Monday, February 09, 2015

Adani's Aussie coalmining project: Greenpeace, 350.org, finance body seek probe into ownership allegation

By Our Representative
At least two prestigious and high-profile international environmental bodies -- Greenpeace and 350.org -- and a research institute,Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), have sought complete clarity and investigation into fresh allegations by Fairfax, Australia's leading media company, about doubtful ownership of the Adani Group's $10 billion Australian coal-mining project. A report in Australian daily "The Age" says Fairfax has raised serious objection to the "use of offshore, low-tax jurisdictions in relation to its Australian operations, and the apparent uncertainty about ownership."
The paper quotes Fairfax to say that "Gautam Adani does not ultimately control many of the companies associated with his company's Australian coal developments", and instead "his eldest brother Vinod Shantilal Adani holds pivotal positions." In fact, "Fairfax Media particularly questions Vinod Adani's antecedents, as he has been named in an Indian criminal investigation into the alleged siphoning of $1 billion from Indian shareholders in three Adani companies into offshore accounts."
According the "The Age" the allegations have been "confirmed to Fairfax by an investigator in India's Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, stem from an import scheme in which three Adani companies are alleged to have imported power equipment at an inflated price, with the excess sum siphoned into a Mauritius entity controlled by Vinod Shantilal Shah – an alias for Vinod Shantilal Adani."

Greenpeace Objection

Citing "explosive" Fairfax Media report, Greenpeace Australia Pacific has demanded "an investigation into coal giant Adani’s suitability to operate in Queensland, Australia", It has said, "The scandal revealed inconsistencies between Indian and Australian financial reports. Adani’s Abbot Point T1 coal terminal and their rail and port expansion projects could in fact be controlled by a complex network of companies run through the Cayman Islands. The investigation into the Adani companies by Fairfax Media, one of Australia’s largest media companies, suggests uncertainty about the ultimate ownership of the Abbot Point development."
Pointing out that this shows the Queensland government "may not have known if these projects were owned by a publicly listed Indian company or a shadowy group of companies run through a tax haven,” Greenpeace Australia’s Reef Campaigner Shani Tager said, “It’s critical that these explosive revelations are investigated before any of Adani’s coal developments can proceed further.” Tager adds, "In Adani’s home country of India, the company has been fined for a raft of illegal activities, including paying cash bribes to port officials, customs, police and local politicians to receive 'undue favour for illegal exports'."
Greenpace also quotes Environmental Justice Australia's recent report questioning Adani’s "suitability to operate in Queensland given their track record", saying, “We already know Adani doesn't play by the rules. This is a coal billionaire who will do whatever it takes to make a quick buck.The only sensible response to these revelations is a comprehensive investigation into the Adani Group’s suitability to operate in Queensland given the potential impact of their plans for a mega coal mine, rail line and port in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.”

350.org calls for moratorium

Speaking out in the same vein, 350.org has called for "moratorium on Abbot Point coal port expansion in light of what it calls “Adani-gate” findings." According to 350.org, "The port expansion, which would be the world’s largest, would open up a series of nine mega coalmines in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, tripling Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions."
It adds, "Construction is slated to begin as soon as the project receives Federal approval... However 350.org believes the approval process must be halted following ground-breaking new information uncovered by Fairfax, which reveals that most of the companies associated with Adani’s Australian coal operations are not controlled by the public face of the company, Gautam Adani, but by his eldest brother Vinod."
Says 350.org, "Company documents reveal that Adani sold its stake in Abbot Point in 2013 to a Singaporean company, however this was not made known to Australian authorities or the Bombay stock exchange. Adani was also found to still control a number of Australian companies linked to its Carmichael coal project in the Galilee Basin, despite excluding these companies from its 2013-14 accounts. These disturbing new allegations about Indian company Adani call into question the legitimacy of the approvals process for Abbot Point and the Galilee Basin coal mines.”

Investigate ownership: IEEFA 

Chipping into the controversy, Tim Buckley, director of energy finance studies, Australasia, of the US-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), also said, "it is critical that a detailed inquiry and investigation by state and federal agencies commences immediately to ensure that financial markets are being provided accurate information about Adani’s proposed coal mine, rail and port projects in Queensland.” 
He insisted, “The assertions reported go to the very heart of our continued analysis of Adani’s operations here and overseas. They create even stronger doubts about the key questions of their financial viability, corporate transparency and strategic logic in the face of the structural decline of seaborne thermal coal markets.”
Buckley also said, "As IEEFA has previously documented, the Galilee coal project proposals are highly unlikely to proceed without the support of the four Australian bank majors, plus some of the nine leading global investment banks. While export-import banks like the Korean Export-Import Bank could be material players, given that their focus is more risk-tolerant towards greenfield projects, even they will be involved only if there is a clear strategic national benefit." 
He added, “These reports today should be a loud warning for any investors and financiers until an investigation has been carefully undertaken and completed. A very serious set of questions needs to be answered.”

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