Index for January 2020

Volume 19, Issue 1

  • (Guardian, Luanda, 20 January 2020) Until the summer of 2013, Areia Branca, a fishing village just outside Luanda, the capital of Angola, was home to a thriving fishing community of 3,000 families. Now there is no trace of their houses, only sand, a pile of gravel, egrets, a bulldozer and a police post, bulldozed to make way for the Marginal da Corimba project, a multibillion-dollar real estate and highway development along Luanda’s coastline led by Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Angola’s former president José Eduardo dos Santos. The Luanda Leaks investigation based on a huge cache of financial records belonging to dos Santos, Africa's richest woman, suggest her company stood to benefit from redevelopment of the vacated land. Many of Areia Branca’s former residents have moved to the other side of the lagoon, packed on to a tiny patch of land, known as Povoado. Previously a waste dump through which two sewage channels flowed, it has become home to 500 families sharing tiny shacks made of corrugated tin. Children play among piles of rotting rubbish. Infectious diseases – malaria, tuberculosis, meningitis – are rife. Documents released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists suggest dos Santos’ Urbinveste received at least $12 million from the Angolan government for work on the project. British architects Broadway Malyan and Dutch dredging company Van Oord claim not to have been aware of the forced evictions on behalf of the dos Santos real estate and construction company Urbinveste. Following revelations in the Dutch business press, a Both ENDS opinion piece in the Dutch business newspaper FD notes that the official export credit insurer Atradius DSB has not complied with OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. It appears that the Dutch ECA failed to do sufficient due diligence on environmental and human rights impacts and bribery risks before issuing an insurance to facilitate Van Oord and the Dutch ING bank's involvement in this project.

  • (Energy Live News, London, 24 January 2020) UKEF is financing fossil fuel projects overseas that are estimated to emit around 69 million tonnes of greenhouse gases every year, according to a new investigation by BBC Newsnight and Greenpeace. Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently announced the government will put an immediate end to using taxpayers’ money to support coal mining and coal-fired power stations in developing countries. The investigation found that no coal plants have been financed since 2012 but all the fossil fuel projects supported by UKEF which are oil and gas-related will emit the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions from 17 coal plants. A report from the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) last year found 96% of UKEF’s energy investment between 2013 and 2017 went to fossil fuel projects – a fifth of all its investments. The Catholic charity CAFOD pointed to the fact that Johnson said the UK was still going to help countries with oil and gas production, not phase out all forms of public support for fossil fuels overseas

  • (Reuters, London, 28 January 2020) Airbus faces a record $4 billion fine and lower 2019 profits after unveiling a preliminary deal with French, British and U.S. authorities following a crippling three-year probe into allegations of bribery and corruption over jetliner sales. The European planemaker has been investigated by French and British authorities for suspected corruption over jet sales dating back over a decade. It has also faced U.S. investigations over suspected violations of export controls. British and French investigations began after Airbus alerted regulators to misleading and incomplete declarations it had made to Britain’s export credit agency over payments to sales agents. “To my knowledge, an approximate $4 billion global settlement amount would be the largest global bribery settlement amount in history,” said bribery law expert Mike Koehler, a professor at Southern Illinois University School of Law. Airbus has fired more than 100 people over ethics and compliance issues as a result of its own probe into the allegations, which widened to other divisions. But the internal probe led to anger within the Franco-German firm and its jet sales teams who denied any influence over the tightly controlled agent system, which political sources have described as part of a wider French influence network abroad. It also threatened to reopen Franco-German tensions over Airbus as French sources complained the row diverted attention from a separate probe into fighter jet dealings with Austria, partially overseen by German-born Tom Enders who later served as chief executive. Enders has denied any wrongdoing. A further German probe into potential misuse of client documents is ongoing.

  • (World Economic Forum, Geneva, 3 January 2020) To continue financing fossil fuel expansion is today’s equivalent of betting the bank - and the global economy - on subprime mortgage-backed securities over a decade ago; it is fuelling a crisis that, even if it generates short-term profit, will inevitably cause economic catastrophe alongside the climate emergency. Since the Paris Agreement was signed, 33 major global banks have collectively poured $1.9 trillion into fossil fuels. To avoid any misinterpretation, governments should provide central banks with an explicit mandate to extend their horizon on financial stability to fully encompass climate risk and to be a force for decarbonization. Reporting under the Task Force for Climate Related Financial Disclosure should be mandatory. Governments should end supply-side subsidies and export credit financing for fossil fuels and incentivise investment in renewable energy.

  • (iPolitics, Ottawa, 22 January 2020) A report from Public Accounts of Canada for the 2018-19 fiscal year contains a line item for $196,010,248 that was written off from Export Development Canada’s (EDC) Canada Account, which offers financing for higher-risk projects and sales that the international trade minister deems is in best interest of the country. Guillaume Bérubé, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada refused to disclose to iPolitics what the item was, but said the decision to write-off the amount was made on recommendation that it was in the “best interests of Canada and Canadians.” In an April 2018 report he federal auditor general said Export Development Canada has significant problems when it comes to risk management because it hasn’t kept up with evolving industry practices.

