Tag: blairmore

‘Move along, nothing else to say’: A summary of Cameron’s role in the Panama Paper’s scandal.

By Daniel Margrain

David Cameron’s speech to the House of Commons yesterday afternoon (April 11) was clearly intended to draw a line under the Panama Papers scandal. The Public will keep this in mind when the Tory government remind us all about “belt tightening”, “austerity” and “we’re all in this together”. The government has 92 special advisers on its books whose combined wages costs us, the British taxpayer’s, a massive £8.4 million a year, one of whom we learned this past week is paid £53,000 to “advise” Cameron’s wife about her choice of wardrobe. Maybe the British public should insist these “special advisers” run the country and cut out the middle man?

Cameron was pulled into the Panama Papers debacle last Monday (April 4) after details of Ian Cameron’s (the PMs deceased father’s) dealings featured in the first batch of documents from law firm Mossack Fonseca. This is a problem for David Cameron because he had previously made statements condemning tax reduction schemes by saying they were “wrong”, which is a word he frequently uses to describe problems he appears to have no intention of ever addressing. In 2012 he said “tax avoidance is morally wrong.” Last Monday (April 4) he again stated that those who attempt to hide their money from the UK tax authorities were “wrong”. However, when the tax affairs of his own family were brought into the media spotlight, he appeared to change his tune by claiming that such affairs were “a private matter”.

The next day (Tuesday, April 5) he said:

“In terms of my own financial affairs, I own no shares..I have a salary as a Prime Minister, and I have some savings which I get some interest from and I have a house which we used to live which we now let out while we are living in Downing Street and that’s all I have.”

The British public were supposed to be impressed with this outward selfless expression of personal “frugality”. He continued“I have had no shares, no offshore trusts, no offshore funds, nothing like that. So I think that’s a very clear description”.  This was obviously part of a carefully prepared and scripted speech by his “special adviser’s” that sounded like a hundred lawyers had poured over it into the early hours to ensure its absolute accuracy to the last syllable. Cameron’s statement, in other words, might of been accurate but it wasn’t necessarily clear.

By Tuesday afternoon, Number 10 had sent out another clarification – a clarification of their previous clarification. This third clarification said, “To be clear, the Prime Minister, his wife and their children do not benefit from any offshore funds. The Prime Minister owns no shares.” It then went on to say, “It’s time for people to either put up or shut up in relation to questioning Cameron’s tax affairs.” (adding the word “peasants” to the end of the sentence would not have sounded out of place).

However, it’s clear the people won’t shut up. Cameron will discover that his attempts to draw a metaphorical line in the sand in relation to this ongoing scandal won’t be heeded in quite the way that he and his advisers would like. They have totally underestimated the public mood and the extent to which the British people recognize that a week of Cameron’s shenanigans represents merely the end of the beginning as opposed to the beginning of the end. The public are only now warming up for the long haul as Cameron tries his best to put his role in the scandal to bed.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday (April 6), there was a fourth clarification which stated that “there are no offshore funds or trusts which the Prime Minister, Mrs Cameron or their children will benefit from in future.” Crucially, Cameron’s lawyers and advisers had thus changed the tense. On Thursday (April 7) afternoon, there was a fifth clarification: Cameron maintained that he had nothing to hide. He revealed for the first time that both he and his wife had sold interests worth more than £30,000 in Blairmore which uses bearer shares to protect the privacy of investors’. As with money, whoever bears bearer shares owns them but they are much more portable in that they can be moved around without any paper trail. Consequently, due to the criminal implications associated with them, they have been banned in the UK. Ironically it was the tax swindler, Cameron, who banned them.

Blairmore used more than £30,000 worth of bearer shares to protect the privacy of the Cameron family’s offshore activities. David Cameron insisted that he didn’t personally benefit from any funds from his fathers tax efficient holdings other than the £30,000 described. This is clearly nonsense. As the political satirist Mark Steel in brilliantly comic fashion highlighted, this presupposes that a young David Cameron would have paid for his elite privately funded education at Eton using money he had earned himself after having saved up while undertaking a paper round.

