ERJ staff report (BC)
Ho Chi Minh City – The Vietnamese rubber tycoon accused by the campaigning and lobbying group Global Witness of being involved in a land grabbing crisis in Southeast Asia has rejected the accusations, reports Thanh Nien News.
Doan Nguyen Duc, the chairman of Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) Group, is said to have told Vietnamese media the information provided by London-based Global Witness in its report earlier this month was “total fabrication”.
In the “Rubber Barons” report Global Witness accused international investors including Deutsche Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – the private lending arm of the World Bank – of financing two of Vietnam’s biggest rubber companies, the privately-owned HAGL and the state-owned Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG), to acquire vast amounts of land for rubber plantations in Cambodia and Laos.
HAGL then released a statement confirming that the company's subsidiaries invested in rubber plantations in each country but the firm "denies seizing land, illegally exploiting wood and other corruption behaviours in Laos and Cambodia."
Duc, the HAGL chairman, is reported to have said in an interview with Kien Thuc news website that HAGL Group’s subsidiaries doing business in Laos and Cambodia comply with the countries’ laws, including forest protection rules.
“There is no way HAGL has left local people impoverished since we have paid tax and created stable jobs for more than 10,000 people,” he is reported to have said.
In a statement to Radio Australia, Deutsche Bank rejected Global Witness's claims that it was financing the Vietnamese firms, stating that it had merely provided clerical trustee services to HAGL.
In a written response to Global Witness, the IFC confirmed its shares in HAGL and said: "IFC works with financial intermediaries, such as funds, because they can contribute to sound, inclusive, and sustainable financial markets that are essential to eradicating poverty and job creation."
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