French Winemaker Accused of Using CAR Militia as Security

A unit of French winemaker Groupe Castel faces a probe by anti-terrorism prosecutors over allegations it made a pact with a militia group linked to “mass atrocities” in the Central African Republic.

The company said on Friday that it will “fully cooperate” with French authorities after the probe was announced by The Sentry, an anti-corruption NGO founded by actor George Clooney and activist John Prendergast.

The Sentry released a report in August that said a unit of the French beverage maker aided militia in the country in exchange for the security of its sugar assets there. In late 2014, African Sugar Refinery of the Central African Republic, a unit of Paris-based agro-food company Somdiaa, in which Castel is a significant shareholder, allegedly negotiated a security arrangement with an armed group, according to The Sentry’s 28-page investigation.

Castel conducted its own inquiry into the sugar-producing unit and concluded that “no material elements or information corroborated The Sentry’s allegations,” a spokesman for the company said in an emailed reply to questions.

The internal probe included conducting interviews, traveling to the country, and analyzing “a large amount of documents,” the spokesman said.

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