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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

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
0.8896
JPY
USD
119.26
GBP
USD
0.6475
CAD
USD
1.2451
INR
USD
61.816

Rates may not be current.