So, it’s a beautiful summer day in August, and I’m on the thirteenth
floor of the HSBC Building in downtown Vancouver, home of the
elegant North American administrative office of Lundin Oil AB.
There isn’t anybody keeping an eye on the front desk, so I snoop
around a bit, help myself to a few business cards, and stuff a
copy of the Globe and Mail into my backpack.
After awhile, a smiling, spry fellow in a short sleeved Dockers
dress shirt strolls out from one of the offices and asks if he
can help me with anything. I tell him I’m there to pick up a copy
of the annual report for Lundin Oil.
“No problem,” he replies, still smiling. He darts off for a
moment, then returns with a copy of the report.
“Here you go.”
He smiles again, and I’m suddenly struck by a strong sense of
familiarity. I flip through the report, arrive at a photo of the
administrative board of Lundin Oil, and realize that my suspicion
is correct: the man in the Dockers dress shirt is none other than
Lukas Lundin, one of the richest men in Vancouver, son of the
even-richer international oil baron, Adolph Lundin.
While I stand dumbfounded, trying to figure out what I should
do next, Lundin zips out of the office followed by a trio of giggling
babes in breezy summer attire. Like a true gentleman, he holds
the door open while the ladies slip into the elevator. I manage
to squeeze in at the last moment.
A tall bald man in the elevator greets Lundin with a toothy
“Hi, hi,” Lundin says.
“Where are you all off to?”
“We’re going out for lunch. It’s Sandy’s birthday.”
“Wow!! Looks like it’s going to be a good party!!”
“Yes,” says Lundin. “It’s going to be a very good party.”
Everybody laughs, including me.
When we get to the lobby, I follow Lundin past the swinging,
buffed aluminum pendulum, through the revolving door, and watch
as he and his bevy of babes pile into a cab and dash off to Sandy’s
* * * * *
The posh urban world inhabited by Lukas Lundin may seem to be
in a universe entirely apart from that of war-torn Sudan, the
largest country in Africa, where naked victims of genocide run
screaming from burning villages and children are enlisted as soldiers.
But in fact, the ever-fatter Lundin larder has been sponsoring
Sudanese slaughter for several extremely profitable years.
Since 1983, a bitter civil war between the Sudan People’s Liberation
Army (SPLA) in Southern Sudan and the Islamic-Fundamentalist Khartoum
government in Northern Sudan has claimed the lives of two million
people, displaced four million, and led to reports of widespread
rape, execution, torture, slavery, forced labour, burned villages,
and use of child soldiers. US Secretary of State, Colin Powell
has said that the situation in Sudan may well represent “the greatest
tragedy on the face of the earth today.” The conflict in Sudan
would have probably been resolved long ago if it weren’t for international
oil companies, such as Lundin Oil and Calgary-based company, Talisman
Energy, who split profits from oil exportation with the Khartoum
government in exchange for “protection” of their oil-extracting
operations. “Protection” = the slaughter, starvation, and displacement
of millions. According to a recent US government report, the Khartoum
government has implemented a scorched-earth policy around oil-extraction
facilities in order to keep them safe from SPLA sabotage.
“These forces have destroyed villages and driven out inhabitants
in order to create an uninhabited security zone,” the report says.
“The displacement of thousands of civilians from the south has
served the Khartoum government’s objective of creating a secure
place for oil workers by making it difficult for the SPLA to operate
in the area.”
Several human rights groups have pinned blame for the Sudanese
slaughter on oil companies in Sudan. A heavily condemnatory report
released by Amnesty International last year says profits from
oil exportation are the primary reason why the Khartoum government
has preferred anarchy to local government in southern Sudan.
“Oil is a symbol of the Sudanese problem,” the report says.
“Sudan’s recent history of decolonization, failed nation building,
and its continuing political affairs are reflected in the story
of oil. Economic factors, such as oil exploration and extraction,
show not only that considerations of the global economy dominate
political decision-making but also clearly indicate the underlying
sources of the conflict in Sudan. Foreign oil companies are involved
in lucrative oil production and they expect the Sudanese government
to provide a secure environment, which includes the use of security
forces to protect oil company staff and assets. Thus, Amnesty
International believes many foreign oil companies tolerate violations
by turning a blind eye to the human rights violations committed
by the government security forces or government-allied troops
in the name of protecting the security of oil-producing areas.”
