How Glencore made its money

From an excellent new article in Foreign Affairs, by Ken Silverstein. It concerns the commodity trading giant Glencore, which Reuters once called “the biggest company you never heard of,” and which went public in May 2011.

“What the IPO filing did not make clear was just how Glencore, founded four decades ago by Marc Rich, a defiant friend of dictators and spies who later became one of the world’s richest fugitives, achieved this kind of global dominance.” 

Glencore's global footprint.

Glencore’s global footprint.

The answer is, the article reveals, “at once simpler and far more complicated than it appears.”

“Like all traders, Glencore makes its money at the margins, but Glencore, even more so than its competitors, profits by working in the globe’s most marginal business regions and often, investigators have found, at the margins of what is legal.

This means operating in countries where many multinationals fear to tread; building walls made of shell corporations, complex partnerships, and offshore accounts to obscure transactions; and working with shady intermediaries who help the company gain access to resources and curry favor with the corrupt, resource-rich regimes that have made Glencore so fabulously wealthy.”

Just our kind of subject, really. And how about this for a quote of the day?

“We’re all bandits here,” one of the men told me when I asked what made Switzerland such an attractive base for traders. “You can be accepted as long as you bring a lot of money.”

Now read on.

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About The Author

Nicholas Shaxson is a journalist and writer on the staff of Tax Justice Network. He is author of the book Poisoned Wells about the oil industry in Africa, published in 2007, and the more recent Treasure Islands: Tax havens and the Men who Stole the World, published by Random House in January 2011. He lives in Berlin
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One thought on “How Glencore made its money

  1. Source:

    Glencore tax avoidance strategies – 2015-05-14

    Introduction of Glencore about worldwide strategies you can see in this BBC-documentary:
    BBC – 2012 – Why poverty – 3 of 8 – Stealing Africa.avi or Youtube:
    (for some reason Glencore is not mentioned on the title and it’s about Zambia copper mine abusive businesses).



    Stealing Africa

    Why Poverty? Episode 3 of 8

    Ruschlikon is a village in Switzerland with a very low tax rate and very wealthy residents. There is so much money in the public coffers that mayor can’t spend it all, largely thanks to the contribution from one resident – Ivan Glasenberg, CEO of commodities giant Glencore. However, Glencore’s copper mines in Zambia don’t generate similar tax windfalls for Zambians. The country has the third largest copper reserves in the world, but 60 per cent of the population live on less than $1 a day and 80 per cent are unemployed. Christoffer Guldbrandsen investigates the dark heart of the tax system employed by multi-nationals and asks how much profit is fair.

    A BBC Storyville film, produced in partnership with the Open University, Stealing Africa screens as part of Why Poverty? – when the BBC, in conjunction with more than 70 broadcasters around the world, hosts a debate about contemporary poverty. The global cross-media event sees the same eight films screened in 180 countries to explore why, in the 21st Century, a billion people still live in poverty.


    Glencore (a Swiss company) tax avoidance strategies (=fully unsustainable and unethical conduct).
    Hope that someone will find data of the company activities in recently leaked banking data.

    This “low profile” (=highly secretive) company is a master using “large scale highly sofisticate” tax avoidance and “transfer price schemes).

    Ivan Glasenberg a former CEO of Glencore has also “partnered with a well know already past “tax fugitive” Marc Rich to contribute on those “avoidance schemes”.


    The tax evasion schemes are estimated on billions on US$ … not millions!

    Unfortunately I don’t have information about how many Swiss banks and “tax heaven are involved on Glencore “avoidance schemes”. In my personal opinion the Glencore business ethic belong to “reckless financial abuse of poor countries” where they are doing business! Does Australia will be the next “tax victim”?

    And my question is: Why this “corporate” has still a business license?

    And not to forget that they are plenty of global corporate playing these tax avoidance schemes!

    It’s also worldwide the time for all tax authorities to have a close and deep look about these schemes.

    This issue will be also a BIG HEADACHE to the Swiss legislators and banking regulators.

    Mario Hakulinen
    Wordl citizen
    Fuzhou, Fujian, South-China

    Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes

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