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Wed Oct 13, 2021, 11:14 PM

Palm Oil Sting Recordings: Corruption, Bribery, Bought Police, Violence - From The Mouths Of Execs

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Global Witness’s two-year investigation is a rare behind-the-scenes look at the corruption, labor abuses and destructive environmental practices in an industry that is clearing carbon-rich rainforests and emitting greenhouse gases at a rate that has become a growing concern for climate scientists. The world’s most common vegetable oil has spawned vast fortunes, while coming under scrutiny for its labor practices and environmental impact.

The report includes recordings of oil-palm managers detailing corruption and labor abuses to investigators posing as commodity traders. The investigation has already provoked a response from 17 corporations, some of which have pledged to remove the palm oil companies the advocacy group identified as their suppliers. “A pattern of coercion and violence right across PNG has denied local people the traditional use of forests integral to their culture and livelihoods,” the authors of the report write. “Huge areas of tropical forests have been deforested, and much more remains at risk unless action is taken.”

The group’s undercover investigators taped an executive from a Papua New Guinea-based company called Tobar Investment Ltd. seemingly confirming the Watwat resident’s account of the police raid of the village, which came in response to the destruction of palm trees on the plantation. Edward Lamur, the executive, told investigators in a secretly recorded online meeting that his company had approached police after vandalism to get them to send a message to local residents. He said that a close friend of his ran the “special operation police” and that he could call the officer “whenever we want assistance.” “They did some bashing up,” he said. “They know we are owners now.” The secretly recorded conversations with Lamur and others were broadcast Thursday in Britain as part of a story on Channel 4 News.

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Global Witness says that Rimbunan Hijau, whose name means “forever green,” cleared nearly 81 square miles of coastal rainforest in New Britain province. The report also detailed a dozen work-related deaths on the company’s plantations between 2012 and 2020, some of which were not recorded in a government database that catalogues required incidents of workplace casualties that investigators examined. Rimbunan Hijau did not respond to a request for comment from The Post. But the Global Witness report includes a statement that the company sent to one of its customers about the allegations, which emphasized the work the company had done to develop the local economy.

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/10/09/png-palm-oil-undercover-sting/

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