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Lord Ahmed's accusation of blackmail has been denied by Nestlé whistle blower

20th March 2002

Former Nestlé employee, Syed Aamar Raza, denied today that he attempted to blackmail Nestlé using internal company documents showing the company bribed doctors in Pakistan to increase baby milk sales. The accusation was made by Lord Ahmed, the controversial Labour peer, on the Shazia Khan show on the BBC Asian Network yesterday when Lord Ahmed was questioned about his own financial links with the company. Syed Aamar Raza has been in hiding since gunshots were fired at his home in Sialkot, Pakistan over two years ago, prior to his presenting evidence of Nestlé malpractice at the House of Commons. He told Baby Milk Action:

"I did not attempt to blackmail Nestlé. My life was threatened and I was offered a large sum of money to drop my legal action against Nestlé. I approached Lord Ahmed asking him to help me in my campaign to protect infants in Pakistan. It is very distressing that he has decided to work for Nestlé and is making these untrue allegations about me on the radio. It is another attempt to divert people from the real issue - the unnecessary death and suffering of infants in Pakistan."

Lord Ahmed denied being an apologist for Nestlé, but then defended the company at length claiming that he had conducted his own investigation in Pakistan and none of the 140 million Pakistanis had any complaints about Nestlé, only people in Canada and Cambridge. Lord Ahmed did not reveal to listeners that a 'fact-finding' trip he made to Pakistan had been organised and financed by Nestlé. Lord Ahmed did indicate that he will be becoming a paid advisor to Nestlé. In November 2000 he attempted to intervene in support of the company at a European Parliament public hearing into the company's baby food marketing activities, which the company refused to attend (see "MEPs shocked as Nestlé and Adidas snub Public Hearing on corporate responsibility" which includes the text of presentations made to the Public Hearing by the Network for Consumer Protection in Pakistan and UNICEF's Legal Officer).

In the interview Lord Ahmed referred to a tape which he claims substantiates his allegation of blackmail. Syed Aamar Raza has been pressing Nestlé for a copy of the tape since Nestlé first claimed to have it over two years ago, but has had no response from Nestlé. Nestlé told the German media that it obtained the tape using illegal means. Baby Milk Action has also asked Nestlé to substantiate its blackmail allegation and to release the tape, but Nestlé has refused to do so.

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator, Baby Milk Action, was participating in the live head-to-head interview with Lord Ahmed yesterday when the accusation was made. Mike Brady said in response in the interview:

"We have been asking Nestlé to substantiate its blackmail allegation for literally years. Now Lord Ahmed says he had access to a tape. Aamar Raza has written to Nestlé asking for a copy of that tape so he can defend himself. Now I would ask Lord Ahmed, if he has these contacts with Nestlé will he get a copy of that tape instead of making allegations of blackmail against Aamar Raza when he does not have a chance to defend himself and he has not seen the tape?"

Lord Ahmed did not respond to this question. (Click here to hear Baby Milk Action's recording of the interview).

Syed Aamar Raza worked as a Medical Delegate for Nestlé until April 1997 when he resigned from the company shortly after an infant at a clinic he was visiting died as a result of diarrhoea and malnutrition. When he asked the doctor why the infant had died, the doctor replied, "Because of people like you." Aamar's duties as a Nestlé representative included bribing doctors with gifts and money to promote Nestlé breastmilk substitutes and promoting the milks directly to mothers himself at baby shows organised by his Area Detailing Executive. The death of the infant and the distress of the parents moved Aamar deeply, particularly as he had a two and half year old son and his wife was 8 months pregnant at that time. After his resignation, Aamar sent a Legal Notice to Nestlé calling on the company to stop its unethical promotion. He claims this prompted threats and the offer of money. After contacting the Pakistan group, The Network for Consumer Protection (a member of the International Baby Food Action Network - IBFAN) Aamar decided to go public with documentary evidence implicating Nestlé management at the highest level in the bribing of doctors and other activities banned by the World Health Assembly marketing requirements for breastmilk substitutes. Documents include copies of cheques, memoranda, minutes of meetings and Aamar's wage slips which reveal he received bonus payments for meeting sales targets - infant formula received most points in the company incentive scheme. The report Milking Profits, based on his evidence, was launched in Berlin in December 1999.

Aamar has not seen his wife and children since he left Pakistan in November 1999 and remains fearful about returning to Pakistan following the gun attack and other threats (see press release 29th February 2000 - Nestlé whistleblower to present evidence at House of Commons (UK Parliament) despite gun attack in Pakistan)

For further details see the summary of the report Milking Profits and other press releases in the 'resources' section.

Also see: The Guardian 19th March 2002 and British Medical Journal, 18th February 2000

Notes for Editors:

  1. Baby food companies are required to abide by the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions adopted by the World Health Assembly. The Assembly is the policy setting body of the World Health Organisation. These measures are not enforceable, unless adopted in national legislation. Nestlé has been opposing this in Pakistan since at least 1992. A draft law is presently with the new administration in Pakistan, but has still not been passed.

  2. According to UNICEF, where water is unsafe a bottle-fed child is up to 25 times more likely to die as a result of diarrhoea than a breastfed child. In Pakistan, 26% of the population does not have access to safe water and 53% do not have access to adequate sanitation.

  3. The evidence contained in Milking Profits substantiates evidence found by monitoring in 33 cities in Pakistan and published as the report Feeding Fiasco in March 1998. Evidence from around the world continues to demonstrate that Nestlé is violating the marketing requirements in a systematic manner. For information on ordering Feeding Fiasco, visit the Virtual Shop.

  4. Nestlé is distributing a report dated a week after the shooting incident in Sialkot which contradicts the information in Baby Milk Action's possession, even to the extent of saying there are no bullet marks at the house. The presence of bullet marks has been independently verified by a journalist in Pakistan and photographs can be seen in Update 27. The police Station House Officer named in Nestlé's report has been transferred from the station and no contact details are being released by his replacement.

  5. The German launch of Milking Profits coincided with an article in Stern, including pictures taken in Pakistan which may be purchased for publication from the syndication agency Picture Press GmbH. For details of pictures contact Picture Press GmbH on +49 40 3703 2572. Baby Milk Action has no connection with the agency nor responsibility for the pictures.

  6. An investigative television series in Germany, Kennzeichen D, was to broadcast film of Mr. Raza in Pakistan on 8th December 1999. This was cancelled at the last minute after Nestlé's Communications Director, Francois Perroud, met with a senior executive of ZDF television. The journalist responsible for the film has since resigned and it has been reported in Die Welt that the 28-year-old investigative television series responsible for the film is to be axed by ZDF.

  7. Baby Milk Action has had a long correspondence with Nestlé Vice-President, Niels Christiansen, who is responsible for diverting criticism of Nestlé's baby food marketing malpractice. Mr. Christiansen has not provided adequate explanations for the documentary evidence provided by Syed Aamar Raza and has not substantiated the blackmail allegation. For copies of the correspondence contact Baby Milk Action.



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