French Energy Total publishes announcements on report on military relations with Myanmar


PARIS (AFP): French energy giant Total withdrew advertisements from Le Monde after announcing that the company was paying gas revenues to the Burmese military through a tax haven, the newspaper reported on Thursday (May 6th).

Total has come under pressure from pro-democracy activists to “stop funding the junta” since a military coup in February that was followed by a brutal crackdown on dissent.

The company was due to run several announcements in the French newspaper over the next few weeks, but those were canceled after the publication of an article this week titled “Myanmar: How Total finances generals through offshore accounts”.

Le Monde said it had documents showing Total was operating a gas pipeline from Myanmar to Thailand as part of a joint venture with the military-controlled Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise.

The financial plan, which also includes a Thai and American company Chevron, was registered in Bermuda, a tax haven, as the Moattama Gas Transportation Company (MGTC) in 1994.

Total told Le Monde it did not know the “exact reasons” for MGTC’s incorporation in Bermuda three decades ago, adding that the company “is no longer incorporating new subsidiaries in tax havens.”

But the result of the scheme “is that the colossal profits from gas operations do not flow into the Myanmar state coffers, but are massively recovered by a company totally controlled by the military,” concluded Le Monde.

Total did not respond to a request from AFP on Thursday about its decision to remove ads from Le Monde.

The newspaper was also punished in 2015 by banking giant HSBC, along with Britain’s The Guardian, after publishing “Swissleaks”, a series of exhibitions on tax evasion.

Le Monde has successfully shifted its finances from ad addiction to subscriptions in recent years, with ads now accounting for around 22% of its revenue.

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