In a statement released today, Global Witness provided further information to their May 2013 report that state-owned Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG) and Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) have been evicting Cambodian and Laotian villagers from some 200,000 hectares of land without compensation. They build rubber plantations, flouting local environment laws.

In doing this, VRG and HAGL enjoy financing from the World Bank’s IFC (International Finance Corporation), Deutsche Bank, and a branding affiliate with England’s Arsenal Football Club. HAGL’s head, Doan Nguyen Duc, openly told Global Witness that HAGL cleared forests for rubber plantations, and that there’s obviously no problems because Arsenal F.C. still conducted a friendly visit to Vietnam.

After the May 2013 report, Duc held a press conference to denounce Global Witness as “untrue”. Click here to see Global Witness’ response to HAGL’s denials.

Today’s statement by Global Witness was about Arsenal F.C.’s apparent unwillingness to stop HAGL using Arsenal’s name to prop up its brand.

Viet state-owned rubber companies ruin Cambodia and Laos forests- Global Witness 3h12

Video “Rubber Barons”: Global Witness’ 5-minute video shows interviews with villagers whose lands were confiscated with no compensation. Most do not know that their land has been taken until the bulldozers noisily arrive.

Download PDF reports: low-res and high-res

Before-And-After satellite photos: At the link below is an interactive photo showing the devastation of forests after HAGL and VRG started their destructive work

Below is a quick summary from Global Witness at http://www.globalwitness.org/rubberbarons/:

ABOUT THE REPORT

This report shows how vast amounts of land have been acquired for rubber plantations in Cambodia and Laos by two of Vietnam’s biggest largest companies, Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) and the Vietnam Rubber Group (VRG). The rubber barons are financed by international investors including Deutsche Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – the private lending arm of the World Bank.

It lays bare the culture of secrecy and impunity that has allowed these two rubber giants to gain rights to more than 200,000 hectares of concession land through secretive deals with the Lao and Cambodian governments. They have close links with the region’s corrupt political elites and operate with complete impunity, devastating local livelihoods and the environment in the process. Rubber Barons is the first exposé of the role of international financiers in these land grabs. Deutsche Bank has multi-million dollar holdings in both companies, while the IFC invests in HAGL.

Global Witness urges the governments of Laos and Cambodia to immediately cancel the rubber concessions in question, suspend and investigate VRG and HAGL’s rubber operations, and where there is evidence of illegal activities, prosecute the companies. It also calls on international governments to bring in and enforce regulations to stop international banks and financial institutions from continuing to turn a blind eye to deforestation and human rights abuses.

When approached by Global Witness in advance of publishing Rubber Barons, HAGL confirmed holding rubber plantations totalling 46,752 hectares in Cambodia and Laos but denied knowledge of any disputes with local communities or their involvement in illegal activities. VRG meanwhile stated the evidence presented to them was not true, but declined to confirm the status or holdings of its rubber operations in either country.

Following the publication of this report, Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) CEO Doan Nguyen Duc held a press conference during which the company contested our evidence. Click here to read our response.

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