Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Credit Suisse’s HAGL holdings drawing fire

Credit Suisse’s HAGL holdings drawing fire

Credit Suisse’s HAGL holdings drawing fire

Credit Suisse, a financial services firm based in Switzerland, has been accused of aiding land grabbing in Cambodia by becoming a major shareholder in Vietnamese rubber giant Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) Group.

In a statement released today, Global Witness (GW), an NGO based in England, claims that Credit Suisse became a “major shareholder” in HAGL shortly after GW released a report in May outlining alleged human rights abuses at its rubber plantation projects in Ratanakkiri province.

“Credit Suisse became the largest institutional shareholder in [HAGL] … just two weeks after Global Witness exposed a range of environmental and human rights abuses in the company’s plantations in Cambodia and Laos,” the statement says. “Such action is in direct contravention of Credit Suisse’s commitments to human rights.”

But a spokesman for Credit Suisse said its links to HAGL predated GW’s report.

“Credit Suisse’s holding is for the purpose of hedging transactions it has entered in with its clients,” the spokesman wrote in an email. “Credit Suisse’s bond holding was first acquired in 2011, around 2 years before Global Witness made public its views on the company.”

GW, however, alleges that Credit Suisse swapped bonds it held in HAGL to acquire more than 10 per cent of the company’s shares, making it the second-largest investor behind founder and chairman Doan Nguyen Duc.

“What kind of checks can Credit Suisse have done if it thought this was a good time to provide finance to a company like HAGL?” GW’s Megan MacInnes says in the statement.

HAGL Group chief financial officer Vo Truong Son yesterday confirmed that Credit Suisse is a shareholder in the company.

“However, we are not sure whether their investment is made with their own capital or from their customers’ authorization,” he wrote in an email.

Son denied his company was committing any wrongdoing, saying that GW’s allegations are “totally fabricated, producing no convincing evidence at all”.

“HAGL have always done business in compliance with the law of the host country.”

After Global Witness singled out Deutsche Bank in its report in May, the Post reported early this month that the German bank had divested from HAGL. But Son said this did not appear to be the case.

“Based on Deutsche Bank’s report sent to the State Securities Commission of Vietnam on 6th and 10th [December], 2013, they have proceeded with buying HAGL stocks instead of capital withdrawal as trumped up by GW,” he wrote.

At the time of the Post’s story on Deutsche Bank, a spokesman from the company took pains to say that the “small shareholding [GW] referred to was through funds managed by a third party on behalf of external investors”.

According to GW, HAGL’s rubber projects have driven families off their land without compensation, destroying sacred forests in the process.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen: Full country reopening to be decided in two weeks

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that if the Covid-19 situation remains stable for 15 consecutive days from the end of the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, Cambodia will reopen fully, albeit in the context of Covid-19 whereby people have to adjust their lives to

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Cambodia unveils new quarantine regulations

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Hun Sen: Cambodia set to fully reopen

    Prime Minister Hun Sen concludes that the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, during which many people either flocked to their hometowns for family reunion or gathered at tourist attractions across the country, has not caused an outbreak of Covid-19. In a special address to

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Cambodia voted ‘world’s friendliest country’ in Rough Guides reader poll

    Cambodia ranked number one among the “World’s Friendliest Countries”, according to a reader poll conducted by London-based international website “Rough Guides”. Taking submissions through Twitter and Facebook, “Rough Guides”, a well-known travel agency and publisher of guidebooks, said the Kingdom “was by far the