Mon, Jul 17, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Philip Morris’ global campaign to subvert the UN FCTC — part 2

By Aditya Kalra, Paritosh Bansal, Duff Wilson and Tom Lasseter  /  Reuters, NEW DELHI and LAUSANNE, Switzerland

As soon as the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) treaty conference in New Dehli ended in November last year, Philip Morris turned to the next one: last year’s meeting in India.

The company’s 2014 PowerPoint presentation outlined the need to identify ways to gather intelligence during the Delhi conference, while in a separate 2015 planning document, it talks about the arrangement of farmer protests in the run-up to the meeting.

Such protests did take place — including one in front of WHO offices in New Delhi.

Reporters could not determine whether Philip Morris was behind those demonstrations.

While other major tobacco companies also sent people to Delhi, Philip Morris was distinguished by its stealth. Executives from the company did not sign in with their tobacco industry colleagues at the FCTC convention center and stayed at a hotel about an hour’s drive away.

The anonymity and distance helped Philip Morris approach delegates covertly.

On the second day of the conference, a white Toyota van pulled away from the front of the Hyatt Regency hotel — where Philip Morris had its operations room — and headed for the FCTC treaty venue. The van was carrying Nguyen Thanh Ky, its corporate affairs executive from Vietnam.

Ky’s driver talked his way past police at the barricade outside the conference center, where FCTC-issued credentials were checked, explaining that he was driving “VIPs,” the driver later told reporters.

A few minutes later, a man in a dark suit walked out of the conference center, passed the van and stopped at a street corner. The van did a U-turn, and a reporter saw the man in the suit quickly climb in. He was a senior member of Vietnam’s delegation to the FCTC conference: Nguyen Vinh Quoc, a Vietnamese government official.

The driver, Kishore Kumar, said in an interview that he dropped the two men off at a local hotel. Kumar said that on several other occasions that week, he took Ky to pick up people from the Hotel Formule1, a budget lodging where Vietnam’s delegation was staying during the conference.

Ky and Quoc did not respond to requests for comment.

Asked about the interaction between Ky and the Vietnam representatives, Philip Morris executive Andrew Cave thumped on the table in a bar at the hotel where company representatives were staying.

Reporters should focus on efforts by the industry to develop so-called reduced-risk products — those that deliver nicotine without the burning of tobacco which the company says reduce harm, he said.

When pressed about the meetings with Vietnamese officials, Cave thumped the table again: “I’m angry that you’re focusing on that rather than the real issues that matter to real people.”

In a subsequent e-mail, Cave said: “Representatives from Philip Morris International [PMI] met with delegates from Vietnam [during the Delhi conference] to discuss policy issues and this complied fully with PMI’s internal procedures and the laws and regulations of Vietnam.”

Delegates, Cave said in separate interviews, are reluctant to meet openly with Philip Morris because they are afraid of being “named and shamed” by anti-smoking groups.

SLAVERY IS OVER

Some delegates questioned the extent to which Philip Morris shaped the decisions made at the Moscow conference, saying attendees genuinely disagreed on certain issues.

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