When interviewed by ITVs inscrutable Robert Peston, who sounds like he eats a vowel and pickle sandwich every day for lunch, Cameron said that his father had left him £300,000 and that he couldn’t reveal the source of every bit of the money because his Dad was no longer around to answer any questions about it. Peston asked Cameron how he could of been certain that some of the £300,000 didn’t come from offshore sources. The answer the PM gave was that he and his advisers couldn’t be certain. This, in other words, is code for the money did indeed come from offshore sources. So unless Cameron spent the £300,000 on sweets and comics, then he is currently benefiting from offshore funds.

Let’s make a fairly safe bet and assume that he spent the £300,000 on a relatively secure investment such as property. A decade ago, a £300,000 deposit would have landed a huge investment – particularly in London – in a comfortable family home. The point being, unless Cameron blew the money, on say, cocaine and hookers or otherwise spent it unwisely (which is extremely unlikely), it’s ludicrous to suggest that he will not be benefiting from offshore funds in either the present or the future. It should be remembered that about 15 years ago Cameron bought a house with a mortgage in Oxfordshire with financial help from his father. We, the public, also helped out Cameron by paying the interest on that mortgage for the remainder of what the house cost.

The Cameron family still owns it and its value has increased to over £1 million. It will continue to increase in the foreseeable future. So too will the £300,000 worth of assets from his father increase in value. This £300,000, remember, is a sum Cameron claims neither he, his wife or children have benefited from. So contrary to the assertions of Cameron and his advisers, the notion that he is not benefiting, and will not benefit from, his fathers business in future is also an obvious nonsense. In addition to all this, he owns a second home in Ladbroke Grove in London worth £3.5 million and rising.

It’s inconceivable that Cameron would of been unaware of his father’s financial dealings in Blairmore given that he was himself involved in the Blairmore fund for 14 years (1996-2010). Secondly, the notion that he was somehow oblivious to the fact that Blairmore boasted that it was able to avoid UK tax or, thirdly, that the MPs Code of Conduct compels MPs to declare a financial interest to fellow MPs prior to participating in House of Commons business, are also too far fetched to garner any credibility.

As far as the political and media establishment are concerned, the revelation that Cameron was implicated in the Panama Papers scandal comes down to a question of PR/media mismanagement, as opposed to recognizing that his actions are immoral and, if the law was applied equally, illegal enough to warrant a prison sentence. Let me be clear about this: The super rich elites like Cameron who avoid or evade their taxes, live in the society that the rest of us who do pay our taxes are also a part of. They do not exist as a separate hermetically sealed entity isolated from the rest of humanity.

So they need to be compelled by law to pay their fair share of taxes in order that we are all able to maximize the revenues that accrue for the greatest possible utility. Failing to participate in UK society while presuming to tell the rest of us how it should be run, is incompatible with democracy. What the super rich clearly regard as their inalienable right not to pay tax, is indicative of the fact that 78 per cent of MPs are millionaires compared to just 0.7 per cent of the British population in general. Unfortunately, therefore, democracy has become a by-word for a self-serving system in which MPs effectively represent themselves and the interests of the wealthy.

This explains why the government places a greater emphasis on tackling benefit fraud which represents a relatively tiny proportion of revenue loss compared to the resources that goes into tackling tax evasion and avoidance of the one per cent of the super rich. It might also explain why HMRC chief Edward Troup was a partner at the law firm that acted for Cameron’s offshore fund. What is certain is that these kinds of cozy relationships and practices are contributing to an astounding rate of inequality in which 62 people currently own the same wealth as 3.6 billion people – 50 per cent of the world’s total population.

In terms of Britain, the end result is that tax evasion and avoidance costs the UK treasury a massive £95 billion a year which is enough to fund the entire NHS in England. The surreal irony, in light of all these shenanigans, is that during last Saturday’s London demonstration, tax payer funded police were seen outside Downing Street lining up to protect the one per cent of super rich tax dodgers from the 99 per cent of tax payers.

Another piece of surreal theatre was illustrated by the fact that the demonstration in London last Saturday was barely reported by the BBC but – in the name of impartiality – the demo outside the Iceland parliament received widespread coverage. Despite the efforts of the chattering corporate media class, their counterparts within both the Tory government and the Blairites of Labour’s  PLP, this is a scandal that the public will ensure will not go away any time soon.

