Faced with criticism from NGOs and demonstrators, and after the revelations of the WorldIn early May, Total backtracked: the group announced on Wednesday May 26 that it was going to suspend part of its payments to the Burmese military junta, accused of serious human rights violations. Under pressure, the French giant has decided not to pay dividends for the hour to shareholders of Moattama Gas Transportation Company (MGTC), a company that transports gas from the offshore Yadana field to Thailand. Each year 15% of the generous profits of this company are redistributed to the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), state company and black box of the military junta, where the money ends up in accounts abroad before disappearing. . The rest is shared between the other shareholders, namely Total (31 %), the American Chevron (28%) and the Thai PTT Exploration and Production Public Company Limited (PTTEP, 26%). A decision taken “cowing to the unstable context in Myanmar ”, explains the French group in a press release.
In its May 5 edition, The world revealed that MGTC, the company that owns the 346-kilometer submarine pipeline, which is registered in Bermuda, was at the heart of a financial package where millions of dollars from gas sales are diverted from Burmese state coffers for the benefit of MOGE, a company controlled by the military. The transport costs invoiced by MGTC to the company operating the gas field, owned by the same shareholders and in the same proportions, make it possible to reduce the amounts of royalties paid to the State. MGTC reported an unusually high level of profit, with pre-tax net profit of around 98%. The documents to which The world had access to show that the dividends paid to MOGE were $ 38.37 million in 2018 and $ 52 million in 2019. Under an agreement signed on January 30, 1995 with the State of Burma, the shareholders had furthermore obtained the guarantee of not being ” not taxed in Myanmar for any dividend ”.
“Total and Chevron made the right decision by finally recognizing that MOGE is controlled by the army and that it finances the crimes of the junta, reacted Yadanar Maung, spokesperson for the NGO Justice for Myanmar, but only a small part of the payments made by Total to the junta are suspended. According to the NGO EarthRights International, the suspension of the payment of dividends represents only 10% of the sums generated by the exploitation of gas in Yadana. This decision allows Total to escape reprisals from the Burmese state or possible legal proceedings. “The shareholders’ agreement authorizes them to refuse the payment of dividends without any reason being given, explains Ben Hardman, researcher at EarthRights International, it is therefore a risk-free victory. “
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