Calls for investigation into coal giant Adani in wake of tax haven scandal

Intro

Calls for an investigation into Indian coal giant Adani are growing, with revelations of a new financial scandal around its massive Carmichael coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee basin. According to an explosive report in the Sydney Morning Herald there are inconsistencies between the conglomerate’s Indian and Australian financial reports, and more concerningly: that Adani’s Abbot Point coal port could be controlled by a shadowy web of companies run out of a Cayman Islands tax haven. Fairfax reports that most of the companies associated with Adani’s Australian coal operations are controlled by Gautam Adani’s eldest brother Vinod, who has been named in a criminal investigation into the alleged siphoning of $1 billion from Indian shareholders into offshore accounts. The Indian conglomerate has a history of environmental destruction, non-compliance with regulations and human rights abuses, yet despite this and the risks the project creates to the Great Barrier Reef through dredging, shipping, and its dire contribution to climate change, State and Federal Liberal party governments have steadfastly supported it. The party’s strong ties to the coal industry among others has led claims of crony capitalism, especially after arguing that the project could not go ahead without hundreds of millions of taxpayer subsidies being thrown at Adani’s rail line, and billions at the Abbot Point port expansion. Adani now contradictorily sasy these subsidies are irrelevant to the project’s viability. Given its claim the project will create 10,000 jobs has also been shown to be almost triple the likely reality, and that its argument that coal will pull people out of poverty is as trumped up as the coal industry’s social media support, an inquiry into the company’s conduct and political relationships looks to be sorely needed.

 

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  • RT @market_forces: Tax havens, inconsistent paperwork & owner of Abbot Pt #coal port named in criminal investigation  http://t.co/Yne7vmU0y5

Key Points

  • While there is currently no suggestion of illegality concerning Adani’s corporate structure, the fact it is operating a complex web of companies out of a known tax haven raises questions about the transparency and legitimacy of a highly controversial project that is of national interest to Australians. State and Federal Liberal parties have doubled down on coal, and in doing so have tied themselves to a company that not only has  a poor environmental and human rights record, but now also looks to have a shaky financial one too. Despite this, and personally rushing through approvals of Adani’s controversial project, Environment Minister Greg Hunt is already trying to distance himself from the company and shift any potential blame to the Labor party. State Labor Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk has also distanced her party from the controversial project, ruling out taxpayer funding for the rail line linking Adani’s mine near Rockhampton to the Abbot Point coal terminal in north Queensland.
  • Adani’s claim that it does not need taxpayer support for its Carmichael coal project not only completely undermines earlier claims that the project could not go ahead without government subsidies, it raises serious questions about why the support was promised in the first place. That it has now found to be operating out of a known tax haven goes directly to the heart of Adani’s credibility, as well as the many different employment, royalty, and environmental claims made by the company, the coal industry, and the State and Federal governments.
  • Despite claims that coal is “good for humanity” it is demonstrably untrue that coal is needed to pull people out of poverty. Renewables, particularly solar, are already at grid parity in many places around the world, and will only get cheaper as time goes on. Renewables make far more sense for the rural poor who do not have access to grids, or only have access to poor quality infrastructure, and can be rolled out to help those in most need, first, without having to wait for centralised infrastructure buildout. Australian coal on the other hand, could not only double the cost of electricity for Indian consumers, but will lead to greater health problems, greater social and environmental costs, and more severe impacts from climate change on the most vulnerable people.

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Key quotes

  • “These reports today should be a loud warning for any investors and financiers until an investigation has been carefully undertaken and completed. Our research has shown also that the Adani proposal is not commercially viable without government support, contrary to Adani’s claim after last week’s Queensland election that it could develop the project solely with private money. The obvious question that neither the company nor the outgoing government seem capable of answering is why subsidies were being offered to begin with. Regulators need to investigate every aspect of today’s news reports to ensure all appropriate disclosures, sources of equity and debt funding, advice to potential investors plus notices to stock exchanges and corporate regulators here and overseas were carried out in accordance with the laws that govern such matters.” IEEFA’s director of energy finance studies, Australia, Tim Buckley.
  • “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. If Adani can’t conduct its operations above board and with transparency, how can the public trust it to protect our environment, including Australia’s Great Barrier Reef? A full and proper investigation into the legitimacy of Adani’s operations and who owns Abbot Point is clearly needed and the possibility of a Royal Commission should not be ruled out.” 350.og Australia CEO Blair Palese.
  • “Prior to the election, the Queensland Government was preparing to take a stake in these projects. Now it turns out they may not have known if these projects were owned by a publically listed Indian company or a shadowy group of companies run through a tax haven. 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.” Greenpeace Reef Campaigner Shani Tager.
  • “We do consider this to be a major breach of Australia’s environment laws this time with the threat of climate change is well known. We’re asking the Federal Court to look at his decision because we say that it was flawed because it failed to take those greenhouse gas emissions into account – this will be an important test case and if we’re successful it will change the way governments approach the assessment of fossil fuel projects like coal mines.” The Mackay Conservation Group’s Ellen Roberts.
  • “Well, if you take the Adani project, the approvals are through. The approvals were through in a relatively short space of time from the federal and state government. Now they are working through things like the railway line to go with it. As I understand, the funding process, which is a commercial one, is ongoing. They had to present business models due to the environmental concerns in the region and the business models had to satisfy the government. The government’s view is that the best thing we can do is fast-track the approvals and to give certainty to the business that everything is in place. So we are not seeing any dangers on the financial side.”  Trade Minister Andrew Robb.

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More tweets

  • MT @billmckibben: Powerful call from @350Australia for halt to world’s largest coal mine as financing scandal unfolds http://t.co/Euwk3ABrKA
  • MT @samregester: Adani secret brother named in investigation for siphoning $1b from shareholders to offshore accounts http://t.co/aoqU2grd8S
  • MT @andrewbradleyhc: @ieefa_institute “It’s Time for a Public Investigation of #Adani #Coal project in Queensland” http://t.co/eALPxKzBuf
  • MT @hearyanow: Indian media reporting on Adani & others donating to pol parties in Aust http://t.co/rlK1xH2yNP #coal  http://t.co/K7eKRppF8G