The Panama Papers

By Daniel Margrain

The handing over by an anonymous source of massive amounts of data from the Panama-based, German-run law firm Mossack Fonseca which specializes in providing clients with dodgy offshore accounts, had clearly contributed to some unease within the camp of British Prime Minister, David Cameron. Rarely, if ever, do corporate journalists give Cameron a hard time and this was no exception. Having just returned from one of many in a long line of luxury holiday’s on the back of the impending collapse of the UK steel industry, a car crash shambles of a budget, divisions within his own party over Europe and with government policy over schools and health in meltdown, Cameron angrily snapped at reporters in response to feeble attempts to bring him to account regarding the extent to which his father allegedly attempted to shield his wealth from the UK tax authorities.

Cameron was clearly in no mood for such media games especially as both he, the media elite and the Westminster political hierarchy in general, know that due to the specific nature of the leak, much of the potentially incendiary material will never see the light of day within the public domain. It’s disgraceful that Cameron and some Tory ministers are using the ‘privacy prerogative’ to hide behind the morally repugnant and possible criminal activities associated with Cameron’s father which means that the PM is also potentially complicit.

The reason why leaked material that’s likely to be detrimental to the powers that be is hidden from the public on so called privacy grounds can be explained by the fact that the said material is being managed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) who in turn are supported by some of America’s biggest corporate funders. I’m not reassured by the ICIJ when they said they’ll be releasing the full list of people and companies in early May. In any case, the true nature of the revelations won’t be revealed as to who was acting legally and who wasn’t.

Had the leaker approached Wikileaks with the 2.6 terabytes of data consisting of 11.5 millions documents, rather than Suddeutsche Zeitung – and by extension, the Western media more widely – the impact and potential consequences for those concerned would of been far greater. Instead, the largest data leak that journalists have ever worked with will be selectively ‘drip-fed’ with most of the significant amounts implicating Western elites being censored from the public gaze.

We have already seen signs of this with Luke Harding’s Guardian piece published Monday (April 4) which, predictably, focused on Russian individuals and companies whose wealth represents a minority of the money stashed away. Harding’s seriously compromised piece failed to mention that 9,670 UK Companies and over 3,000 US Companies, as well as Cameron’s father, top Tories and some of the UK’s biggest allies, were implicated and/or named in the Panama Papers.

Did the corporate media vilify David Cameron for some serious high-ranking connections to this mother of all leaks? No, it did not. Did the same media publish any damning report that featured Cameron airbrushed alongside global ‘baddies,’ like former Iranian leader Ahmadinejad? No. But it seems as far as Putin and Russia is concerned, anything the media dishes out is regarded by the elites as fair game.

Arguably, the most important graph in the Panama Papers scandal is highlighted below. It shows the number of intermediaries (banks, accountants) in each country.

 

There is no mention of these by the media or of the numerous huge Western multinational corporations or billionaires, some of whom sit in the House of Lords. Neither does Harding mention by name any of the 12 leaders, past and present, identified in the documents. Instead, the Guardian journalist, in line with the methodological approach adopted by Suddeutsche Zeitung which received the leak, selectively focused on the West’s official enemies – Russia, Syria and North Korea.

Despite the fact that Putin wasn’t personally mentioned in the Panama Papers, I’m in no doubt whatsoever that since he uses Russia as a personal fiefdom, he should not be exonerated. It’s one thing ridding the country of the oligarch’s who were responsible for asset stripping its resources which subsequently turned Russia into a gangster capitalist paradise, but another to pocket a large chunk yourself by getting shot of the competition which is effectively what Putin has done. Putin’s primary interest is Putin himself.

But what the Panama papers reveal is that he’s not alone. The global web of corruption and tax avoidance extends to 72 states, heads or former heads of state. Yet you would be unlikely to have reached this conclusion having read the Guardian article or observed the cover of the paper which sensationally headlined with the words “Exclusive: The Secret $2bn trail of deals that lead all the way to Putin”. Neither would you have reached the conclusion having watched the UK state broadcaster, the BBC, who chose to mention just five of the 72 – Egypt, Iceland, Gaddafi, Putin and Assad.

