Empire Oil: London's Dirty Secret

The UK government likes to boast about its credentials as a global climate leader. But a special DeSmog UK investigation reveals the extent of the dirty business taking place at the heart of London. 

Small oil and gas companies using offshore accounts in tax havens are allowed to use the City's financial services to make money by exploiting fossil fuels in some of the world's most unstable regions with little scrutiny. Some of these companies are listed on London's junior stock market - the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) - a “boys club” which operates a “light touch” regulation system that has won AIM a “casino” reputation.

Critics have long blamed the market's self-governance system for failing to deal with allegations of widespread corruption and fraud on the exchange. Using the example of Sirius Petroleum - an oil investment company operating in Nigeria - DeSmog UK sheds some light on the flaws of London's junior market and spells out the arguments for it to be reformed. 

At a time when the UK wants the City of London to remain the world's largest financial centre post-Brexit, DeSmog UK's investigation raises serious questions about the urgency for reform to root out corporate wrongdoing from the heart of its financial institutions. 

Author: Chloe Farand

Editors: Mat Hope, Mike Small, Kyla Mandel, & Christine Ottery; Graphics: Sam Whitham; Other multimedia: Jill Russo

Image credit: Friends of the Earth International/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

In this series

African Oil Hub
The UK likes to brag about its credentials as a global climate leader. But a new DeSmog UK...
By Chloe Farand, 14 May, 2018
Refection in oil spill in Kegbara- Dere, Niger Delta
A little-known network of London-based oil and gas companies tied to international tax havens and...
By Chloe Farand, 14 May, 2018
AIM's 20th anniversary
The London Stock Exchange’s history and reputation is one reason the city is viewed as a great...
By Chloe Farand, 14 May, 2018
Oil in the Niger Delta
In the summer of 2008, as the price of oil peaked to a record high, a polar explorer and a group of...
By Chloe Farand, 14 May, 2018
The City of London
Over the last 10 years, four different companies have acted as a nominee advisor, also known as a ...
By Chloe Farand, 10 May, 2018
Man walking among oil spill in the Niger Delta
In 2016, Nigeria reclaimed its position as Africa’s largest oil producer and remains one of the...
By Chloe Farand, 10 May, 2018
Shell on the beach
A shell company is a company which has no assets and is used as a vehicle to hold and shift money...
By Chloe Farand, 10 May, 2018
Nominee Account
A nominee account allows a stockbroker to hold shares on behalf of a client, making buying and...
By Chloe Farand, 10 May, 2018
London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM) was set-up in 1995 as the little sister of the London...
By Chloe Farand, 10 May, 2018
The offshore world is one where information about company ownership is kept hidden from ordinary...
By Chloe Farand, 9 May, 2018
Despite DeSmog UK's repeated request for comment, only three of the 12 companies responded with a...
By Chloe Farand, 9 May, 2018