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The Red Hand of Lundin
by Stephen Wittek

“There have been reports that government troops cleared the area around the town of Bentiu using helicopter gunships, some allegedly piloted by Iraqui soldiers, and aerial cluster bombardment by high-altitude Antonov planes. In addition to the air attacks, government troops on the ground reportedly drove people out of their homes by committing gross human rights violations; male villagers were killed in mass executions; women and children were nailed to trees with iron spikes. There were reports from some villages, north and south of Bentiu, such as Guk and Rik, that soldiers slit the throats of children and killed male prisoners who had been interrogated by hammering nails into their foreheads. In Panyejier last July, people had been crushed by tanks and strafed by helicopter gunships.”

---Amnesty International report on the link between international oil companies and human rights abuses in Sudan.

"For now, the oil companies are untroubled by their role in the brutal destruction and displacement of civilians in the oil regions or by the fact that Khartoum is the sole beneficiary of all Sudanese revenue from oil pumped out of southern fields. Nor are they bothered by Khartoum’s declared intention to use oil revenue to purchase more lethal weaponry and create a domestic armaments industry. Three oil companies drilling in Sudan are on US exchanges and should be 'delisted'as soon as possible: Talisman Energy, PetroChina, and Lundin Oil.”

Eric Reeves, a professor from Smith College in Northampton, MA.

“Ross Sherwood, vice-president of Odlum Brown Ltd. in Vancouver, is a friend of Lukas Lundin, whom he described as a keen skier who spends most winter weekends in Whistler. ‘He’s just a regular dad with a really nice wife and some delightful kids. He’s not into the see-and-be-seen scene, it’s just not his way.’”

Ian McKinnon in The National Post, November 26, 1999.


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.”

“Thank you.”

“No problem.”

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 grin.


“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 birthday party.

* * * * *


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 arsenal.

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 a profit.


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 the war.

              Stephen Wittek 
              is not shy. 


Supporting Documents

"B.C.'s Lundin family doesn't let politics get in the way International empire,"
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) +++

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