NGOs draw line between their involvement with Unima and company’s financial dealings

Published on
November 9, 2018

WWF-Madagascar and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) have released statements in response to a request from SeafoodSource for comment on a report from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists revealing questionable financial practices of Unima Group, a producer of premium Malagasy giant tiger shrimp in Madagascar.

The ICIJ report alleges Unima founder Aziz Ismail and his son, Amyne H. Ismail, who is the company’s general manager, set up offshore shell companies to hide their assets and avoid paying taxes in Madagascar. The report reviewed emails, contracts, and company records made public in the Panama Papers, a trove of more than 11 million documents taken from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca and leaked by an anonymous source.

The Ismails and Unima did not respond to ICIJ’s requests for comment.

Both WWF and ASC have ties to Unima. In 2007, WWF-Madagascar sealed a partnership with Unima to promote a model for sustainable development and working together to design and implement best practices for shrimp farming. As part of the agreement, Unima implemented WWF’s Biodiversity Action Plan on and around Unima’s production sites in Madagascar.

“WWF-Madagascar works with a number of actors including Unima to promote sustainable shrimp aquaculture in Madagascar. As a conservation organization, our focus and priority is the promotion of sustainable aquaculture and biodiversity conservation in the farm area in the country and in 2016, UNIMA's Mahajamba shrimp farm achieved eco-certification from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council as part of this work,” WWF-Madagascar said in a statement to SeafoodSource. “We have no role nor involvement in UNIMA's internal financial reporting and practices. Should recent allegations be proven, WWF fully supports appropriate action by relevant authorities.”

A number of Unima farms are in ASC’s certification program, including those run by Aqualma SA, a Unima subsidiary, and the Unima shrimp farm Nouvelle Aquaculture de Crevettes de Besalampy, are currently undergoing initial certification.

“While we do not have a partnership with the farm, and no connection with Unima beyond what we have with our farms in our programme, [the farms of] Aqualma SA, which is owned by Unima, are certified to the ASC Shrimp Standard and a second farm also owned by them, Nouvelle Aquaculture de Crevettes de Besalampy is currently undergoing initial certification,” ASC Communications Manager Sun Brage told SeafoodSource. “The farm certificate for the certified site expires in July 2019 and the site will have to undergo an audit to retain ASC certification. In the event that the information in the Panama Papers is accurate, it should be shared with the CAB conducting the re-certification audit. All certified farms must meet Principle 1, which requires that they adhere to all laws in the jurisdiction where they operate. In the event of an unlawful activity, a farm would not be eligible to become certified.” 

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