Lawyers responsible for over charging, fraud and corruption…
BY DONALD WILLIE in Post Courier
THE State is paying some law firms three times more for similar cases, a lawyer involved in the Commission of Inquiry into procedures and processes of briefing out cases, said Counsel assisting the commission, John Griffin QC, told the Post-Courier that lawyers have been seen to be overcharging considerably.
On the other hand, a lot of lawyers have submitted bills which have not been paid and there have been complaints by the lawyers and the Government on the overall payment processes.
“The objective of this inquiry is to work out practices and procedures that are appropriate and bring the system in line with the way it works in other places,” Mr Griffin said. “Through this enquiry, the Government can get good legal services from private lawyers for an appropriate charge.”
He said this was to eliminate the problems of overpayment, fraud and corruption. Giving evidence yesterday, principal of Wagambie Lawyers, Michael Wagambie said on government cases briefed out in his firm, senior lawyers charged up to K700 an hour depending on experience and competency.
Mr Griffin alerted Mr Wagambie that there had been cases where lawyers had charged up to K2000 per hour. Asked if he thought such an amount was reasonable, Mr Wagambie said it was not. He recommended that a standard rate be set for payment.
“I think this is important because it should now set a standard rate for lawyers across the board, rather than just charging at will as and when they like to charge,” said Mr Wagambie.
Mr Wagambie also recommended that a committee be established under the direction of the Solicitor-General to assist in awarding brief outs to avoid being biased.
It is now 455 days since Prime Minister Peter O’Neill was told that the SABL leases were unlawful and should be revoked.
It was on June 24, 2013 that he was given the reports of the SABL Commission Inquiry which detail the widespread fraud and mismanagement used by foreign logging companies to gain illegal access to over 5 million hectares of land.
O’Neill has promised to cancel the leases and stop the illegal logging several times.
In September 2013 O’Neill told Parliament:
“We will no longer watch on as foreign owned companies come in and con our landowners, chop down our forests and then take the proceeds offshore”
But, despite an NEC decision in June we are still waiting for the leases to be cancelled and the logging stopped.
For 455 days O’Neill has failed to revoke the SABL leases and has been complicit in the illegal logging of our forests by foreign logging companies.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has aided and abetted the theft of logs worth hundreds of million of kina and the destruction of thousands of hectares of pristine forest.
The strange story of Sovereign Green Global Australia, Green Giant Venture Fund, Astra Resources and a REDD project in Milne Bay/Oro
By Chris Lang, REDD Monitor
Sovereign Green Global is, according to its website, running a REDD+ conservation project, “located primarily in the Milne bay province of Papua New Guinea”. The project covers “approximately 125,000 hectares of rainforest”. But details of the project are scant and the information that is available rings plenty alarm bells.
The REDD project in Milne Bay province is supposed to reduce emissions from deforestation by protecting the forests from logging and conversion for agriculture. It will do so, according to Sovereign Green Global, “by offering the farmers financial incentive and intact forests rather than income received from deforestation”.
Sovereign Green Global does not explain how this will prevent logging or palm oil companies from clearing the forests.
Clean Development Mechanism or REDD?
The project is listed on the CDM Bazaar, a website run by the UN Environment Programme as “a global ‘virtual information exchange place’” about the Clean Development Mechanism that is “open to all interested parties”.
At a first glance, the website looks like an official UN website listing CDM projects, but in fact any company can register and post its project details on the website.
On CDM Bazaar, the Milne Bay project is described as an “Avoided Un-Planned Deforestation project”, using an “an existing CDM methodology”. The project idea note lists seven methodologies, and states that “the project falls within the category AFOLU – REDD – Avoiding unplanned deforestation and degradation (AUDD)”. That is, of course, a Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) REDD activity, but it is not recognised under the CDM.
The project idea note states that the project is “located in PNG and contains 58,967 ha of rainforests”. That’s less than half the area claimed on Sovereign Green Global’s website.
The project idea note states that VER credits will be available from the project from January 2014. But a page on Facebook, titled “Carbon Trade Project”, includes a photograph of “the MOA and MOU with Sovereign Green Global Australia Ltd for the REDD Project in Mimbui land and East Collinwood Bay”. The photograph is dated February 2014:
So much for free, prior and informed consent.
Sovereign Green Global
A company called Sovereign Green Global Ltd was registered in the UK in November 2012. The company address was 145-157 St John Street. For £49.99 per year, Companies Made Simple will register a company at this address. Sovereign Green Global shared this address with almost 40,000 other companies.
In January 2013, Tony Adams took over as director of the company, and remained in place until the company was dissolved in June 2014.
Tony Adams is also the Chairman and Founder of Sovereign Green Global Australia Pty. Ltd., the company with the Milne Bay REDD project on its website. The company’s website provides little information about the company, apart from explaining that,
Sovereign Green Global Australia is a global company with a network of individuals dedicated to Humanitarian and Environmental Issues.
Sovereign Green Global’s website was registered (anonymously) in January 2013.
