Panama Papers trail offers hope to West African villagers seeking compensation

Families in one of Africa’s poorest countries hope documents from the Panama Papers will force a foreign-owned company to compensate them for alleged pollution, forced removal, health complaints and human rights violations.

Attorneys representing 83 poor households from Sierra Leone’s eastern Kono district appeared before the High Court last week in a groundbreaking case that seeks damages from a diamond mining company that is part of Israeli billionaire Benjamin Steinmetz’s BSG Resources.

Villagers allege that Koidu Ltd. has been complicit in polluting air and well water, destroying crops and homes and provoking violence. Police have killed four villagers and injured others during anti-mine protests since operations began in 2007.

In witness statements obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, details of the alleged suffering are outlined.