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  • When we talk about corruption,

  • there are typical types of individuals that spring to mind.

  • There's the former Soviet megalomaniacs.

  • Saparmurat Niyazov, he was one of them.

  • Until his death in 2006,

  • he was the all-powerful leader of Turkmenistan,

  • a Central Asian country rich in natural gas.

  • Now, he really loved to issue presidential decrees.

  • And one renamed the months of the year

  • including after himself and his mother.

  • He spent millions of dollars

  • creating a bizarre personality cult,

  • and his crowning glory was the building

  • of a 40-foot-high gold-plated statue of himself

  • which stood proudly in the capital's central square

  • and rotated to follow the sun.

  • He was a slightly unusual guy.

  • And then there's that cliché,

  • the African dictator or minister or official.

  • There's Teodorín Obiang.

  • So his daddy is president for life of Equatorial Guinea,

  • a West African nation that has exported

  • billions of dollars of oil since the 1990s

  • and yet has a truly appalling human rights record.

  • The vast majority of its people

  • are living in really miserable poverty

  • despite an income per capita that's on a par

  • with that of Portugal.

  • So Obiang junior, well, he buys himself

  • a $30 million mansion in Malibu, California.

  • I've been up to its front gates.

  • I can tell you it's a magnificent spread.

  • He bought an €18 million art collection

  • that used to belong to fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent,

  • a stack of fabulous sports cars,

  • some costing a million dollars apiece --

  • oh, and a Gulfstream jet, too.

  • Now get this:

  • Until recently, he was earning an official monthly salary

  • of less than 7,000 dollars.

  • And there's Dan Etete.

  • Well, he was the former oil minister of Nigeria

  • under President Abacha,

  • and it just so happens he's a convicted money launderer too.

  • We've spent a great deal of time

  • investigating a $1 billion --

  • that's right, a $1 billion

  • oil deal that he was involved with,

  • and what we found was pretty shocking,

  • but more about that later.

  • So it's easy to think that corruption happens

  • somewhere over there,

  • carried out by a bunch of greedy despots

  • and individuals up to no good in countries

  • that we, personally, may know very little about

  • and feel really unconnected to

  • and unaffected by what might be going on.

  • But does it just happen over there?

  • Well, at 22, I was very lucky.

  • My first job out of university

  • was investigating the illegal trade in African ivory.

  • And that's how my relationship with corruption really began.

  • In 1993, with two friends who were colleagues,

  • Simon Taylor and Patrick Alley,

  • we set up an organization called Global Witness.

  • Our first campaign was investigating the role

  • of illegal logging in funding the war in Cambodia.

  • So a few years later, and it's now 1997,

  • and I'm in Angola undercover investigating blood diamonds.

  • Perhaps you saw the film,

  • the Hollywood film "Blood Diamond,"

  • the one with Leonardo DiCaprio.

  • Well, some of that sprang from our work.

  • Luanda, it was full of land mine victims

  • who were struggling to survive on the streets

  • and war orphans living in sewers under the streets,

  • and a tiny, very wealthy elite

  • who gossiped about shopping trips to Brazil and Portugal.

  • And it was a slightly crazy place.

  • So I'm sitting in a hot and very stuffy hotel room

  • feeling just totally overwhelmed.

  • But it wasn't about blood diamonds.

  • Because I'd been speaking to lots of people there

  • who, well, they talked about a different problem:

  • that of a massive web of corruption on a global scale

  • and millions of oil dollars going missing.

  • And for what was then a very small organization

  • of just a few people,

  • trying to even begin to think how we might tackle that

  • was an enormous challenge.

  • And in the years that I've been,

  • and we've all been campaigning and investigating,

  • I've repeatedly seen that what makes corruption

  • on a global, massive scale possible,

  • well it isn't just greed or the misuse of power

  • or that nebulous phrase "weak governance."

  • I mean, yes, it's all of those,

  • but corruption, it's made possible by the actions

  • of global facilitators.

  • So let's go back to some of those people I talked about earlier.

  • Now, they're all people we've investigated,

  • and they're all people who couldn't do what they do alone.

  • Take Obiang junior. Well, he didn't end up

  • with high-end art and luxury houses without help.

  • He did business with global banks.

  • A bank in Paris held accounts of companies controlled by him,

  • one of which was used to buy the art,

  • and American banks, well, they funneled

  • 73 million dollars into the States,

  • some of which was used to buy that California mansion.

  • And he didn't do all of this in his own name either.

  • He used shell companies.

  • He used one to buy the property, and another,

  • which was in somebody else's name,

  • to pay the huge bills it cost to run the place.

  • And then there's Dan Etete.

  • Well, when he was oil minister,

  • he awarded an oil block now worth over a billion dollars

  • to a company that, guess what, yeah,

  • he was the hidden owner of.

  • Now, it was then much later traded on

  • with the kind assistance of the Nigerian government --

  • now I have to be careful what I say here

  • to subsidiaries of Shell and the Italian Eni,

  • two of the biggest oil companies around.

  • So the reality is, is that the engine of corruption,

  • well, it exists far beyond the shores of countries

  • like Equatorial Guinea or Nigeria or Turkmenistan.