  • (ProShare, Lagos, 5 January 2020) According to the Islamic Financial Industry Stability Report, the current global size of the market is $2.19trn,  which attests to a remarkable growth post-2008 financial crisis. Malaysia is currently the leading hub for Islamic Finance globally. At the end of 2017, it continued to be the main driver for both Sukuk outstanding and issuance for the year, with a global market share of 51% and 36.2% respectively, according to the Malaysian Reserve Bank report. Africa's market size for Islamic Finance as of 2011 was $18bn, while the potential for Nigeria since then is over $17bn. Nigeria and Africa are the new frontiers for the growth of Islamic Finance globally. The apex regulator of Nigeria's capital market, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) restated its commitment in 2019 to provide the regulatory framework that will support the growth and development of the non-interest finance market.

  • (The Nation, Lagos, 20 January 2020) The Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) has appointed one of Japan’s leading banks and the core unit of Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group – Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) and one of Nigeria’s leading banks – Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, as financial advisers for the Train 7 LNG processing project estimated to cost between $10 billion and $12 billion. The Train 7 project will be financed partly from NLNG balance sheet and partly through third party corporate loans from Export Credit Agencies and a number of key International and local banks. Discussions on these financial deals are ongoing. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Train 7 is expected to be completed within five years from start of construction. On completion, it will increase the company’s production capacity at its plant on Bonny Island, Finima, Rivers State from 22 million metric tonnes to 30 million metric tonnes per annum. Nigeria LNG is owned by four shareholders – the Federal Government represented by NNPC (49 per cent); Shell (25.6 per cent); Total Gaz Electricite Holdings France (15 per cent) and Eni International N.A. N.V. S.àr.l (10.4 per cent).

  • (EurasiaNet, New York, 14 January 2020) Turkmenistan's state media reported that the president had signed a decree authorizing the State Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs to conclude a loan with the Saudi Development Fund for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India, or TAPI, pipeline. This is only the latest offer of assistance from Riyadh. Documents seen by Eurasianet reveal that the Saudi-backed Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit, or ICIEC, has committed to $500 million in financing for the project. The ICIEC is a member of the Saudi-led investment fund, the Islamic Development Bank, or IDB, which has offered as much as $1 billion in financing for TAPI. Even all this Saudi money may not be sufficient to cover the ultimate cost of TAPI, which has been estimated at anywhere between $7.5 billion and $10 billion. The security situation along TAPI’s route is not the only thing spooking lenders. Turkmenistan’s endemic nepotism and corruption is also a disincentive.

  • (New Kerala, New Delhi, 5 January 2020) After unearthing firms that made fake export credit claims, India's Department of Revenue has asked the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) to seek regular compliance and verification reports from regulators. India refunds Integrated Goods and Services Tax paid by "star exporters" (exports of more than $3 million per year) as a form of export subsidy. Ongoing investigations have thrown up at least 9 star export houses as 'non-traceable' at their premises declared on record. All these star export houses have availed IGST refunds, which are now being questioned by tax officers. There are instances where an exporter with over Rs 50 crore of exports of readymade garments has taken refund of Rs 3.90 crore while the entity's total GST payment in cash was a mere Rs 1,650. The Revenue Department has identified several star-rated export houses that are bogus or shell export houses claiming fake refunds. Alarmed at the misuse of IGST refunds, the CBIC has requested to DGFT to install a more robust accreditation process. Meanwhile,  India's Commerce and Industry Minister recently announced that the scheme for providing export credit at low interest rates announced in September last year are being firmed up and would be implemented soon.

  • Translation of the original piece in Dutch found at the above link.

    Opinion | Daniëlle Hirsch is director of Both ENDS

    This week it came to light in the Dutch newspapers FD and Trouw that the Dutch offshore company Van Oord, ING and the Dutch export credit insurer Atradius Dutch State Business (ADSB) are involved in human rights violations and large-scale corruption in Angola. A crucial role is reserved for ADSB, which, on behalf of the Dutch state, insured the activities of Van Oord in Angola against financial risks.

    Purely because ADSB covers the risks of projects such as in Luanda, banks such as ING are stepping into these types of risky companies: Without the services of ADSB they will not come about. Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra and Minister of Foreign Trade Sigrid Kaag must highlight the dubious role of ADSB in Dutch trade policy and call the company to account.

    ADSB itself must investigate the history and possible impact on people and the environment on site, before insuring high-risk projects. The export credit insurer does too little to prevent Dutch companies from becoming involved in corruption and human rights violations.

    We also see this in a project in the Suape port in Brazil, where ADSB provided credit insurance - also to Van Oord. Dredging caused environmental damage and people, just like in Angola, were driven out of their homes.

    It appears that ADSB has not had contact with the affected communities in Luanda. In general, the company is happy to leave talking to fishermen, farmers or city dwellers to its client, in this case Van Oord, which only has to prove on paper that it has looked at possible environmental and human rights effects. If afterwards something turns out to be wrong, then all responsibility for this lies with the customer and in the most extreme case the insurance is withdrawn. In this way ADSB remains a driver of foreign deals, but it is never to blame. This does not comply with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which it expects its customers to comply with.

    The crucial role of ADSB in export policy and the responsibility that the Dutch state has in this regard receive no attention from the press, the public and the House of Representatives, while this is necessary.

    Daniëlle Hirsch is director at the environmental and human rights organization Both ENDS