Total pulls World ads on report on military ties to Myanmar
Paris, France ●
Fri, May 7, 2021
French energy giant Total has pulled advertisements from The world after reporting that the company was paying the gas revenues to the Burmese military through a tax haven, the newspaper said on Thursday.
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 in the coming weeks, but those were canceled after an article published 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 on Thursday from AFP on its decision to remove ads from Le Monde.
The newspaper was also punished in 2015 by the banking giant HSBC, as well as by the British The Guardian, after having published “Swissleaks”, a series of exhibitions on tax evasion.
The World has successfully shifted its finances from ad addiction to subscriptions in recent years, with ads now accounting for around 22% of its revenue.