Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Yesterday we heard about the constant conflict between knowledge and ignorance, and we saw a powerful play where the majority BECOMES ignorant because of the need…and the GREED of a few.
This afternoon I would like to share with you just a little knowledge that I have acquired over the years about greed and corruption…both personal and global…and maybe help shed a little new light on some common “truths” – but then as Julius said in the last play – the only real truth is in your heads.
My name is Nigel Krishna Iyer, and I used to be an auditor – a English Chartered accountant…but I left that world over 20 years ago because I LOVED investigating corruption and fraud.
My father left India in the 1950’s because he felt there was too much corruption there and he could not do his job as a professor in the dental school there… I grew up in the UK, in Manchester in fact and whatever I did I felt I was seeing greed, fraud and corruption everywhere.
When I was a kid I wanted to work with music and drama…I had been reading Shakespeare and Ibsen since I was 8 – I read the Wild Duck when I was 11 at school and saw a Dolls House at 12 and they BOTH made a huge impression on me…in a Dolls House I really felt for Nils Krogstad who was in my view one of people we need to blame, so the rest of us can get on with doing bigger badder things.
But having Indian parents, in England, working with theatre or music was not a REAL profession. Like many immigrants they had ambitions and as I was good at school they gave me the choice of doctor, lawyer…or prime minister… So I became…an accountant!
Some years ago now I actually moved to Norway …cos I LOVE it…to work as an auditor in their largest international company here…and soon I was finding fraud and corruption in the oil industry, fertilizers, metals… Actually wherever I looked I found it. After a while I left and had 14 fantastic years working as a independent fraud investigator…it was so exciting…being wired up…meeting informants…spending days sifting through documents following the money to really dark and dirty places…and getting so called “nice people” high up in the system to confess their crimes. It was WONDERFUL
I’ve should let you into a secret – I’m not exactly normal. I think my brain is wired up differently. I see fraud and corruption everywhere.
About half of my work was for Norwegian companies or here in Norway. Many foreigners still have this dreamy image that Norway is kind of whiter than white…almost like the world’s moral saints….do-gooders or poster boys, but most Norwegians know deep down that’s not true…any more. We’re just like anybody else…and the newspapers I picked up in the Hotel Lobby yesterday have front page stories of pretty serious fraud and corruption going on for YEARS in the private and public sector.
In addition to the normal stuff like suppliers who rip you off, and customers who steal your products and don’t pay, I was also finding things like millions of dollars of bribes paid by Norwegian companies to get contracts in countries like Iran, Angola, Nigeria Russia and beyond…where only about half the bribes went to the people who “deserved” it…lots of the money was actually going into the back pockets…of offshore bank accounts of the Norwegian businessmen and politicians who were actually paying it – it was going to them.
At the other end of the spectrum I was finding that nearly ALL people in top management were happy to admit that they were cheating the system …making money through deception in one way or another…whether it’s was through their expenses or in bigger ways. I was not shocked…after all in the world of business its quite natural for people to want to maximize their wealth. Let me ask you…what do people with LOADS of money generally want?
And then….What do COUNTRIES with loads of money generally want? So I thought I should speak OUT…about what I saw was going on. I thought I could actually make a difference. So I DID SPEAK UP…I did not feel shouted down like Dr Stockmann…it was WORSE…I felt IGNORED. I felt trapped between my old faith in BUSINESS and just wanting to go and SHOOT a corporate leading.
I was teaching people in business schools and management about Defence against the corporate Dark Arts” and I had already been working with theatre and film…I had been working with Pia and other dramatists who I looked up to here, and I also took my own masters as a screenwriter some years back and was using drama as a way of forcing open people’s eyes to what they did not WANT to see…through plays, films and even dramatic interventions. It kind of worked…but not was just not enough…for me.
So I had this idea. Why don’t I do a REAL big fraud investigation for the theatre…I mean its an OPEN space…we can explore the truth and put it on as part of a play and then maybe someone might listen to me…for a change!
I went through the cases of the last 20 years, found some really big numbers and transactions and did a bit MORE investigation and found even more evidence…and then, just before the opening of Ship O’Hoi around this time last year my LAWYER (…I hate that word) said to me:
Nigel…have you gone out of your mind or WHAT?. The theatre IS an open space…there could be cameras and journalists there. Do you KNOW what happens to WHISTLEBLOWERS? Yeah yeah I know…they crush you like a coackroach…and I also had a safe job…and a family. I’ a coward…
And .I got scared…really scared…I went to Pia and said “I just can’t do this”..and she did understand. Then one morning I woke up morning and felt ….no I thought “…THIS is important…I want people to know…I want YOU to know…and I think I have found a way to tell you”.
So in Ship O’Hoi, I talked about Norway’s thirst for OIL…I talked about how now even though we are FANTASTICALLY RICH…and NICE…but want more…we NEED more and the place we are looking now is Angola (SLIDE) it’s just come out of years of war..there’s lots of OIL there and they LOVE Norwegians because of their clean IMAGE. And one of the Norwegian oil companies is looking at a very promising Block of sea called Block 34 in Angola. It’s promising because all the evidence says there is LOTS of Oil there.
