Norway’s largest pension fund is facing increased scrutiny in the wake of a July announcement that it would boycott Israeli companies in Judea and Samaria after the revelation that it invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Chinese companies linked to slave labor and Russian firms sanctioned by the US, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
Norges Bank's Government Pension Fund Global put several Israeli corporations in Judea and Samaria on an “excluded companies” list at the beginning of September, alleging "serious infringements of the rights of the individual in situations of war or conflict in connection with the construction of roads linked to Israeli settlements in the West Bank."
According to the fund’s last financial disclosures dating from December, it holds over $150 million in investments in seven or more companies that operated in the Xinjiang proving of China, where Uyghur Muslims face ongoing human rights violations, including forced labor. Some of these companies are accused of using Uyghur slave labor.
It also has invested $1.8 billion in shares of six or more Russian energy firms and banks that are currently under American sanctions or restrictions.
A spokesperson for Norges Bank told the Free Beacon that the decision to boycott Israeli companies was made after a recommendation from the Council on Ethics, which was established by the Ministry of Finance and acts as an independent board.
Norges Bank did not disclose if the fund still contained shares in the Chinese companies accused of using slave labor or the Russian entities under American sanctions or restrictions.
Last year, Norges said it would be conducting an investment review on companies accused of using slave labor in Xinjiang. However, according to the Free Beacon report, none of those companies are on the list of “excluded companies” used by the fund.
That list is approved by the fund’s executive board based on recommendations from the Council on Ethics which are not publicly available.
The chair of the Council on Ethics, Johan H. Andresen, said in March he was "concerned that some of our companies in the fund may make use of this [slave] labour,” Reuters reported.
He added that if he made a recommendation to exclude the companies, it would happen in the first half of 2021.