George Arthur Forrest
|George Arthur Forrest|
Élisabethville, Belgian Congo (now Lubumbashi, Katanga, DRC)
|Known for||Owner of Forrest Group|
George Arthur Forrest (born 1940) is a Belgian entrepreneur, owner of the Forrest Group (Groupe Forrest), a group of companies founded in the Belgian Congo in 1922 and active in civil engineering and mining. He has been described as an "exploiter and despoiler of natural resources" and as a philanthropic employer.
George Arthur Forrest was born in 1940 in Lubumbashi in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He was the son of an Irish immigrant. His father, Malta Forrest, had founded l'Entreprise Générale Malta Forrest (EGMF) in 1922 in Katanga Province in the south of the Belgian Congo. The company started as a transport company, then moved into mining and then into civil engineering. In 1968 it became a limited liability company, with George Forrest and his adoptive brother Victor Eskenazi-Forrest as Managing Directors. In 1986 George Forrest took full control. He created the George Forrest International Group in 1995.
In the early 2000s his company acquired several major cement production facilities, which should benefit from construction demand with the end of the Second Congo War in 2003. Forrest's DRC operations grew to include 9,500 direct employees and 15,000 subcontractors. Forrest is a sponsor of Dialogues, a non-profit association that promotes the visual arts in Lubumbashi and supports the city’s museum. He also owns the Grelka Biano Ranch, with 30,000 head of cattle and 800 local employees.
In December 2001 the United Nations asked a panel of experts to investigate the illegal exploitation of natural resources and other forms of wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The panel's report was issued in October 2002. In it they said George Forrest had long-standing ties to the establishment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and described him as a member of the elite network of Congolese and Zimbabwean political, military and commercial interests. The report noted that since 1994 he had owned 100% of the Belgian company New Lachaussée, a major manufacturer of cartridge casings, grenades, light weapons and cannon launchers.
The UN report alleged that Forrest pioneered exploitative joint ventures between private companies and the state-owned Gécamines mining company. He was appointed Chairman of Gécamines from November 1999 to August 2001. At the same time, his private companies negotiated new contracts with Gécamines and Forrest built up the largest mining portfolio in the DRC. The UN report said that Forrest had "strong backing from some political quarters in Belgium where some of his companies are based". On the other hand, it pointed out that his activities had been subject to strong criticism, including an investigation into DRC resource exploitation by the Belgian Senate.
In November 2008 one of Forrest's companies tried to buy Forsys Metals, a Canadian company with rights to a uranium lease in Namibia, for CDN$579m. The deal foundered in September 2009. Forrest had not been able to find financial backers that would be acceptable to the Canadian Federal government. There was speculation that Forrest had looked for funding to South Korea, or possibly Iran or North Korea. In January 2011 Wikileaks released U.S. diplomatic cables that said Washington and Ottawa were concerned that Forrest might sell the uranium to Iran, which was looking for nuclear fuel, and therefore blocked the deal.
In December 2010 Wikileaks published cables that they alleged showed that US officials were ignoring reports of dangerously high levels of radiation at Forrest's Luiswishi Mine, and implied that uranium was being separated from the ore which purportedly held only copper and cobalt. Groupe Forrest International refuted these rumors, saying that although uranium was present in the copper and cobalt ore from the mine, it was at far too low a grade to be exploited, and radioactivity in the Luiswishi mine was largely lower than the European standards.
- "Company's Background". George Forrest International. Retrieved 2011-11-15.
- The Global Cement Report. Tradeship Publications Ltd. 2005. p. 110.
- "George Forrest: Unconditional Love for DRC". Forbes Custom. Retrieved 2011-11-15.
- "Background history". Entreprise Générale Malta Forrest. Retrieved 2011-11-15.
- "Final report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo". United Nations Security Council. 8 October 2002. Retrieved 2011-11-15.
- Liezel Hill (17 November 2008). "George Forrest International offers C$579m for Forsys". Mining Weekly. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- "Forrest Group International". From Money to Metal. 30 September 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- CAMPBELL CLARK (Jan 17, 2011). "Nuclear worries behind failed Forsys deal: WikiLeaks". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- Julio Godoy (26 December 2010). "Wikileaks - Continent Offers Easy Uranium". IPS. Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- "Wikileaks "Recent Allegations of Uranium Trafficking in the Democratic Republic of Congo"". GROUPE FORREST INTERNATIONAL. December 20, 2010. Retrieved 2011-11-12.