When we drill for oil in other people’s countries, the USUAL way to pay them is to pay something called a “licence fee”…a percentage of the value of each barrel of oil we extract. But in this case the president of Angola wants a lot of money upfront, some 60 million dollars of it, paid to the Angolan state oil company SunAngol
But the Angolan government and particularly their elected dictator-president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos who has been there for ages is completely corrupt. And even today in Angola there is STILL desperate poverty… people live in SHIT! Its not like Brazil where we also take out oil…there is corruption but also development. In Angola, there is virtually no development – every fifth kid dies, most people don’t have running water, they can’t read or write…and their new social movements they have who were inspired by the Arabs to RISE up….are beaten to a pulp.
Anyway….as Norwegians we need to find a legal way to do this so they come up with a way of paying the 60 or so million dollars to SUNANGOL, the state oil company, and we do by giving it a nice friendly name …a “Signature Bonus”….a sort of Entrance Ticket to Angola…so the money is paid and Mr Dos Santos assures everyone that the money is THIS time really going to help the country…and we genuinely BELIEVE it…we can final tell the world that WE, have got the dictator to help his people. Here’s what the actual transaction looked like….HA! – maybe I shouldn’t show you this…anyway the deal is done and we start drilling.
It’s at this point in Ship O’Hoi that I make a HUGE charade of moving into the “hypothetical world”…because I was scared about being sued... Lets just say, as an example, lets say after drilling starts, suppose someone sees that the 68 million dollars was paid to a special account, which has been set up called SUNGANGOL….but in a Secret Tax haven…one of those dirty, dark places where Rich people can keep their black money….for your Norwegians out there a “skatteparadis”
What actually does that mean?
Well it means 60 MILLION DOLLARS….RIGHT into the back pocket of a dictator….and we know about it too…if we look. The money’s going to Jersey!!!
Digression: I was once working with this senior London police officer who was an expert on simultaneous RAIDS of hundreds of safe-deposit boxes. I said Kevin..what if you and I got the United Nations forces to do a simultaneous raid on all the 80 or so major tax havens (skatteparadis) which people used and find out who used them and what for. He said, Nigel…that’s a great idea but if we did, probably all the governments in the world would fall.
Actually in Ship O’Hoi I did not need to have to do all this “hypothetical stuff” on the 4th night in Oslo this elegant …older…lady came up to me…clasped my hand and said “Very VERY good ….I am SO glad you spoke about Angola and specially Block 34…because its TRUE.”
She did not really look like your TYPICAL Oil Worker so I asked her who she was.
She said she “I was Norway’s Ambassador to Angola during those years.
In my own investigations for the truth I meet many Doctor Stockmanns. There was this guy, a Norwegian scientist…actually he’s both an entomologist and a toxicologist and basically he LOVES furry small creatures, like grasshoppers, termites and bees…and he also knows lots about which poisons kill them best!
He’s 50 now and very much alive but some years ago he was sent out by Norway to a United Nations project in Africa to look at how to kill locusts effectively. Basically you need to spray the fields with chemicals or otherwise locust swarms eat everything and there is no food….you know famine!
Anyway he starts breeding locusts in Mali and Madagaskar and testing out different chemicals…all for the UN and he finds out that one particular chemical…call Fipronil is really bad. OK it kills the locusts but it seems to kill everything else too...and what’s more it doesn’t decompose that well…when the molecule eventually breaks down into 4 components, TWO of them are even more toxic and kills the bees too. Definitely not the product to use…it eventually kills US!
Then he finds out that in fact this product from a French company has already made it onto what’s called Table 1 – the MAIN United Nations List of Approved Pesticides. So he investigates and finds out quite quickly that the head of the UN Food and Agriculture Authority has taken a good bribe to do this. He can’t believe it and tries to take it up…and loses his job in Africa and is sent home to Norway.
OK fair enough…so he starts to raise the matter in Norway. At first some people actually say “Well done Baard…that’s the guy’s name”…we need people like you in this country…you know famous people…in Norway….and he gives the information that if we don’t speak up…as a Nation, to the United Nations and tell them what we know….we are actually poisoning a whole continent. In the end all his “supporters” just melt away and he is left alone….he actually takes the matter to court...and loses…of COURSE he loses…Norway has also big business interests in Africa and works closely with French and other chemical companies…you don’t shit where you eat.
My guy is broken and bankrupt and ANGRY…and in one of our conversations I said maybe what you really need is some THEATRE….so we start talking…do a few trial performances…and something REALLY magical happens not just with him, bit with all the people…it becomes a founding element of a movement called Concerned Artists Norway and we are actually putting on the production called “Still in Silence” in January in Oslo with lectures and seminars around it.
My main role in the performance today is as the investigator. I am trying using all my skills to find out why all these GOOD, famous people in Norway…got the evidence from my friend Baard about KNEW he was right but WHY did they turn away. Well one reason IS commercial…its not good for Norway to be seen as a troublemaker in the world of international business. But I think its more than that.
I went to see Here’s what one of Norway’s most well known people who works with this stuff…for the government….he also knew about this case and in my view ALSO turned away from Dr Baard Stockmann….here’s what he said to me about Norway and its elite:
“we cover our ears and eyes…and pretend that nothing is happening…but if we DID speak up we could really stop this whole corrupt system…”
“…we don’t tolerate anyone in our country who points out our weaknesses…”
“…for here we are so much BETTER than everybody else…we know so much better what corruption is….”
I am amazed he actually told me this but I think he needed, desperately to get it off his chest.
Like most of Ibsen’s plays he shows us a reality…our worst nightmares…that we don’t want to see…but does it so elegantly that we are able to stand up and face them….together. It gives me the COURAGE to carry on…and I hope in whatever way you can, you feel that too.
Thank you. Namaste, God bless and Khudah Hafiz.