Nick Shaxson ■ Big Oil, Big Data: Nigerian corporate networks



“Last month in Lagos, we brougNetworkht together activists from the tech and oil worlds for a hackathon on the extractive industries of Nigeria. A hackathon, in the lexicon of computer geekery, is what happens when people pool their research, programming, hacking skills to solve a problem or investigate a particular subject, sometimes over a period of several days.

. . .

[This] aims to demystify the corporate players in the Nigerian oil sector by showing their relationships to one another: to begin with, their ownership structures and the contracts they share.”

The project highlights and lays out a number of networks, which warrant further analysis. For instance:

“The Chinese company Sinopec’s $7.3 billion acquisition of the Canadian Addax Petroleum Corporation, which made international headlines a few years ago, actually took place through Sinopec’s indirect wholly owned subsidiary, Mirror Lake Oil and Gas Company Limited. This doesn’t imply dirty dealing, but serves as further evidence of the strategy companies use to make money flows harder to trace and regulate by spreading their activities over a complex web of subsidiaries.

It almost goes without saying that Mirror Lake does not even have a website. (Incidentally, searches through the global corporate registry OpenCorporates reveal Mirror Lake to be a company with an inactive Canadian registration; following that trail to the Canadian corporate registry, we found that the British Virgin Islands imported the company’s registration in April 2010 – about a year after the Addax purchase. Searches for Mirror Lake on the Virgin Islands’ Registry of Corporate Affairs website yielded no results, suggesting the company is effectively untracked in the public domain.).”

They add:

“The goal is not to provide immediate solutions to problems, but to help journalists and activists, governments and companies start asking the right questions.”

A fascinating project. One to watch.

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