Energy journalist Silverstein’s study of the routinely corrupt but immensely profitable world of oil “fixers.”
When it comes to democratic nations conveniently turning a blind eye to the human rights violations of dictatorial regimes around the world that also happen to be rich in oil, we’re not talking about a new story. Where Silverstein’s debut breaks new ground is through the exposure of the oil “fixers”—the middlemen serving as the all-important connection governments and corporations need for gaining a foothold in countries where there are newly exploitable oil resources. Silverstein’s book, however, is not only about these so-called fixers, but also about the corrupt dictators making billions of dollars from selling their country’s energy resources while putting nothing back into their respective economies. The “stars” of the book, so to speak, are dictators such as Equatorial Guinea’s Teodorin Obiang: The details of Obiang’s vast, oil-soaked wealth and ridiculously excessive playboy lifestyle are dizzyingly unreal and almost inhuman; he also advocates torture and murder in his own country. Yet, since banana republics like Equatorial Guinea have become oil-rich nations with American corporations on their soil, the American government has only paid lip service to these countries’ excessive human rights violations. Of the fixers, Silverstein spotlights kingpins like Ely Calil, who made untold millions from shady dealings with the Nigerian government. Just as importantly, he outlines the dirty deeds of peripheral figures such as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his gun-for-hire PR business, which routinely propped up countless amoral Third World dictators with big-oil connections. Silverstein writes with keen reportorial objectivity but also understandable skepticism about these sketchy middlemen and the frighteningly tyrannical hold that oil has on the free (and not-so-free) world.
The book’s revelations make Wall Street corruption seem tame by comparison.