News / Economy

Deutsche Bank Sells Fund's Stake in Controversial Vietnamese Company

FILE - Workers work at the Vietnam Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) construction site in Rangoon, Sept. 20, 2013.
FILE - Workers work at the Vietnam Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) construction site in Rangoon, Sept. 20, 2013.
Robert Carmichael
Germany’s largest bank - Deutsche Bank – announced that one of its funds has sold its stake in a controversial Vietnamese company whose land investments in Cambodia and Laos have been sharply criticized by activists.
 
In a brief email, Deutsche Bank spokesman Michael West said the stake in Vietnam’s Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group, or HAGL, had been sold, adding that the shareholding had been in a fund managed by a third party on behalf of external investors.  
 
An earlier filing indicated Deutsche Bank's investment amounted to about four million shares worth just over $4 million.
 
HAGL is one of Vietnam’s largest rubber producers, and in recent years has expanded into Cambodia and Laos.
 
It was one of two companies - the other was state-owned Vietnam Rubber Group - that appeared in a highly critical May report from Britain-based monitor Global Witness. The report alleged the two firms had been awarded 200,000 hectares of concessions in Cambodia and Laos that saw some families forced off their land and others threatened and even imprisoned. 
 
Megan MacInnes, the campaign manager for Global Witness’ land program, said the organization had hoped its report would put greater pressure on HAGL.
 
“In our report, Rubber Barons, we presented these problems to the company and made a series of recommendations for what HAGL needs to do to bring its operations in line with the law, provide compensation to households who, for example, who have lost their fields, and to also provide greater disclosure about its operations in general. And we asked HAGL’s investors like Deutsche Bank to use their leverage, their financial leverage, to also put pressure on the company to undertake these changes,” explained MacInnes.
 
Global Witness said a six-month window for improvements had expired without any change on the ground. At that point, Global Witness called on Deutsche Bank to sell its stake.
 
In an email, HAGL Group’s chief of finance, Vo Truong Son, said Deutsche Bank had not informed his company of the sale, and added HAGL had complied with local laws.
 
HAGL has previously denied Global Witness’ allegations.
 
Cambodian opposition MP Son Chhay welcomed the news that Deutsche Bank’s fund had sold its stake, and said he hoped more companies would follow its example.
 
“It’s quite encouraging because we know what’s happening in our forests - and which directly affects the indigenous people as well as our environment - has been the concern of the world, not just the Cambodian people,” said Chhay.
 
Land-grabbing has become a chronic problem in Cambodia and Laos, with politically well-connected companies like HAGL and others receiving vast land concessions. Global Witness reported that since 2000, more than 3.7 million hectares in the two countries has been handed over to firms. Around 40 percent of that land is earmarked for rubber plantations.
 
In recent years, hundreds of Cambodian families have also lost their land to sugarcane companies.
 
Non-profit organizations, such as Britain-based Oxfam, have raised the profile of such abuses and put pressure on buyers like Coca-Cola and Pepsico.
 
In November, Coca-Cola, the world’s largest beverage company, said it would work to ensure that its entire supply chain was transparent and accountable, and pledged “zero tolerance” for land grabs.
 
Global Witness’ Megan MacInnes said the actions of Coca-Cola and Deutsche Bank indicate times are starting to change.
 
She also said that such actions should put extra pressure on the Cambodian government to enforce its own laws regarding land rights abuses.

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9034
JPY
USD
120.24
GBP
USD
0.6550
CAD
USD
1.2440
INR
USD
62.254

Rates may not be current.