Scam Artist Swindling Amazon’s Tribes Into Giving Away All Their Lands

Deforestation. Palm oil. Mining. Oil and gas drilling. Although the tribes that call the Amazon home have lived in peace with the planet for centuries, first world problems have been delivered to their doorstep. In what seems like a cruel joke, scam artists operating under the guide of carbon offset salesmen are targeting the Amazon’s most primitive tribes in an attempt to exploit its natural resource.

An Australian “businessman” named David Nilsson is wanted by the Peruvian court under suspicion of swindling tribes into giving away the rights to their ancient lands. His hustle? Pretending to be a trader of carbon offset credits, worth top dollar to the world’s largest polluters, Nilsson convinces tribal leaders to sign contracts that actually grant Nilsson rights to the land and all of its resources, carbon-related and otherwise.

It didn’t take long for profit-hungry corporations, out of resources to exploit in their own countries, to turn their greedy eyes on the vastly untouched Amazon. Together they have decimated acres of pristine rain forest to make room for commercial agriculture and mining operations, dammed rivers and dumped billions of gallons of toxic wastewater. Somehow, Nilsson’s scheme seems even more sinister, since it facilitates environmental destruction under the guise of preventing it.

In an undercover investigation by Australian 60 minutes, Nilsson claims to have three million hectares of forest in Peru under a 200 year contract. The carbon contract runs for 25 years, after which, Nilsson explains, “people can come through and harvest the rainforest there.” Once the trees are out of the way, “they can plant palm oil.”

Isolated tribes living in primitive villages are not-surprisingly dazzled by Nilsson’s promises of wealth, good jobs and protection of the forest. Many have signed his contracts, even though they can’t read or write. If they could, they might have noticed a curious clause that forbids the tribes from showing the contract to any outside parties, like a lawyer.

In the few cases when a community member has sensed that something is fishy, the potential shame and loss has forced tribal leaders into denial. Those who acknowledge the scam are shunned by the community, left to seek assistance from the distant government on their own.

Recently, efforts of the people’s defender in Iquitos have yielded some progress. Nilsson has left Peru and cannot return thanks to a court-issued warrant. Sadly, this does little for the tribes that have already fallen for his tactics. Many have yet to see a penny in payment for their land, and the promised construction jobs never materialized

If there is a silver lining, it may be that Nilsson’s scheme puts a much-needed spotlight on the dubious nature of the international carbon credit system.

Lizbeth Castro, the local ombudsman, says the carbon market is not well regulated in Peru. Her institution has sent the case to the Committee for Indigenous People in Peru’s congress to push for strong legislation that will protect the land and their owners.

The committee’s president, Congressman Victor Grandez, has asked the Ministries of Environment and Culture to fight against Nilsson. “Nilsson is only one of many carbon cowboys that will arrive in the Amazon rainforest, looking for riches while damaging the environment,” he says.

Related Reading:

Carbon Capitalism: Boyd Cohen’s Quest To Offset Carbon

Carbon Credits For Camel Killing?

5 Ways You Can Save Tropical Rainforests

Image via Thinkstock


Frances Darcy
Frances D4 years ago

I agree with Greg f.

greg rzesniowiecki

Goodness can't the courts diss the contracts and recover the tribes rights to their lands? ll this hand ringing and no effort to counter attack. The Exploiting Class are on attack all the time. This is the way they win.
They have more drive and the power structures swinging their way.

So to throw the elite off, one ought counter. The way to do that would be to get the contracts voided and counter sue for damages, for false offers, breach trust, misrepresentation of facts etc. Criminality is the name of his game.

Best with the project, greg

Stanley R.
Stanley R5 years ago

Sounds like this Nilsson guy would make a good candidate for 2012 GOP President.

Carrie Anne Brown

sad news but thanks for sharing

Mark Donners
Mark Donner5 years ago

unbelievable the scumbags that are spawned in Australia, the criminal responsible for the Namibian seal massacres is also an Australiam. No surprise since Australia are the world's worst hypocrites, conducting their own wildlife massacres and environmental destruction.

Gysele van Santen

a real piece of work, that guy.

Alexandra Rodda
Alexandra Rodda5 years ago

The Australian government should put him and his ilk on trial.

Hugh W.
.5 years ago

Scumbag.... Hope someone drops him and his ilk into a deep hole in the Amazon or someone feeds him to a caiman.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Thanks for all the information.

Elizabeth Sowers
Liz Sowers5 years ago

Unbelievable. Too many of us humans seem to have no sense of honor or ethics.