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Blood money on the Norwegian continental shelf

CONTROVERSIAL: The Swedish oil company, Lundin Petroleum­, which operates on the Norwegian continental shelf, is being investigate for breaches of international law.


The company is accused of violating international humanitarian law and for having made a material contribution to war crimes in Sudan, where it was periodically looking for oil during the country’s long civil war. Currently, the controversial oil company, Lundin Petroleum, is greatly increasing its investments on the Norwegian continental shelf: In the course of the year, the company is set to invest 8.5 billion kroner in Norway.


Egbert Wesselink is the author of the report Unpaid Debt, about Lundin’s disputed operations in war-torn Sudan between 1997 and 2003. He believes the investments on the Norwegian continental shelf to be a direct consequence of the profits made from what he calls violations of international law in Sudan.


“They operate like the mafia. They obtain profit by criminal means and are now investing in reputable Norwegian businesses,” claims Wesselink through the ECOS network (European Coalition on Oil in Sudan).


Opened up 


In its own quarterly report from 2003, the company confirms that it used the profits from its Sudan operations to buy its way into Det Norske Oljeselskap (The Norwegian Oil Company – DNO).


“As a result we will be able to finance the acquisition of DNO assets,” the company writes in its quarterly report from 2003 concerning profits from Sudan.


The acquisition of DNO was the start of a period of expansion, says Wesselink, who is surprised at Lundin’s increasing investments on the Norwegian continental shelf.


“It’s blood money,” he claims, and feels that it is scandalous that such a company should be able to operate in Norway.


According to the Department of Oil and Energy, Lundin controls 28 operations in Norway as well as having shares in 55 exploration licence interests and 5 field development projects. 


Swedish questions


Lundin Petroleum is controversial in Sweden too, where the Public Prosecutor for international matters, Magnus Elving, has launched an investigation to find out if the company breached international law during its operations in Sudan between 1997 and 2003. The fact that Sweden’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt, sat on the company’s board from 2000 to 2003 has made the case particularly sensitive.


“The company is popular with investors owing to high returns, but has a poor reputation when it comes to human rights,” says Kerstin Lundell, who has written the book Affärer i blod och olja. She believes that Lundin was directly involved in human rights violations.


Two Swedish journalists were recently released from prison in Ethiopia, where they intended to report upon Lundin operations.


Birth assisted by Norway 


From 1983 until 2005, when a peace agreement was finally reached, Sudan underwent a brutal civil war in which the battle for oil played a key role. When Lundin entered Block 5A, which today lies in South Sudan, the Sudanese government was not in full control. As the pace of oil extraction increased, so did the level of conflict. According to the report ‘Unpaid Debt’, over 10,000 people were killed and over 200,000 forced to leave their homes. The Lundin oil company worked side by side with the Sudanese government and was well aware of the war crimes taking place, claims Wesselink.


“They provided material support to the government which deployed soldiers and used shells against the local population in the period between 2001 and 2002. These were dreadful attacks, a hell on Earth. This is well documented,” says Wesselink.


He thinks it particularly ill that Lundin is now setting itself up in Norway, which has shown great commitment to Sudan over many years and was heavily involved in brokering the 2005 peace agreement.


“Norwegian taxpayers have made a great contribution to the current peace agreement, which continues to be threatened by the conflict over oil”, he says.


Denies allegations


Lundin’s Head of Corporate Communications, Maria Hamilton, has confirmed to Dagsavisen that the Public Prosecutor in Sweden has launched an investigation and that the company has been advised to comment neither upon the inquiry nor upon the company’s previous operations in Sudan. In an e-mail to Dagsavisen, Hamilton writes that the company believes it contributed to improving people’s lives in Sudan, and that this impression was gained through talks with local representatives.


“It was a precondition that operations could be carried out in peaceful surroundings” writes Hamilton.


At the turn of the year to 2012, the Government Pensions Fund Global (the Oil Fund) had investments totalling 753 million Norwegian kroner in the controversial Swedish company. The Pensions Fund will not withdraw its investment as the Council on Ethics to the Oil Fund only deals with ongoing breaches of the ethical guidelines. In Sweden, a number of investors have begun to question Lundin’s activities in Sudan.


SV has earlier called for a freeze on further exploration licences for Lundin on the Norwegian continental shelf until the investigation is complete. The Communications Unit to the Department of Oil and Energy says it knows of no instances where a company has been refused licences as a consequence of ethical considerations.


Lundin Petroleum



The Swedish oil and gas company Lundin Petroleum is making large investments on the Norwegian continental shelf and has a 40% stake in part of the Johan Sverdrup find.


Overall, the company’s investments have increased by 85% around the world. Ten years ago, the company was far smaller and operating in war-torn Sudan.


In 2010, the Public Prosecutor in Sweden began investigations into the company’s oil operations in Sudan in the period from 1997 to 2003. The investigation continues.


In the area in which the company operated, 10,000 people are said to have lost their lives while a further 200,000 were forcibly displaced. The area – the size of the county of Hedmark – now lies in South Sudan.


The Norwegian Government Pensions Fund Global (the Oil Fund) has 753 million Norwegian kroner invested ion the company.


Sources: www.aklagare.se, Unpaid Debt (2010), Department of Oil and Energy