The situation in Sudan is bad enough to prompt the USA-a country
that’s usually first in line to profit from the misery and destruction
of other countries-to stand up and take action. Last month, the
US House of Representatives voted by an overwhelming majority
(422 to 2) to pass the precedent-setting Sudan Peace Act, which
entails explicit provision for denying US capital market access
to oil companies operating in Sudan. Using brutally critical language,
Congressman after Congressman excoriated the consequences of oil
development in Sudan.
“We should not help foreign oil companies who are helping prolong
this bloody slaughter,” said Representative Tom Lantos of California.
He added that it was “shameful” that foreign oil companies could
use funds raised in the United States to back genocide.
It’s impossible to believe that foreign oil companies are unaware
that the concession fees they pay to the Khartoum government are
used to finance warfare. In April 1999, General Hassan Turabi,
a key figure in the Khartoum regime, openly announced that oil
profits are used to purchase weapons. In the same month the first
oil tankers left Sudan filled with Sudanese oil, 20 T-55 tanks
arrived on Sudanese shores, ready to be added to the Khartoum
The leader of the Khartoum government, Omar Hassan al-Bashir,
has scoffed at demands to bring the war to an end. It’s unlikely
his attitude will change as long as the war continues to run at
Lundin Oil is a Swedish company with Vancouver roots. The Lundin
family, headed by patriarch, Adolph, with his Vancouver-born sons,
Lukas and Ian, are notorious for going into risky areas, such
as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, grabbing huge mineral/
oil deposits at discount prices, and selling them at a premium.
Adolph Lundin came to Canada in the 1970s and quickly became one
of the most powerful financiers on the Vancouver Stock Exchange.
His sprawling empire includes numerous oil companies worth hundreds
of millions of dollars in total. In 1997, Lundin’s Company, International
Petroleum Corp. (IPC), merged with Sands Petroleum AB of Sweden
to form Lundin Oil.
Shortly before the merger, IPC signed an Exploration and Production
Sharing Agreement with the Sudanese government, granting it rights
to 29.142 kilometers in the Muglad Basin known as “Block 5A,”
an area devastated by oil-related violence, famine and human displacement.
Lundin Oil retains a 40.357% share in the Block 5A concession,
and acts as operator for a consortium which includes Malaysia’s
Petronas, Austria’s ÖMV Sudan GmbH, and the Sudan government’s
Sudapet. Other foreign oil companies operating in Sudan include
China’s China National Petroleum Corporation, Canada’s Talisman
Energy, Italy’s Agip, France’s Totalfina, and Iran’s National
Iranian Gas Company.
Adolph Lundin’s son, Ian, is president and managing director
of Lundin Oil. He and his father live in Geneva. His other son,
Lukas Lundin (my friend from the elevator) lives in Vancouver,
where he heads up the family’s North American administrative office,
located at 1320-885 West Georgia Street. When he isn’t busy attending
birthday parties, Lukas enjoys skiing and running. Last year,
he placed 43rd in the Shaughnessy 8K run.
If the Lundin Oil policy statement on Sudan is an accurate indication
of the Lundin family’s collective opinion, then it seems as though
they believe propagation of genocidal warfare is, in fact, a humanitarian
effort calculated to benefit the impoverished Sudanese masses.
“Lundin Oil believes that the discovery of oil fields and their
development is, over time, one of the best ways to promote the
economic development of Sudan, and thus the living standards of
all the Sudanese people,” the statement says. “Lundin Oil also
believes that economic gains, when used to improve the socio-economic
and human condition of the Sudanese people, will enhance the prospects
of peace in the country. It will, within its possibilities, support
initiatives that may lead to long-lasting peace in Sudan.”
Companies such as Lundin and Talisman are usually quick to point
out Sudanese “development” projects they supply funds for, such
as the construction of water-wells, roads, schools, and hospitals.
In many cases, however, these projects are nothing more than a
front to deflect criticism and keep investors happy. The bottom
line is that the companies can’t do anything without the approval
of the Khartoum government, which is ruthlessly clearing local
people out of the oil areas and using its oil revenue to finance
is not shy.
"B.C.'s Lundin family doesn't let politics get in the way International
Ian McKinnon, National Post, Friday, November 26, 1999:
"No Blood for Oil! Western Firms and Genocide in Southern Sudan
- A Human Rights Report by Society for Threatened Peoples," Report
No. 25 / April 2000: +++
Amnesty International - Report - AFR 54/01/00, May 2000,
"Sudan: The Human Price Of Oil," +++
Vitrade, "Follow the Money; Who is Financing the War in Sudan?"
(May 26, 2000) +++
Vitrade, "In Sudan, it is difficult to tell the players without
a scorecard. Here is your scorecard," (May 26, 2000) +++