DRC court suspends hearing on Glencore share dispute
Kinshasa — A court in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) suspended a hearing about a lawsuit brought by a former shareholder of a Glencore-owned cobalt and copper mine.
The case was put on hold pending a decision by the Court of Appeal on whether the high court should have jurisdiction over the case, Judge Roger Songambele said on Monday in the capital, Kinshasa.
Congolese-US businessman Charles Brown, a founding shareholder of Glencore’s Mutanda Mining Sarl, has accused Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg and two other people of arranging the fraudulent sale of his shares to the Swiss firm and is demanding $1.14bn in compensation and damages.
Glasenberg, Aristotelis Mistakidis, head of Glencore’s copper trading business, as well as former Mutanda shareholder Alex Hayssam Hamze, did not attend Monday’s hearing.
Glencore declined to comment on Monday, but in June said Brown’s allegations were "vexatious and baseless" and "have been rejected on numerous occasions by various courts in the DRC".
Hamze has denied the allegations. In 2006-13, Brown repeatedly tried and failed to enforce his claims against Hamze and Glencore.
Lawyers representing Hamze challenged the high court’s jurisdiction to hear the case on June 12 and a Court of Appeal in Kinshasa has fixed the hearing for July 10.
There is "serious reason to fear the partiality of the judges", Hamze’s counsel had argued on June 12, according to court filings, noting that one of Brown’s lawyers was "a well-known political personality".
The law firm of Tharcisse Matadiwamba, a legislator in the governing coalition of President Joseph Kabila, is part of Brown’s legal team. Norbert Nkulu stopped working for Brown in May, when Kabila nominated him to the Constitutional Court.
Glasenberg and Mistakidis are represented by a law firm belonging to Azarias Ruberwa, the minister of decentralisation and the vice-president from 2003 to 2006.
The Court of Appeal’s decision will determine whether the case returns to the same high court, or is sent elsewhere.
"It changes nothing," Camille Kos’isaka, one of Brown’s lawyers, said. "We can go anywhere. They are delaying."
Before suspending the hearing, Songambele rejected arguments by the counsels of Glasenberg, Mistakidis and Hamze that their clients had not been properly summoned to Monday’s hearing.
Glasenberg "has a case here and he can no longer contest it", Kos’isaka said. "Today his lawyers came to represent Glasenberg. He can no longer do it the same way."
Until June, Glencore was fighting three lawsuits in the DRC that called into question the commodity trader’s control of its prized copper and cobalt mines.
Two lawsuits were resolved in June.