- Tuesday, 24 July 2007 17:05 Africa
Normally, it is impossible to determine the true owner of such companies. But our document reveals that in December 2003, Friedhelm Eronat personally owned Cliveden Sudan. Channel 4 News has obtained confidential photographs, taken by African Union monitors last July in Suleia, a village just to the north of Block C. The following month I went to other nearby burned villages. In them, I met people still on the run from Suleia. They said they had been bombed by government planes. Some had then been shackled and burned alive, many shot dead; others wounded; women, raped. Suleia is 180km from Block C's first well. Cliveden Sudan insisted to us that the 'wells' are 1000km from the conflict zone.
Briton Involved in Sudan Oil Drill
By Jonathan Miller (June 9, 2005)
A Channel 4 News investigation has discovered that the Khartoum government has signed a 25-year contract with a consortium to drill for oil in southern Sudan. And the man behind the deal is a British citizen. Jonathan Miller reports.
What a place to be looking for oil.
Say Darfur, we think genocide, ethnic cleansing. But to Khartoum and its corporate partners, deep below dustbowl Darfur lie abundant hidden riches.
In 2003, as Sudanese government forces and their murderous militias hounded black Africans from their homes, Khartoum signed a deal to drill for oil in Darfur.
In April this year, with the burning and killing still going, the oil minister announced they had struck oil.
A potential windfall for a pariah regime and its friends. So what on earth does the human misery of war torn Darfur have to do with the exclusive London borough of Chelsea?
Well, the man who was behind the Darfur oil deal lives here. Right here, in fact, in this multi-million pound mansion. Until two years ago he was an American citizen. Now though, he's British. His name: Friedhelm Eronat.
Peter Felter knows Cliveden's secrets, and Friedhelm Eronat's too. He was his lawyer for eight years and ran the whole empire for four before he was sacked. He is taking the Group to an employment tribunal. Cliveden's rigorously defending the action.
Peter Felter was the chairman of Cliveden Sudan at the time of the Darfur oil deal.
He said: "He's a complex personality. Very rich, very charming, a very good salesperson. He now is Mr Big Oil, untouchable. He doesn't care about the minor issues of Darfur or genocide."
We could not find any film of Friedhelm Eronat. But Channel 4 News has obtained the only known photographs.
In 1990 Mr Eronat set up a global oil empire: the Cliveden Group. It operates in Europe, America and Africa.
Friedhelm Eronat was at the heart of the deal to get at Darfur's oil. In late 2003, through his company, Cliveden Sudan, he acquired the biggest stake in the consortium drilling for oil.
Mr Felter said: "Cliveden Sudan was bringing not only money of course, but it also was bringing quite a level of expertise in looking at the geology in Sudan."
Darfur is vast. For many years geologists have suspected it holds abundant reserves of oil.
Cliveden Sudan now has the biggest share in a concession granted by Khartoum called Block C. It is almost as big as Scotland arcing across South Darfur and down into southern Sudan.
The consortium says an aggressive oil exploration programme is currently underway.
Block C is at the southern end of the conflict zone. Many thousands of Darfurians there have been forced to flee to makeshift camps.
Channel 4 News has seen the contract granting the concession to explore for oil in Darfur. This gives us an unprecedented insight into the workings of a deal that would normally remain secret.
It reveals that the agreement runs for 25 years. And that the consortium which includes Cliveden will - once oil is produced - pay up to m in bonuses to the Khartoum government.
It also shows how they will share the profits - starting with 70% to the government of Sudan and 13% for Cliveden Sudan.
From another document we know that Cliveden Sudan is registered in the British Virgin Islands, a tax haven, and has a business address in Switzerland.
Normally, it is impossible to determine the true owner of such companies. But our document reveals that in December 2003, Friedhelm Eronat personally owned Cliveden Sudan.
Channel 4 News has obtained confidential photographs, taken by African Union monitors last July in Suleia, a village just to the north of Block C.
The following month I went to other nearby burned villages. In them, I met people still on the run from Suleia. They said they had been bombed by government planes.
Some had then been shackled and burned alive, many shot dead; others wounded; women, raped.
Suleia is 180km from Block C's first well. Cliveden Sudan insisted to us that the 'wells' are 1000km from the conflict zone.
So how did Cliveden Sudan get into bed with a regime accused of war crimes, in the very province the ethnic cleansing is happening? Here's how. Channel 4 News can reveal that Friedhelm Eronat's Sudan venture was very much a Chelsea-set affair. The whole deal brokered by his close neighbour, Lebanese businessman, Eli Calil.
If his name sounds familiar it's because he is alleged to have helped bankroll last year's failed coup in the West African state of Equatorial Guinea, an allegation he denies.
Mr Felter said: "He was purely and simple an introducing instrument. It was quite natural to ask Eli Calil he said he said I think I know a company that might be interested because they are already in Chad and he therefore introduced the Sudanese lot as it were to Eronat."
One of Darfur's rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement is adamant that the search for oil will enflame the conflict. They want all exploration to stop, until there is peace.
Ahmad Hussein Adam of the JEM said: "So when they say they discover oil in Darfur, who is going to benefit from that? Are they the people of Darfur? Of course not. Absolutely not, the only beneficiaries is the ruling elite and ruling minority of the regime."
In the rebels' view, Cliveden Sudan has joined those accused of propping up a pariah regime, whose members include UN war crimes suspects. Yet, under British law, Friedhelm Eronat has done nothing illegal in doing a deal with Khartoum. But then there is the ethical argument.
Mr Felter said: "I would say for Eronat he would deem it pretty irrelevant because it is about getting a signature on a document and I don't think it would be in his mind again Eronat is not interested in Darfur or political issues, he's interested in making money."
We've discovered another interesting fact about the mysterious Mr Eronat. A US Treasury Department notice lists individuals who have renounced their American citizenship.
One name on the list: Friedhelm Eronat. And the date: October 2003, just before the Darfur oil deal was signed. Co-incidence: maybe. But the effect was certainly helpful.
Under US sanctions against Sudan, an American doing business with the Sudanese state oil company could face ten years in jail and fines of half a million dollars.
Mr Felter said: "In terms of doing business in Sudan of course one advantage of denouncing your US citizenship is that suddenly you can also do deals in Sudan. If there is a direct connection or not I can't say but the timing was good."
In fact, we have learnt that it was in August 2003 that Friedhelm Eronat acquired a British passport.
We showed our evidence to a Conservative MP John Bercow, with a long interest in Darfur. In his view, Mr Eronat's new passport and the timing of his Sudan deal raise disturbing questions.
Mr Bercow said: "What discussions took place between the British and US administrations about his activities in the oil business? What assurances were sought about the prospective scope of his activities?
"What benefit did the British government think that an oil deal of this kind between a company and the government of Sudan could do to help the long-suffering people of Darfur? And what does the British government think that this deal will do for the credibility of its foreign policy towards Sudan?"
Mr Eronat has told Channel 4 News that he is not a shareholder or officer of Cliveden Sudan and that he does not work for or financially benefit from Cliveden Sudan.
Also that Cliveden Sudan is not the operator of the concession, but a shareholder.
In a statement to this programme, Cliveden Sudan said "there has been no commercial oil find in Block C."
As the International Criminal Court, backed by Britain, investigates the Sudanese regime for war crimes, and efforts to stop the killing gather pace, a British businessman has thrown oil on the flames in Darfur - and has done so legally.
Originally appeared in Channel 4, United Kingdom.