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  • Dec 29, 2014
  • Updated: 6:00pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 September, 2013, 4:01am

Villagers have a dig at mining tycoon's dirty money


Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.

We hear of an intriguing tale from Switzerland involving Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg and the 360 million Swiss francs (HK$3 billion) he paid in tax on his windfall after the Glencore initial public offering.

A large proportion of income tax in Switzerland is paid directly to the local community and, under a complex system, some of the funds are diverted to the poorest villages. Glasenberg's village of Rüschlikon had so much cash that people voted to reduce its taxes by 7 per cent. But some villages were uneasy at taking the money, saying it was tainted by the exploitative methods Glencore used to acquire it.

The unease has continued to grow; so much so that a number of villages over the next few months will be deciding by referendum - as is the Swiss custom - what do with the money. This weekend the village of Hedingen will vote on whether to give 110,000 Swiss francs to Swiss charities or to the countries it considers are ruthlessly exploited by international companies. How would the good people of Hong Kong react in a similar situation, we wonder?


Fishy business

Much as we support the ban on trawling in Hong Kong we can't help wondering about the curious request in yesterday's letters page in this newspaper by Dr P.M. So, assistant director (fisheries), Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.

After declaring his department would vigilantly enforce the ban on trawling he asks members of the public, "to come forward and provide information (time, location, and vessel operating licence number) on any suspected illegal fishing activities".

Unless the trawlers are fishing conveniently close to the shore or in the harbour it is highly unlikely that members of the public will be of much use. Even those on pleasure vessels will have to get fairly close to the trawler to view its licence number. He then bizarrely suggests people should "report vessels not exhibiting proper navigation lights at night" to the Marine Department. Even if members of the public knew the correct lights for operating at night, few if any will have night vision goggles at the ready to enable them to see the offending vessel and make a note of its details.


A Tale of Two Ventures

To the Maritime Museum, where Wah Kwong Maritime Transport Holdings hosted a reception on Tuesday to mark the opening of the exhibition A Tale of Two Ventures. It is a display of photographs that appear in a book of the same name produced to mark Wah Kwong's 60th anniversary last year. But this is more than a paean to Wah Kwong in that it tells the story of the "shipping chain" in showing the role that shipping plays in the modern world.

Hong Kong-based photographer Basil Pao, who has documented many of Michael Palin's trips, recorded how iron ore is mined, transported to a port to be loaded on to the bulk carrier Aqua Venture, transported to China and made into steel that was subsequently used to build the VLCC Dalian Venture - hence the title "A Tale of two Ventures".

Wah Kwong has been at pains to use the book to promote the shipping industry in Hong Kong and, in addition to sending it to clients, has given it to local schools. The exhibition runs until October 6.


Why banking matters

Samir Assaf, CEO of global banking and markets at HSBC, has sounded a rallying cry to the banking industry. Speaking at Sibos, the annual financial technology conference, he said: "People have questioned our culture and integrity - quite fairly in some cases - and we are each addressing this directly in our own institutions, and together as an industry."

Banks need to remember why banking matters and why it is important to society, he added, according to Financial News. "Our industry at its best provides the pillars on which the global economy stands. We enable business to grow, economies to prosper and individuals to fulfil their hopes and to realise their ambitions. It is still our collective and individual responsibility to continue working to this end."

That's all very well, we say, but we wonder if there really has been a change in culture and if anything real has been done to change banks that are still too big to fail. The answer is clearly "no" in both cases.


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This article is now closed to comments

John Adams
While HSBC does employ some excellent staff, it also employs some who are totally immoral.The branch I use employs some excellent Premier Account managers. Yet the same branch employs "spiv" staff who sell HSBC's insurance/ savings products, one of who tricked a PRC national I know into buying an index-linked product which promptly started to lose money, when the customer only wanted to put money on fixed deposit (The Branch Manager was so embarrassed that HSBC cancelled the trade and refunded the customer the losses because the sales trickery was so blatant once exposed ).
I would have expected that branch of HSBC to have fired the staff involved, but he is still there 4 years later and has even been joined by another one who looks even more shady.
One should not stereo-type people by their looks and dress style, but when one sees an HSBC sales staff who both looks and dresses like a cross between a second-hand car salesman and a super-pushy property marketing agent then one naturally thinks " that's a man I would never buy a second-hand car from, nor a property, and certainly never an HSBC insurance / investment product.".
But as long as there are naive customers it seems HSBC continues to employ jackal-type sales staff.
Mr Samir Assaf needs to spend more time in time in the trenches instead of head office and Sibos
Just jump ship; SCB has served me well since 1965...
When one reports to Marine Police that you can see the lights and hear the engines of fishing vessels offshore late at night, they send a vessel to investigate, but mysteriously within a few minutes of the call the fishing vessels turn away and the Marine Police say they cannot find them.
Either the fishing vessels are tuning in to the police radio frequency or someone is tipping them off...
If you want to know how the banking culture has changed just try to open a bank account for a start-up company. In an attempt to diversify away from HSBC, which is soso, SCB never called back after TWO visits to their SME Center, and DBS, Hang Seng, Citibank were not prepared to open a new account, even I am a HK resident for > 15 years and have other established businesses. Young, scared, and fairly incompetent would probably be the best description. English language standards = horrendous!


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