Hands Off is Hands Dirty

Hands Off is Hands Dirty

gettinghandsdirtyYou’d never guess which respectful country in the developed world contributes to ISIS’ ability to fund itself through oil revenues.

It’s been an interesting week in the War on Terror and of all the bad news playing out another Groundhog Day movie history came one new glimmer of hope: the global conversation turned a bit towards financially starving the adversary rather than bombing it to smithereens.

From 2011 to 2013 African oil producing countries earned $250 billion from their oil sales, a staggering 56% of their entire national revenues, 2.3 billion barrels of oil.

But nobody is quite sure where all that oil went, or who exactly got paid for it.

That total lack of transparency in the global oil market is exactly why ISIS can sell oil, and probably salt and peanuts, to fund its nefarious world.

“The sale of crude oil by governments and their national oil companies is one of the least scrutinized aspects of oil sector governance,” wrote AfricaFocus in a special report published several weeks ago.

The report documented as far as it could 1500 major oil transactions from African countries in the 2-year period starting in 2011.

The initial findings that record keeping was intentionally poor in order to blur bribes, and that the worst part of record keeping was that the destination of the oil sales was rarely known were not surprising given the level of corruption in the developing world.

What was surprising is what country facilitated this lack of transparency more than any other.


“Of the 1,500 individual sales we identified, Switzerland-based companies purchased a quarter of the volumes sold by African NOCs, buying over 500 million barrels worth around $55 billion.”

These are not well known companies: Arcadia, Glencore, Trafigura and Vitol are among the most often mentioned. Reuters called these company’s transactions “shadowy.”

They are not companies with super tankers or refineries or thousands of employees. The largest, Arcadia, doesn’t even have a website. They are usually single billionaires trading in commodities and using Switzerland’s lack of regulation and transparency laws to buy with bribes and sell in darkness.

We often think of Switzerland as a placid meadow where everyone respects everyone else and minds their own business and so doesn’t need much governance.


In this case the shy Swiss are extraordinarily evil. And I’m not saying the individual billionaires running the unseen commodity trades are the evil ones. They’re just the players.

The evil is in the system, a system that says, ‘Hey, do what you want! Just don’t break any laws!’ particularly when there are no laws to break.

The funding of ISIS is wrong, but so is the fact that a handful of Swiss fund a huge percentage of Africa without any strings attached. This foments corruption, and in fact, it actually invites corruption.

It’s says I don’t care how you got your money to pay, just pay.

And Ronald Reagan should have applied his trickling down theories here, because trickling down is the corruption, deceit, and ultimately the heinous and cold-handed transactions that fund wars while causing starvation.

It may look like a placid meadow in the Alps. But it’s where The Joker hangs out.