Saturday, 28 July 2012

Vultures’ Picnic A Tale of High Finance and Investigative Reporting Author: Greg Palast Pubs Constable & Robinson (London) Pbck. £9.99 Greg Palast needs little introduction to Star readers. His uncompromising investigative journalism and his unmasking of corporate sleaze and corruption are second to none. Here we are provided with a selection of his recent writings on the issue of international corporate criminality in the oil industry. What he reveals is a horror story of corporate criminality and political connivance at the highest levels. Unfortunately the collection has been put together with the hurried carelessness of a thief leaving the scene of his crime, with the result that it confusingly hops about from country to country and story to story. However, Palast is witty, fast-paced and sharp. His writing here is often reminiscent of a Dashiel Hammett gumshoe novel, in which he, with his curvaceous assistant Miss Badpenny, is Sam Spade. For my taste, Palast’s writing overdoes the fictional style at the cost of his factual investigations, and this tends to undermine the serious meat of the story beneath. He is clearly a man on a mission, but his adventurous anecdotes about himself as well as his rather cavalier attitude to sources can provoke sceptical questioning of some of his ‘facts’. Certainly he stays on the trail of our corporate and government gangsters with the tenacity of a leech and what he uncovers must make their trigger fingers very itchy. His revelations of BP’s was involvement in paying big bungs to Azerbaijani officials to obtain control of its rich oil resources is an eye-opener. The money, apparently carried in the plane that took Margaret Thatcher to Azerbaijan on an official visit, accompanied by then-BP boss Lord Browne. He also relates how Hilary Clinton became a legal adviser for a big US oil company keen to exploit oil reserves in Arkansas while hubby Bill was governor. Palast goes to great lengths to help untangle the complex web of the political-industrial complex of global oil. Some of his revelations may sound far-fetched, but if they are, why aren’t the accused suing him through the courts? A revelatory read. END

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