The British involvement: Enron [India] revisited

 CHS-Sachetan

Mumbai’s Centre for Holistic Studies, a resource-centre and library with extensive databases, gave support, information and encouragement to farmers resisting the Dabhol power project in Maharashtra.

CHS’ Indranet Journal,Vol 3, No 2-4,1994, published ENRON –THE POWER TO DO IT ALL, by Winin Pereira, Subhash Sule and Abhay Mehta. Later, Abhay’s book, “Power Play” on the Enron-Dabhol Project was published.

Looking back I saw that in June 1997 CHSUK posted a bundle of cuttings to Amnesty UK who were seeking information, following serious violence against the ‘project affected’. CHS-Sachetan gave a lot of evidence to Amnesty International’s Emma Blower and Sangeeta Ahuja, who produced a detailed report on the human rights violations perpetrated against local people living near the Enron power project in Maharashtra.

About the fifth cutting I wrote: “I have heard that British companies had insured this project and that the London office of Payne & Linklater were acting in some capacity for Enron.” This was confirmed in The Lawyer’s article (28.7.10) ‘Linklaters in line for India tax bill after court ruling.”

The Jubilee Debt Coalition’s 2011 report

The report – which can be downloaded via its new site – details the ‘dodgy deals’ underwritten by the British government [taxpayer] via the UK’s Export Credit Guarantee Department (ECGD).

In theory ECGD is an insurance project but in execution far more. It has a particularly deplorable record in foisting arms deals on countries which could not afford them by means of the ‘offsets’ mechanism – but that’s another story.

The Jubilee Debt Coalition’s report notes that the ECGD denied that support for Enron’s Dabhol power plant project had been given when first asked in 2010, but later acknowledged this in their response to a Freedom of Information request on 6.10.10. Its support – ‘overseas investment insurance’ – came well after serious concerns had been expressed about its viability.

A websearch reveals that in 2004, a letter was sent to Mike O’Brien, Minister of State for Trade and Investment about the Dabhol Power Project, India, from Indian and UK organisations including Corner House (UK), All India Power Engineers Federation, India, National Confederation of Officers Associations of Central Public Sector Undertakings, India, Corporate Accountability Campaign, Friends of the Earth—England, Wales and Northern Ireland  and the National Working Group on Power India. It was copied to ECGD, ABN Amro, ANZ Grindlays, Treasury, Standard Chartered Bank, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, DFID, National Audit Office, BP, Shell and British Gas.

It made most serious allegations, recounting that:

“ANZ Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and ABN Amro had approached the ECGD at some stage during 2003 to make claims under the ECGD’s political risk insurance scheme. The report suggested that the amount of claims to the ECGD could be in the region of $60 million. The grounds for the claims appear to be that the Indian governments, at both state and local level, have behaved in such a way over the Dabhol Power Project that an expropriation has occurred.”

Ending:

“We believe that, in examining the claims made by the three banks, the ECGD should give serious consideration to whether the banks concerned conducted adequate due diligence before investing in what was clearly at the time an extremely risky project and whether the ECGD would be rewarding poor investment decisions by paying such a claim. We also believe that the ECGD must examine whether paying a claim to the banks concerned will lead to the Indian government and Indian financial institutions having to assume an unfair share of the financial burden resulting from the crisis in the project. It is clear that for a lasting and equitable solution to the crisis, foreign investors will have to accept some form of realistic burden-sharing.”

Please bear with the website ‘blip’: suddenly no spaces appear after the commas.

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