Empire Oil: London's Dirty Secret

About the Empire Oil: London's Dirty Secret Series

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 BYSA 2.0

In This Series


The UK likes to brag about its credentials as a global climate leader. But a new DeSmog UK investigation reveals that beneath the green veneer lies some dirty business. At the centre of it al...

In the summer of 2008, as the price of oil peaked to a record high, a polar explorer and a group of City bankers decided to turn a former gaming company into an oil and gas investment company targe...

Over the last 10 years, four different companies have acted as a nominee advisor, also known as a nomad, for Sirius Petroleum. A nomad is a private company which carries out due diligence on a com...

In 2016, Nigeria reclaimed its position as Africa’s largest oil producer and remains one of the countries with the largest oil reserves in the world, including in the deepwater off the Nigerian coa...

A shell company is a company which has no assets and is used as a vehicle to hold and shift money in financial manoeuvres. Sometimes, this also refers to a dormant company which may be left for fut...

A nominee account allows a stockbroker to hold shares on behalf of a client, making buying and selling those shares easier. The investor remains the only beneficial owner of the shares. This ...

London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM) was set-up in 1995 as the little sister of the London Stock Exchange, allowing growing companies to raise funds. When a company decides to join the Lon...