|John Wagner left with Bainimarama and Khaiyum last year|
The sham in the mahogany industry continues with the company formed with 'insider help' this week getting shortlisted as an industry leader in a U.S. State Department award.
|Bryce Seru (left) of Northern Forest Resource Ltd.|
Sustainable Mahogany Industries is one of 11 finalists for the 2012 US Secretary of State's Award for Corporate Excellence.
SMI is, of course, the company established with the help of Nur Bano Ali, the accountant aunt of the illegal attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, who drew up the decree that has allowed the industry to be revamped.
Industry sources say she was paid $300k by former SMI director and New Zealander, Peter White, to lobby for SMI to be given the exclusive licence for the G1 and G2 logs.
SMI was first to be awarded a licence giving it access to top grade mahogany and was supposed to make guitars but as revealed in our last story (Sawmillers: Mahogany 'reforms' give foreigners upper hand at local's expense), export figures show it is sending 90 per cent of its production offshore as rough sawn timber, largely to the Dominican Republic.
The country's biggest stakeholder, the Sawmillers Association which employs close to 13-hundred workers and brings in $60 million a year, was bumped off the invite list to Bainimarama's inaugural Mahogany Council meeting last week at the last minute, despite getting the green light earlier.
The Association had for some months being trying to discuss with Bainimarama and Khaiyum concerns about the 'reforms' the pair planned to introduce via the new decree, not least the shafting of locals in favour of new players. (again see letter in previous story for full details)
Information obtained by Coupfourpointfive shows wide concern and alarm at the unwarranted privileges given to SMI, and companies such as Pacific Western Timbers, owned by American John Wagner, a shareholder of SMI.
Three other newcomers have also been given licences by the regime: Rainy Woods Ltd, Northern Forest International Ltd (an offshoot of Northern Forest Resource Ltd) run by Bryce Seru, and Wood Moulders Fiji Ltd. (see attachments)
According to the U.S. State Department website, the nominees for the U.S. corporate award that has shortlisted SMI as an industry leader, are usually made by the chiefs of missions.
Winners in the past have included General Motors, Coca Cola, Motorola and Xerox although in recent years we note the recipients have become more obscure. Last year's winner was Sahlman Seafoods, Incorporated, Nicaragua; Procter & Gamble, Nigeria; Procter & Gamble, Pakistan.
The Suva based US ambassador, Frankie Reed, told the Fiji Times the selection committee was 'impressed by SMI's assistance in developing the Fiji Pure Mahogany brand by supporting indigenous forest reservation and conservation through the exclusive use of sustainable produced and certified mahogany'.
"In fact, Sustainable Mahogany Industries has just been announced as one of only 11 worldwide finalists for the 2012 US Secretary of State's Award for Corporate Excellence which recognises the outstanding contributions of US businesses and entrepreneurs around the world.
"We thank Sustainable Mahogany Industries again for their positive model of American corporate social responsibility."
According to Fiji Times, Bainimarama revealed recently that 'SMI has a substantial number of women working in the sawmill, operating state-of-the-art machines in making world-class guitar components out of Fiji mahogany.'
Bainamarama himself was quoted as saying the selections committee applauded SMI's efforts in 'empowering women through employment and professional advancement; and implementing exemplary occupational health and safety processes.'