Imran Khan: ‘West gains from corruption’

Western nations are benefiting from corruption across Asia, the ousted prime minister of Pakistan has said in a brave new documentary: Behind Closed Doors.

26 January 2023
Imran Khan. (Photo: Behind Closed Doors / Independent POV)

Imran Khan. (Photo: Behind Closed Doors / Independent POV)

  • A possible coup by BP in oil-rich Azerbaijan also features in the film

Powerful western nations have “no incentive” to stop corruption in the global south because they are “benefiting from money stolen from our countries”, Imran Khan has said.

Pakistan’s former prime minister made the claim in an interview given while still in office for a documentary coming out next month.

Khan was forced to step down last April in what he believes was a US-orchestrated plot. He has since survived an assassination attempt.

His testimony on corruption is the centrepiece of Behind Closed Doors, a daring new film by independent director Michael Oswald and producer Murtaza Mehdi.

Oswald is known for his previous work on tax havens, The Spider’s Web: Britain’s Second Empire. That film was watched five million times on YouTube and bought by Netflix.

Despite, or perhaps because of that success, Oswald struggled to interview many British officials for his latest project, which targets “corruption in high places and those who enable it”.

A worrying number of UK institutions responsible for anti-money laundering refused to speak to the filmmakers, in stark contrast to the response they received from a foreign head of state.

‘Plunder of the poor countries’

Khan, famous for his populist style of politics, opened up to the pair about his difficulties trying to stop “this plunder of the poor countries” by corrupt elites. 

He lamented: “There is no incentive for rich countries to repatriate money…Their countries are benefiting from money stolen from our countries, which are parked there.”

Khan was replaced as prime minister by Shehbaz Sharif, who comes from a political dynasty which is accused of embezzling funds to purchase a property empire in London – allegations the family denies.

“They are benefiting from billions of dollars which flow into their properties and their businesses stolen from this country,” Khan said of the British authorities. “So, what incentive would they have? We are the ones who suffer, and this is the dilemma…this is the big problem which the entire developing world is facing.”

“They are benefiting from billions of dollars which flow into their properties and their businesses”

Khan complained: “When you look at the laws they basically favour – I’m talking about the richer countries as a whole – they tend to favour the crooks. It is so complicated to get your money back.”

His testimony is backed up by an interview with Pakistani investigative journalist Arshad Sharif (unrelated to the political dynasty), who was assassinated in October.

In a chilling comment, he said of Pakistan’s new rulers: “Those in power, they think that they can get away with the crimes they have done. And the Sharif family has been benefiting from this because of their international friends, who have been coming to their rescue to strike the dirty deals.”

Oil money

Many of the journalists featured in Behind Closed Doors have taken extraordinary risks to expose corruption. One is Emin Huseynov, who fled Azerbaijan fearing for his life. Huseynov accuses his country’s rulers, the ex-KGB Aliyev dynasty, of lining its pockets with oil money.

The Azebaijani regime’s megalomania is compellingly demonstrated with drone footage of their capital city, Baku, highlighting the grandiose architecture beloved by its dictators. The Aliyev family also owns a string of real estate in London.

Huseynov is keen to highlight Britain’s role in his country’s looting. “The political opposition has always said that BP was responsible for the state coup, they brought Heydar Aliyev to power,” he said of the UK oil giant.

“The political opposition has always said that BP was responsible for the state coup”

“I remember in 1993 during that difficult electoral and coup period, the British private security companies were doing something in Azerbaijan. Maybe they came to protect some high-level officials of BP or maybe they came to help protect members of the Aliyev family, we don’t know. 

“Nobody knows what is in this contract between British Petroleum and Aliyev, it’s like the biggest state secrecy in Azerbaijan.” Britain’s role in Azerbaijan’s coup remains a mysterious episode in post-Soviet politics. A Mail on Sunday article alleging the hand of MI6 was taken offline.


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For followers of Declassified, this film will cover some familiar territory. Its focus on foreign autocrats investing in UK property is a similar theme to our latest documentary, Exiles v Oligarchs.

Oswald and Mehdi also turn their sights on Kenya, a former British colony which we have covered extensively. The pair interview one of Kenya’s leading investigative journalists, John-Allan Namu, who traces how the family of independence leader Jomo Kenyatta has managed to acquire so much of the country’s best land.

Behind Closed Doors is an important film, coming at a time when Western nations are claiming to crack down on dirty money and oligarchs. It highlights how much more work British authorities need to do if their anti-corruption drive is to go beyond rich Russians.