Green Giant Venture Fund
The project idea note explains that the REDD project in PNG is being developed by Sovereign Green Global together with the Green Giant Venture Fund.
Other than an address in Brazil and an address in the USA, Green Giant Venture Fund’s website provides little information about the company.
There’s not much information available elsewhere, apart from a series of press releases of agreements with companies developing carbon projects. Such as this one, in which Green Giant Venture Fund is described as follows:
Green Giant Venture Fund has expertise and experience in Carbon Credit Project (CCP) Development and provides technical, political and legal support required for the project and client. The Fund will also advise as to the strategy and tactics for effecting a forward financing by framing a strategic partnership in the Carbon financial sector and by executing a Carbon Finance option (FSCCP) aimed at capitalizing the client’s current and future (CCP).
Green Giant Venture Fund has been hired by several companies to sell carbon credits.
Grant Galloway is the director of Green Giant Venture Fund. In 2011, Green Automotive Company hired Green Giant Venture Fund:
Green Automotive Company Corporation (OTC:GACR) announced today the engagement of Green Giant Venture Fund as part of the Company’s plans to sell forward it’s expected allocation of carbon credits generated by future sales of it’s zero emission, All-Electric vehicles through the developing “Cap and Trade” commodity market.
Today, there is no mention of either “carbon credits” or “Green Giant Venture Fund” on Green Automotive Company’s website.
Green Giant Venture Fund’s website includes this statement about carbon credits (emphasis added):
Buyers have five reasons to purchase carbon offsets. They purchase carbon offsets for compliance to regulated markets, pre-compliance to regulated markets, investing for a financial return, carbon neutral product offsetting, and public relations.
The bit about investing in carbon credits “for a financial return” sets off more alarm bells.
Green Giant Venture Fund’s website lists the PNG REDD project and states that,
PDD [Project Design Document] is currently under development and is 90% completed. Estimated at 48m VCU credits with possibility of moving to Gold Standard.
The Milne Bay project idea note includes the Gold Standard’s logo at top of each page, suggesting a little more than the “possibility of moving to Gold Standard”. I’ve written to the Gold Standard to check whether Sovereign Green Global obtained the necessary permission before using the Gold Standard trademark in this way.
In March 2014, a UK-based mining company called Astra Resources PLC announced that it had signed an agreement with Sovereign Green Global, under which Sovereign Green Global would provide €20 million “equity capital injection” followed by €780 million in “equity capital, knowhow and assets”.
Sovereign Green Global’s Tony Adams said,
“As Chairman and Founder of Sovereign Green Global Australia I fully support Astra Resources and its endeavours to create a cleaner and more sustainable environment for future generations. Sovereign will invest substantially in developing this new technologies [sic] and will now make a further commitment of carbon credits to the ongoing process of the green energy solutions that Astra are developing.”
The Australian describes the deal as “particularly curious”, and notes “that there appears to be no evidence that [Soveriegn Green Global Australia] has the capacity for multi-million-dollar financing deals”.
By a strange coincidence, Astra Resources’ registered address is 145-157 St John Street, the same address as the UK version of Sovereign Green Global.
In 2013, a former director of Astra Resources told the Australian that a document that the company used to raise up to US$45 million from Australian retail investors contained “significant misleading and false statements”. The Australian reports that,
Among those statements was a claim that Astra Mining was looking to raise €1 billion ($1.42bn) via an initial public offering on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, of which $700m had already been committed by major Korean and US investors.
Which sounds strangely similar to the deal with Sovereign Green Global.
Astra Resources’ press release states that,
SGGA [Sovereign Green Global Australia] are currently in the process of completing projects in the following areas and they are PNG Milne Bay, Philippine Province of Negros, and Vanuatu. These three areas specifically relate to over 200 million REDD+ Credits. These credits are at the stage of certification and will be settled over the next few months. The credits will be warehoused with a major investment bank and a line of credit will be allotted to SGGA.
In May 2014, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) started legal action against Astra Resources PLC and its directors.
On 4 June 2014, Astra Resources was suspended from the European Share Trading Exchange GXG Markets. Here’s how GXG Markets explains the suspension:
The Company is currently under suspension for supplying inaccurate information that was required as a condition to move up from the GXG First Quote to the GXG Main Quote market and has previously been suspended for corporate governance failings in relation to filing accurate information to Companies House (UK) in a timely fashion.
On the same day, Astra Resources announced that it has “taken a very significant position in the carbon reduction market on its balance sheet in exchange for 270m Euros of scrip”. (Scrip is a substitute for legal currency – outside the company it is worthless.)
The carbon reduction benefits are from the management of tropical rainforests at a country level throughout the Asia Pacific region. Astra’s partners have negotiated country level agreements, and are using an internationally recognised financial registry, as well as the most experienced science teams in the region.
So it appears that Sovereign Green Global has sold carbon credits from three REDD projects (that may or may not exist) to Astra Resources (a company facing legal action and that has been suspended from GXG Markets) for scrip (which is worthless outside Astra Resources).
