Ex-Tony Blair minister helps illegal logging

This video from Britain is called Peter Mandelson confronted over MPs’ expense claims.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Lord Mandelson confirms he is advising company accused of illegal logging

Peer’s consultancy works for paper and pulp multinational alleged to have chopped down protected trees

Rob Evans and Kate Hodal in Jakarta

Thursday 10 May 2012 20.36 BST

Lord Mandelson has been recruited to advise a multinational company accused of illegally chopping down endangered rainforest.

The Labour peer and his staff in the political consultancy that he set up after leaving government have been meeting officials on behalf of Asia Pulp and Paper.

For more than a decade, APP, one of the world’s largest pulp and paper companies, has been accused by environmental groups such as Greenpeace of destroying thousands of hectares of Indonesian rainforest and endangering some of the world’s rarest animals. A growing number of firms have boycotted APP.

The disclosure comes as Mandelson and other peers are expected to face pressure from the House of Lords authorities to declare their clients.

Global Counsel, the consultancy Mandelson chairs, does not name its clients as it “respects their privacy”. But after inquiries by the Guardian, he has confirmed that Global Counsel has a contract with APP, the first time he has acknowledged a client of his firm. The company says it is helping APP meet new EU rules requiring timber imported from Indonesia to be sustainably sourced.

The peer acquired a large roster of contacts from his time as the European trade commissioner between 2004 and 2008, and as a key member of the administrations of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

There has been long-running concern about politicians who exploit their contacts and knowledge gained while in public office after they leave power. …

The peer has travelled twice to Jakarta in recent months and held meetings with the EU ambassador there; his staff have met members of the Indonesian government.

When Mandelson lost his post as business secretary after the 2010 general election, he set up the “strategic advice consultancy” with financial backing from WPP, the marketing services group headed by Sir Martin Sorrell. Under Whitehall rules, he was barred from lobbying ministers and officials in the British government for two years after he left office. It appears that he has been concentrating on getting work from foreign companies.

Mandelson has been accused of using a loophole in the Lords’ register of financial interests to sidestep a new requirement to disclose certain clients of Global Counsel. He is understood to reject the accusation on the grounds that he acted with advice from the Lords authorities. A Lords committee is reportedly recommending that peers who have set up consultancies declare their clients or leave the parliament.

APP is a controversial Chinese-Indonesian company owned by the Widjajas, a rich dynasty. In recent months, APP has come under growing pressure after it was accused of illegal logging in Indonesia and damaging the habitats of rare animals such as the Sumatran tiger. A year-long Greenpeace investigation, published in March, alleged that endangered trees, known as ramin, have been chopped down and sent to factories to be pulped and turned into paper. The trees grow in peat swamps in Indonesia where the dwindling number of surviving Sumatran tigers hunt. Greenpeace alleged that it found ramin logs in a paper mill belonging to APP on nine occasions over a year. Chopping down ramin trees, a protected species under an international treaty, has been illegal under Indonesian law since 2001. Wood from the rainforests is being turned into everyday products around the world such as photocopying paper, tissues and paper packaging, according to Greenpeace. …

Last month, three large companies said that they were going to stop buying paper products from APP, either for ever or until they were satisfied that the products were being produced sustainably.

At least 67 companies worldwide, such as Tesco, Kraft Foods and the office suppliers Staples, have boycotted APP since 2004, according to a Greenpeace list.

APP has consistently said it has always acted in an environmentally responsible manner, that it has not been destroying large areas of Indonesian rainforest and that it was a prime mover behind establishing a sanctuary for the Sumatran tiger.

A Greenpeace spokesperson : “Asia Pulp and Paper has been responsible for the destruction of vast swaths of Indonesia’s rainforests, including areas of habitat for the critically endangered Sumatran tiger. Mandelson joins a growing list of spin doctors and industry stooges who have tried to rehabilitate APP’s image.” …

The peer, who is also an adviser to investment bankers Lazard, has been recruiting to Global Counsel individuals whom he reportedly “rated in government and who have the skills and connections to help him in his business”. His staff include the ex-civil servants Stephen Adams and Duncan Buchanan.

Adams worked as a speechwriter for Mandelson at the European commission and the business department, while Buchanan was the head of the South Asia unit of UK Trade and Investment, the government agency that promotes exports.

More than a year after the EU’s law governing the timber trade came into force, a survey by WWF confirms that many EU countries are still failing to stop illegal wood products entering the EU markets: here.

27 thoughts on “Ex-Tony Blair minister helps illegal logging

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  13. Dear Friend,

    An alarming new Al Jazeera documentary exposes how illegal loggers are destroying the Amazon rainforest and threatening the species that call it home.

    The documentary shows how that timber has made its way to the United States. Without decisive government action, those profiteering off the destruction of the Amazon rainforest won’t be punished and timber taken illegally from the Amazon rainforest could accidentally wind up in your home.

    The Lacey Act is designed to combat illegal logging at home and abroad, making it a crime to import illegally-harvested wood.

    Tell key U.S. decision makers to fully enforce the Lacey Act and hold importers of illegal timber accountable!

    Closer to home, the Lacey Act also protects the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Earlier this year, the Department of Justice announced its prosecution of four individuals accused of harvesting wood from Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

    We know that U.S. leadership can have a global impact, but the case of Amazon rainforest shows how much more must be done. Despite widespread evidence of illegal logging in South America, the U.S. hasn’t taken action to enforce the Lacey Act to its fullest.

    Tell the key U.S. decision makers — Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack — to hold those profiteering off of illegal logging accountable!

    With your help, we can ensure the U.S. takes a lead role in combating destructive illegal logging.


    Jesse Prentice-Dunn
    Sierra Club


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