Michael Oswald – Behind Closed Doors

Corruption and financial secrecy have far-reaching implications for both developed and developing countries. This documentary sheds light on the interplay between corrupt elites, offshore havens, and the challenges faced in combating illicit financial flows. It delves into the case of the Sharif family from Pakistan, their wealth accumulation, and the role played by London as a safe haven for stolen assets. Additionally, it explores the reluctance of Western countries to repatriate looted funds and their complicity in facilitating financial crimes.

Sharif family, once relatively modest, rose to become one of Pakistan’s wealthiest families through alleged corruption and money laundering. It reveals their vast offshore holdings, hidden in jurisdictions like Luxembourg, the UK, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia. The family’s evasion of taxes and opaque financial practices underscore the challenges in determining the exact extent of their wealth. The Panama Papers leak implicated them, leading to convictions and subsequent bail for medical treatment in London.

London emerges as a hub for politically exposed individuals seeking to hide and launder illicitly obtained wealth. The documentary highlights the proliferation of London properties owned by the Sharif family, along with other politically connected families from Azerbaijan, Kenya, and beyond. The city’s reputation as a money launderer’s paradise is attributed to its weak checks and balances, allowing individuals to anonymously stash their ill-gotten gains and reinvest them into the global economy.

While Western countries demand developing nations to combat corruption and money laundering, they simultaneously provide safe havens and facilitate the reinvestment of stolen funds. The financial secrecy provided by British dependent jurisdictions, such as the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands, allows the concealment of wealth and hinders repatriation efforts.

Developing nations are also facing challenges in repatriating the stolen assets. Cooperation from Western jurisdictions is often lacking, hindering investigations and asset recovery. Calls for Western countries to treat illicit financial flows from poor countries on par with terror financing and drug money go largely unanswered. The reluctance of UK government bodies, including the National Crime Agency and the Foreign Office, to address money laundering further undermines efforts to combat corruption.

Directed by: Michael Oswald

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