Oil Change International

Exposing the true costs of fossil fuels

The “Great Oil Thief”

The brutal reality of the resource curse in Africa is once again laid bare.

The latest revelations from Wikileaks is that the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has siphoned $9bn in oil money and deposited it in foreign accounts, many of which are in London.

Whilst the rest of the country languishes in brutal poverty, the cables allege that the President has personally profited billions from Sudan’s oil boom.

If these figures can be substantiated, the money would amount to one tenth of annual GDP in Sudan, which ranks fifteenth from bottom in the UN’s index of the world’s poorest countries.

Fuelling the outrage, some of the funds may be held by the part-British nationalised Lloyds Banking Group, according to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

“Ocampo suggested if Bashir’s stash of money were disclosed (he put the figure at $9bn), it would change Sudanese public opinion from him being a ‘crusader’ to that of a thief,” one report by a senior US official states.

The cable adds: “Ocampo reported Lloyds bank in London may be holding or knowledgeable of the whereabouts of his money. Ocampo suggested exposing Bashir had illegal accounts would be enough to turn the Sudanese against him.”

Ocampo likened Bashir’s situation to “a bleeding shark being surrounded by other sharks,” with no loyalty, only greed, motivating those competing for power.

Lloyds denies the allegation. “We have absolutely no evidence to suggest there is any connection between Lloyds Banking Group and Mr Bashir.”

The cables also reveal China’s indifference to what happened to Bashir as long as their oil interests were protected. “Ocampo said China, as long as it continues to have oil concessions in Sudan, does not care what happens to Bashir,” one cable states.

The revelations come as the FT has also investigated the issue of the ongoing resource curse in the oil producing region of Southern Sudan.

The issue is coming to a head before a referendum due next month that could result in Southern becoming the world’s newest nation.

Luk Thompson, an activist from the south told the Financial Times: “Oil is the only major resource that threatens the stability of the north and the south, once the people of the south secede.”

The paper highlights how ongoing pollution is causing real problems for the communities.

An investigation completed in 2008 by UN peacekeepers in Sudan said the oil company Petrodar – which is 41 per cent owned by the Chinese – had contaminated water and put lives in danger by leaving “many uncovered holes in residential areas”.

Some 19 children have recently died in contaminated ponds.

Meanwhile their President made off with billions of their money.

Welcome to the resource curse of Africa.

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