Newsnight – Sudhir Choudhrie

Not quite sure how I missed this, but Newsnight appear to have picked up on a story myself and Rajeev Syal broke back in April 2009 involving a long running investigation into Sudhir Choudhrie, one of the Liberal Democrats most generous donors.

Mr Choudhrie is alleged to have profited ‘to the tune of millions of dollars’ from a number of illegal arms deals in India involving Israeli arms companies Soltam and IAI. We broke the story just months after Nick Clegg had called for an end to arms deals with Israel.

Watch the Newnight report here.

The Battle for Musa Qala

Mullah Salam: Now former governor of Musa Qala

An exclusive three part web video report I associate produced has gone up on Frontline PBS, examining the recapture and reconstruction of Musa Qala in northern Helmand. Using footage shot over three years by Stephen Grey, we examine the history of ISAF’s mission in the town and what lessons it holds for the wider security and development project in Afghanistan.

Click here to go to the report and read the blurb and credits below:

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I worked on a Channel 4 News special report broadcast this Thursday. It examines the spread of the new NDM-1 superbug, which is resistant to almost all antibiotics. The report uncovers how far the bug has traveled as well as the Indian government’s attempt to prevent scientists from researching it. See the full report below.

Maternal Health in Tanzania

I’m working in Tanzania for the summer on a paper out here. I spent last week travelling with the Women’s Dignity NGO in the Kahama region. The NGO work on maternal health issues and invited me to join them in the same week the African Union summit took place this year themed around infant and maternal health issues. I wrote this piece for the paper and am in the process of editing a short documentary.

Mothers at the Igwamanoni dispensary © Oliver Laughland


The road to Luhaga village is riddled with potholes that jolt our 4×4 in all manner of directions. Its fat tyres spray thick clouds of orange dirt high into the air; engulfing the cyclists we overtake who falter by the roadside. We pass cotton fields in full bloom and rectangular rice plantations attached to small plots of houses with straw roofs and bricks made from mud.

I’ve travelled to the north of Tanzania, to the Kahama district, with the Women’s Dignity (WD) NGO, on the week of the African Union summit in Kampala, Uganda. As the heads of state come to the meeting this year themed around women and infant’s health, I’m here to see the work this specialist NGO do to educate people from rural areas in the basics of maternal health. Continue reading

Unseen scenes in Singapore

This article was first published in Sussex University’s international development magazine, ‘Poda Poda’ in 2007. It explores the unseen and unreported current of resistance inside Singaporean society. Notoriously presented to the world as a passive and obedient populace, myself and Pia Dawson tried scratching beneath the surface to find out what people really thought of this unique authoritarian state before nearly getting deported ourselves!

‘Trespassers will be prosecuted’.

We wrench loose an MDF board covering the once grand entrance, before slipping inside, avoiding the rusty nails. Our feet crunch over broken glass as we peer into the gloom. The ticket booths, smashed to shit, still welcome Mastercard and Visa and still dispense mouldy, discoloured maps. Plastic statues slump, their plastic heads scattered on the floor. ‘I love sex’. ‘Get out’. ‘Bobby and Pris wuz here 99’.

The ceiling is falling in, the lights exploded. The tropical undergrowth is slowly reclaiming this misguided business venture. The mosquitoes have returned to these stagnant lakes. Giant pink paper horses and blue paper elephants, frozen mid-motion, aflame and collapsing in upon themselves.

Perhaps this freakish fairytale was doomed to fail from the start. A tourist attraction designed for Chinese tourism and themed around ancient Chinese imperial history, elaborately carved from plaster of paris and plywood, built in 1980s Singapore, now stands closed a decade later and erased from the national memory.

Like so many Singaporean transgressions, ‘Tang Dynasty City’ remains very much present, but obscured from public view. On the surface, this highly successful city-state embodies the image its government seeks to project: it is clean, obedient, polite, orderly and well-planned. Gays, prostitutes, transvestites, the homeless, political dissidents, governmental corruption and national failures –all these get swept under the carpet of state-sanctioned discourse.

Tang Dynasty City ticket hall © Alex Jimenez

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The gangs of Kandahar

I assistant produced a special investigative report for Channel 4 News by Stephen Grey broadcast on Monday looking at NATO’s use of irregular militia forces in Kandahar, Afghanistan. See my films section for the full broadcast. Below is Stephen’s article for Channel 4 explaining the report. (click here for the original text)

Nato turn to militias in Afghanistan battle

A Channel 4 News investigation finds that a number of US and Nato units discreetly turn to help from Afghan militias blamed for assassinations and civilian deaths. Stephen Grey reports from Kandahar.

Elite American and Nato military units in Afghanistan have discreetly turned for help from the “private armies” of warlords and tribal leaders as a controversial tactic in the war against the Taliban, it can be revealed.

Working alongside both US intelligence and special force agencies, irregular Afghan militia groups are increasingly being blamed for theft, corruption, targeted assassinations. They have also been accused of involvement in raids aimed at killing the Taliban but in which innocent men, women and children have been killed.

Nowhere are fears more pronounced about the role of militias than in the southern city of Kandahar, at the centre of a Nato operations this summer to reverse the tide of the Afghanistan war. Here, many say private armed groups are feared more than the Taliban. Assassinations often publicly blamed on the insurgents are frequently carried out, it is said, by what some already refer to as “death squads”.

“If someone kills someone the government itself says don’t touch him,” said Shahida Hussein, a local human rights activist who is one of the few who dares to speak openly on the subject. “They say don’t bother him (the killer). He’s our friend. He’s our relative. He has a connection with us.”

Stephen Grey blogs
- The gangs of Kandahar – the city’s real power?

Hussein was speaking as she met the latest victim of a militia – a father whose home was ransacked, property stolen and who was thrown in jail by a well-connected militia that was hired by his son-in-law when he tried to assist his daughter in a divorce. She explained such militias only had power because they had protection and earned cash from both the Afghan government and Nato. “There is no real government here. Kandahar is run by people in the drugs trade, armed with weapons and backed by foreign countries.”

Apart from working with the regular members of the Afghan Army and Afghan National Police, Nato is increasingly reliant on irregular forces. Gunmen working for warlords protect the main Nato bases, are hired to provide security for Nato road convoys, are paid to provide intelligence used by Nato spy agencies, and are being recruited both to guard villages in the countryside and, most controversially, to work alongside elite military strike forces run by the US.

Members of a militia set up by American special forces to guard villages around Kandahar. They wear distinctive yellow belts and red cloth on their weapons to distinguish them from the Taliban.Members of a militia set up by American special forces to guard villages around Kandahar in Arghandab district. Continue reading

Afghanistan: Lost in Translation

A short film I worked on for Stephen Grey, author of Operation Snakebite and Ghost Plane, has just gone up online.

It highlights some of the fundamental communication problems endured by troops on the ground in Afghanistan trying implement a counterinsurgency strategy to win the hearts and minds of Afghan people.