.
Speaking before prosecutors in November 2011, former paramilitary commander Nelson Florentino Vargas testified that in Perenco monthly paid fugitive former AUC commander “Martin Llanos” tens of thousands of dollars and dozens of gallons of gasoline between 2001 and 2002.
“The gentlemen from this company met with Luis Eduardo Ramirez, alias [slain AUC] commander HK. They supported us with hundred monthly barrels of gasoline and contributed in cash between 50 and 100 million pesos (between $27 and $54 thousand),” Vargas’ testimony read.
The accusations made by Vargas were supported by “Don Mario,” who led the “Centauros Block,” a rival of Martin Llanos’ “Autodefensas Campesinas del casanare” in the eastern department.
According to Don Mario, who was arrested in April 2009, his paramilitary group received money from the multinational oil company between 2002 and the group’s demobilization in 2005 and also received fuel for the paramilitary group’s vehicles.
Other commanders of the Centauros block like “Jorge Pirata,” “Policia” and “Canguro” ratified Don Mario’s statements.
Despite the allegations, not one of the directors of the Anglo-French oil company have testified before authorities or are subject to a criminal investigation, the newspaper said.
Apart from the alleged funding of paramilitary groups, Perenco has also been accused of sponsoring oil authorities’ trips to Africa to verify allegedly fraudulent claims by competing oil company Montco that it was exploiting oil fields in the country of Gabon. Charges brought by the competitor has led to an investigation by the Prosecutor General’s Office, said El Espectador.
According to Casanare website “Prensa Libre Casanare,” an oil spill from one of Perenco’s pipelines caused major environmental damage for days last week, killing fish and wildlife. Locals told the website they detected and reported the oil spill and blamed the oil company of failing to monitor the pipeline.
Labor law violations
Earlier this month, labor union Sintraperenco sent a letter to Labor Minister Rafael Pardo to demand Perenco to comply to its workers’ labor rights, saying the oil company’s “anti-union policy” has led to the harassing of union leaders and members, disallowing workers to attend union meetings and illegally outsourcing work to disadvantage contract workers.