  • This engine, well, it's driven

  • by our international banking system,

  • by the problem of anonymous shell companies,

  • and by the secrecy that we have afforded

  • big oil, gas and mining operations,

  • and, most of all, by the failure of our politicians

  • to back up their rhetoric and do something

  • really meaningful and systemic to tackle this stuff.

  • Now let's take the banks first.

  • Well, it's not going to come as any surprise

  • for me to tell you that banks accept dirty money,

  • but they prioritize their profits in other destructive ways too.

  • For example, in Sarawak, Malaysia.

  • Now this region, it has just five percent

  • of its forests left intact. Five percent.

  • So how did that happen?

  • Well, because an elite and its facilitators

  • have been making millions of dollars

  • from supporting logging on an industrial scale

  • for many years.

  • So we sent an undercover investigator in

  • to secretly film meetings with members of the ruling elite,

  • and the resulting footage, well, it made some people very angry,

  • and you can see that on YouTube,

  • but it proved what we had long suspected,

  • because it showed how the state's chief minister,

  • despite his later denials,

  • used his control over land and forest licenses

  • to enrich himself and his family.

  • And HSBC, well, we know that HSBC bankrolled

  • the region's largest logging companies

  • that were responsible for some of that destruction

  • in Sarawak and elsewhere.

  • The bank violated its own sustainability policies in the process,

  • but it earned around 130 million dollars.

  • Now shortly after our exposé,

  • very shortly after our exposé earlier this year,

  • the bank announced a policy review on this.

  • And is this progress? Maybe,

  • but we're going to be keeping a very close eye

  • on that case.

  • And then there's the problem of anonymous shell companies.

  • Well, we've all heard about what they are, I think,

  • and we all know they're used quite a bit

  • by people and companies who are trying to avoid

  • paying their proper dues to society,

  • also known as taxes.

  • But what doesn't usually come to light

  • is how shell companies are used to steal

  • huge sums of money, transformational sums of money,

  • from poor countries.

  • In virtually every case of corruption that we've investigated,

  • shell companies have appeared,

  • and sometimes it's been impossible to find out

  • who is really involved in the deal.

  • A recent study by the World Bank

  • looked at 200 cases of corruption.

  • It found that over 70 percent of those cases

  • had used anonymous shell companies,

  • totaling almost 56 billion dollars.

  • Now many of these companies were in America

  • or the United Kingdom,

  • its overseas territories and Crown dependencies,

  • and so it's not just an offshore problem,

  • it's an on-shore one too.

  • You see, shell companies, they're central

  • to the secret deals which may benefit wealthy elites

  • rather than ordinary citizens.

  • One striking recent case that we've investigated

  • is how the government in the Democratic Republic of Congo

  • sold off a series of valuable, state-owned mining assets

  • to shell companies in the British Virgin Islands.

  • So we spoke to sources in country,

  • trawled through company documents and other information

  • trying to piece together a really true picture of the deal.

  • And we were alarmed to find that these shell companies

  • had quickly flipped many of the assets on

  • for huge profits to major international mining companies

  • listed in London.

  • Now, the Africa Progress Panel, led by Kofi Annan,

  • they've calculated that Congo may have lost

  • more than 1.3 billion dollars from these deals.

  • That's almost twice

  • the country's annual health and education budget combined.

  • And will the people of Congo, will they ever get their money back?

  • Well, the answer to that question,

  • and who was really involved and what really happened,

  • well that's going to probably remain locked away

  • in the secretive company registries of the British Virgin Islands

  • and elsewhere unless we all do something about it.

  • And how about the oil, gas and mining companies?

  • Okay, maybe it's a bit of a cliché to talk about them.

  • Corruption in that sector, no surprise.

  • There's corruption everywhere, so why focus on that sector?

  • Well, because there's a lot at stake.

  • In 2011, natural resource exports

  • outweighed aid flows by almost 19 to one

  • in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Nineteen to one.

  • Now that's a hell of a lot of schools and universities

  • and hospitals and business startups,

  • many of which haven't materialized and never will

  • because some of that money has simply been stolen away.

  • Now let's go back to the oil and mining companies,

  • and let's go back to Dan Etete and that $1 billion deal.

  • And now forgive me, I'm going to read the next bit

  • because it's a very live issue, and our lawyers

  • have been through this in some detail

  • and they want me to get it right.

  • Now, on the surface, the deal appeared straightforward.

  • Subsidiaries of Shell and Eni

  • paid the Nigerian government for the block.

  • The Nigerian government transferred

  • precisely the same amount, to the very dollar,

  • to an account earmarked for a shell company

  • whose hidden owner was Etete.

  • Now, that's not bad going for a convicted money launderer.

  • And here's the thing.

  • After many months of digging around

  • and reading through hundreds of pages of court documents,

  • we found evidence that, in fact,

  • Shell and Eni had known that the funds

  • would be transferred to that shell company,

  • and frankly, it's hard to believe they didn't know

  • who they were really dealing with there.

  • Now, it just shouldn't take these sorts of efforts

  • to find out where the money in deals like this went.

  • I mean, these are state assets.

  • They're supposed to be used for the benefit

  • of the people in the country.