Words by Nick Gordon
I remember reading somewhere that a city’s lofty skyline served a dual purpose: to offer inspiration for the masses to work harder so that they, too, can one day work in this building or one like it and receive its bountiful riches on offer.
The other is to serve as a reminder to the poor exactly who dominates whom.
Whether this is true or not is not something I know; however, I am at times reminded of this whenever I look out at the uninterrupted view of the Shard from my living room, and Canary Wharf from my bedroom, from my flat located in the poorer part of South East London.
But exactly what happens within these glistening towers located in London’s sprawling financial districts was part subject of DeSmog’s 2018 three-part investigation series, Empire Oil: London’s Dirty Secret.
The series – a first that is expressly written for public consumption – blew the lid on the secretive underbelly of London’s lucrative fossil fuels industry. And to a degree exposed the UK’s claim of being a global leader in climate change as nothing more than a hypocritical, meaningless platitude.
The publication shone light on reports of ‘environmentally damaging activities in politically unstable regions’; complex corporate structuring and fraud; tax avoidance and evasion measures; plundering of African natural resources and looting of local finances equating to billions of pounds in lost revenue. As well as unlawful imprisonment of, and violence against, local protesters.
Speaking to its author and lead investigator, environmental reporter Chloe Farand, I get personal insight into the story that many are not writing about and, seemingly, the government is largely ignoring.
Originally, the focus of the 6-month report was of North Sea companies’ links with Africa. But that all changed when Chloe realised the companies were not operating from Scotland but out from London.
“London is not an obvious oil hub. There is a broad understanding in the UK that Scotland is where the oil is at,” states Chloe.
Chloe’s first major reveal was that a lot of these London-based oil companies were listed on the little-known, unassuming Alternative Investments Market (AIM).
AIM is the younger sibling to the London Stock Exchange quickly earning ‘cowboy’ notoriety because of its unique ‘light touch’ regulation; notably that of its nominee advisors (Nomads).
All companies listed on AIM require nominee advisors. These nomads serve a dual role: to act as AIM’s regulator but who are also employed by the listed company to provide oversight and due diligence; creating a clear conflict of interest for any organisation appointed as nominee advisor. A position where the regulator is paid by the company it is to regulate; as Chloe’s article states:
“In some instances, nomads can also act as brokers for the same companies they regulate and earn a commission for the work.”