Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Chevron Bribing Becomes SOP?

We've written before about Chevron's willingness to jump into the bribing business, where expedient, paying soldiers, auditors, etc. But now it appears this is just becoming a day-to-day thing for the company. According to the Asia Times, Chevron has refused to disclose how much the company paid officials in Cambodia to secure the rights to drill in the area.

''[Chevron has] yet to respond to our detailed questions in a letter written to the company in October 2008,'' said Gavin Hayman, campaigns director for Global Witness (GW), a London-based anti-corruption watchdog. ''It is not in favor of supplying information about what it pays foreign governments to secure rights for oil exploration.''

Chevron's attitude towards disclosure ''will be telling'', he said in an interview, since revelations could help measure the scale of ''under-the-table payments'' involved in a country where a small and powerful elite has ''captured the country's emerging oil and mineral sectors'' for personal gain.

According to the article, Cambodia lacks a well-functioning anti-corruption regime and is susceptible to "the powerful few filling their personal coffers" from the extractive industry. This is a perfect situation for Chevron and is very reminiscent of Ecuador circa 1964 or so. After all, the company has already been awarded part of the mining contract, with oil to start flowing in 2011 to the tune of $174 million annually, with oil production probably reaching $1.7 billion annually at its peak.

Hey Cambodia, be careful – I know this oil deal-with-the-devil thing seems like a good idea now, but you may want to take a look at how this same dance worked out for Burma, Ecuador and Nigeria. You may figure out that you don't want to be dealing with cancer, human rights violations, and the wholesale destruction of your country 20 years down the line.

Just a thought.