Civil Society Groups Demand Accountability for Apartheid Profiteers: can financial giants be held to account?

Open Secrets to hold European Banks accountable for Apartheid era economic crimes using international accountability frameworks.

Accountability for Apartheid-Era Economic Crimes: New Initiatives to Hold European Banks To Account
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(c) Apartheid Guns and Money, 2017 - Hennie van Vuuren. Graphics by

Civil Society Groups Demand Accountability for Apartheid Profiteers: can financial giants be held to account?

On the 24th and 27th of April, the HBF offices in Brussels and Paris respectively will host Open Secrets (OS) and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), two South African non-governmental organisations working on corporate accountability and human rights, for a briefing about their new legal action aiming to hold European Banks accountable for their facilitation of apartheid era economic crimes. 

The two organisations will discuss their submission of a complaint to the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Belgium and Luxembourg National Contact Points (NCPs) against Kredietbank Luxembourg (KBL) and Belgium’s KBC Group. The complaint, to be launched in the same week that South Africa commemorates 24 years of freedom, is based on new evidence that shows that the two European banks were at the centre of the apartheid era international arms money laundering machinery. For nearly two decades, Belgium’s Kredietbank and its subsidiary in Luxembourg (KBL) were responsible for facilitating up to 70% of all illegal arms transactions that allowed the apartheid government to secretly buy weapons despite mandatory UN arms sanctions.

These and other banks have never been held accountable for what a leading international bribery expert describes as ‘one of the most important global money-laundering schemes ever. Now, Open Secrets in partnership with CALS are bringing the fight for accountability for South Africa’s historic economic crimes to Europe using international accountability frameworks. The complaint against the two major banks will be launched in terms of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

The conduct of these banks exemplifies impunity amongst private actors who collaborated with the apartheid regime. It also shines a spotlight on similar contemporary practices involving major financial institutions that continue to undermine human rights across the globe. 

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) provides one of the few international mechanisms available to hold businesses accountable for their role in human rights abuses. The OECD has various contact points in member countries that are responsible for ensuring that multinational enterprises operating in their jurisdictions comply with the business operations and accountability standards set out in the OECD Guidelines. Open Secrets and CALS will be laying the OECD complaint at the banks’ doorstep by approaching the Belgium and Luxembourg National Contact Points.
As a courtesy, both banks also be served a physical copy of the complaint.

Details of European activities 
Representatives from both Open Secrets and CALS will be in Europe to launch the OECD complaint and hold media briefings on the following dates:

Tues, 24 April: 
12.30 to 14.00 - Briefing: Heinrich Böll Stiftung - EU, 15 Rue d’Arlon, Brussels 
15:00 - Delivery: KBC Bank, Havenlaan 2, Molenbreek Saint-Jean, Brussels

Thurs, 26 April: 
12.00 - Delivery: Luxembourg OECD National Contact Point, 19-21 Boulevard Royal, Luxembourg 
13.00 - Delivery: KBL Bank, 43 Boulevard Royal, Luxembourg

Fri, 27 April:  
10.00 to 12.00 - Briefing: Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Sis 80 Quai Jemmapes, Batiment F, Paris

Please join them on Twitter @OpenSecretsZA, @CALS_ZA, @OECD, @boell_eu, @boellfrance OR Facebook Open Secrets ZA, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung France or in person to witness this historical event. 

Open Secrets is an independent non-profit with a mission to promote private sector accountability for economic crime and related human rights violations in Southern Africa. Our vision is to promote the right to truth and contribute towards social justice by using research, advocacy and litigation to hold powerful private actors to account for violations of human rights. Read more about our work at
The Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) is a public interest law organisation based at the School of Law at the University of the Witwatersrand. Founded in 1978 by Professor John Dugard, CALS continues to use a combination of research, advocacy and litigation to advance human rights and social justice. Read more about our work at