Rich countries buying up poor countries – a familiar story in Cambodia.
In its “Banking on Shaky Ground” report, Oxfam alleges frequent instances of large-scale land deals failing to respect local land rights, violent community unrest and investments that targets the poorest nations with weak land institutions.
The report implicates Westpac, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ Bank and NAB in the practices.
Oxfam links Westpac with what it says is a “controversial” logging company in Papua New Guinea, Malaysian-owned WTK Group.
Westpac declined to confirm or deny their link to WTK.
“From PNG and Cambodia to Indonesia and Brazil, our banks have backed companies accused of forcing people from their land,” Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said.
“This involvement has also resulted in billions of dollars of exposure for everyday Australians who have their money in accounts with these banks, or who own bank shares directly or through their superannuation funds.”
The bank’s head of sustainability, Siobhan Toohil, said it had scrapped funding arrangements in the past where clients had contravened the bank’s social standards.
“In circumstances where we do not believe that customers are adhering to appropriate standards and do not believe they are prepared to address this responsibly, we will continue to exit those relationships,” Ms Toohil told the ABC.
WTK’s lawyer in Port Moresby dismissed claims the company is linked to any controversial special agricultural and business leases (SABLs) across the country.
“If WTK Realty was involved in SABLs it would have been summonsed to give evidence in the commission of inquiry,” lawyer Robert Bradshaw told the ABC.
Oxfam’s report says the Commonwealth Bank owns shares in an agribusiness that’s failing to comply with orders in Brazil to stop sourcing sugar cane from Indigenous lands.
Oxfam has called on the banks to properly investigate their exposure to alleged land grabs.