Leaked document reveals Adam Smith International’s propaganda strategy for governments: Bougainville beware
Adam Smith International (ASI) has been contracted to help the Momis government on Bougainville develop and put into place its long-term mining policy and legislation. We have obtained a document that shows the strategy ASI gives to governments so they can shape public opinion.
Written in 2004 the Strategy Document (350kb) assists governments develop propaganda in support of controversial or unwanted economic policies, such as the selling off of public resources to companies. Propaganda is the art of manipulating peoples’ ideas and behaviour through information so that they act in a way that benefits the powerful, whether it be the government or a big business.
The document begins: ‘In economic reforms there are three communications mistakes particularly worth avoiding. The first assumes that not communicating involves fewer risks … Your government needs stakeholders to do something, to think or to behave in certain ways, so it is your responsibility to motivate them. So you must take action or behaviour will not change. Communicate or face the consequences’.
For example, on Bougainville the Momis government needs people to accept that industrial mining is necessary or essential – the island cannot do without it. So we can see that the government has released stories and speeches arguing that there will be no independence or autonomy without mining, a message which is designed to change the way landowners and citizens think and behave.
ASI go on to explain how you construct propaganda for different stakeholders groups such as landowners, workers, civil servants, NGOs, etc. First you have to find out how they think, and produce propaganda that addresses their fears, and appeals to their desires.
ASI advise, ‘to find out what large groups of people think, we resort to opinion sampling. There are two types, focus groups and opinion polls, each with distinct advantages and drawbacks’. With respect to focus groups ASI argue, ‘this shows us what each group thinks in detail’. On the other hand opinion polls ‘’can yield statistically valid data not available from focus groups’.
ASI note ‘most large countries have several companies capable of reliable polling’. Though if not, ‘skilled university demographers can do similar work’.
Once governments have intelligence on how different audiences think and feel they can begin to construct propaganda that targets these thoughts and hopes. In Bougainville people want to live a happy, peaceful, and independent future. So it is necessary that the government delivers messages about mining that appeal to this desire – there will be no happiness, no development, or independence without mining.
ASI advises, ‘Once you know what your audience think, design message to grab their attention and motivate them’.
ASI warn governments it is important that their propaganda does not seem like propaganda, if it does people wont believe it – ‘anything that implies propaganda turns people off’. For example, they note when making propaganda videos ‘at ASI we rarely use narrators, preferring to film real stakeholders using their own words. What they say is convincing because their testimony is honest and vivid’.
ASI also note when delivering propaganda, ‘journalists are perhaps the most important audience of all,
since they influence almost all other stakeholder groups. You want them to understand [the economic reform] so that they can explain it correctly and so that they are less likely to fall prey to charges levelled by your opponents’.
In a special section in the strategy devoted to media relations. ASI advise governments to ‘cultivate good relations with reporters … Treat them with respect. Return their phone calls promptly and courteously’. ASI continue ‘issue press releases often … [this] will help kill off the foul rumours spread by your opponents’. Also they argue ‘put quotes into your press release, telling reporters why this matter is important … do not bribe journalists. Educate them, put on seminars and conferences, take them on road trips to privatised industries or buy them lunch and discuss the issues openly’
So if you are trying to sell Rio Tinto’s return, or mining to a worried public, you need journalists to help you sell this as good news, which everyone will benefit from. This will be particularly helpful when activists produce evidence that shows for instance Rio Tinto are war criminals, or have been involved in polluting vital ecosystems. So give the media plenty of quotes, and press releases – buy them lunch, wine and dine them, so they see your point of view is the right one, and opponents are nothing by activists talking nonsense.
ASI also give government advice on how to deal with journalists who publish stories that are critical. For example, if a journalist report about the negative experiences landowners have had with mining, such as pollution or violence. In these cases ASI advise, try to ‘talk to the editor or publisher. If that does not work, give your best leaks and stories to their chief competitor. And if possible in some cases exclude bad newspapers from your advertising budget’
When publishing propaganda ASI advise governments to target a range of audiences using a range of mediums. So we have seen the Momis government push the mining/Rio Tinto agenda through a range of different mediums that target particular audiences. New Dawn radio goes out to communities in certain regions of Bougainville. Consultation forums target landowners. Social media hits the middle classes.
ASI emphasise to governments many different mediums should be used. They claim for instance ‘comic books are easily read by the semi-literate’. They also mention a £270,000 (K1 million) video they produced in Tanzania ‘ASI got months of free television publicity in Tanzania for the government’s reform programme by hiring a popular entertainer to produce a pop video on privatisation’
ASI conclude with one last important piece of advice ‘never forget face-to-face meetings’. So we have seen the Momis government use ‘consultation’ forums as a place to encourage people into supporting mining.
ASI also note whenever delivering messages make use of the President. ‘Your President or Prime Minister can get you coverage better than anyone else in your country. Have him or her make speeches and grant interviews … as often as possible’. Not surprisingly the President has become the public face of mining.
Sadly this strategy documents is not interested in the future of the people or the land, only in manipulating citizens into accepting economic policies that will benefit the powerful.