Central to all this is the pathetic kow-towing to power by our media that’s supposed to be impartial and independent yet they act reflexively en masse by directing their fire at enemies of the state. If you don’t believe me, just look how often Putin has been foregrounded in the coverage of these leaked documents, complete with the requisite ‘shady’ photographs. Naturally, the media cannot be perceived to be so transparently biased which is why the occasional ‘balanced’ message is required. Step forward the Telegraph.

On Monday April 4, the paper dutifully reported:

David Cameron’s father ran an offshore fund which avoided paying tax in Britain by hiring Bahamas residents, including a bishop, to sign paperwork…The fund, which was established in the 1980s with help from the Prime Minister’s late father, continues today. The Guardian says it has confirmed that ‘in 30 years Blairmore has never paid a penny of tax in the UK on its profits.”

Nevertheless, the targeting of a dead man is virtually risk free as will be the ‘outing’ of a senile corrupt Lord to be cynically used a sacrificial lamb for the media hacks to peruse over if and when the time is right. Ultimately, the UK Secret Services will never allow the media to publish anything that is likely to damage the ‘reputations’ of leading establishment figures. The destruction of the Snowden files that the Guardian had in its possession but were requested to destroy by M15, are proof of that.

I had been watching the UK media all day on Monday after the story had broken, and news bulletins prefaced the scandal with either Putin, Cameron’s deceased father or Assad. It’s mainly the first two which are easy and convenient targets intended to deflect away from the crimes that implicate ‘our’ leaders. Almost certainly then, there is a highly motivated political agenda at work here that probably explains why Iceland, who locked up many of its corrupt and criminal bankers, was also named.

Following the revelations that Iceland’s PM was implicated in the scandal, the people of Reykjavik took to the streets in their thousands. At the time of writing, I watched the BBC News at Ten which reported from outside the Icelandic parliament. Following the resignation of the PM, the BBC reporter interviewed some Icelander’s. What the people on the streets of the country are increasingly aware of is that corruption within the corridors of power in Iceland and elsewhere is systemic.

The elites on both sides of the Atlantic are concerned about the effect the revealing of undoubted widespread and systematic corruption within the high echelons of media and politics will have on the body politic of Europe and North America. They don’t want Reykjavik to spread to London, Paris and Washington. This is another reason why the full scale nature of those implicated will never be revealed.

What all this highlights is the public is being cynically deceived by the corporate media in order to get their fellow elites off the hook. Craig Murray’s brilliant expose of the BBC Panorama documentary entitled Tax Havens of the Rich and Powerful Exposed, highlights the extent to which BBC producers and presenters will go to in order to misdirect its audience to this end. Perhaps less subtle than the overt propaganda pieceSaving Syria’s Children, but no less effective, the BBC related at length the stories of the money laundering companies of the Icelandic PM and Putin’s alleged cellist. As Murray said:

“The impression was definitely given and reinforced that these companies were in Panama. [Presenter] Richard Bilton deliberately suppressed the information that all the companies involved were in fact not Panamanian but in the corrupt British colony of the British Virgin Islands. At no stage did Bilton even mention the British Virgin Islands.”

Murray goes on to say:

“Is it not truly, truly, astonishing the British Virgin Islands were not even mentioned when the BBC broadcast their “investigation” of these documents?”

Indeed, Mr Murray, it is.

The BBC and media in general are obscuring the key role British money-laundering via its base in the British Virgin Islands plays in these transactions. This scandal must also be seen within a context in which between £30bn and £120bn a year of UK tax is either avoided, evaded or uncollected (sources (Tax justice/ PCS estimate & HMRC estimates). Meanwhile, £16bn worth of benefits a year remain unclaimed (HMRC estimate) against a backdrop in which benefit fraud amounts to a relatively tiny £1.2bn (DWP estimate).

Which of the above figures do you think the government and their media mouthpieces constantly highlight?

It can never be stated enough that this corruption scandal is mostly centred on the British Virgin Islands. Yes, the corruption is widespread and involves a number of world leaders, some of whom are our official enemies. However, in the broader scheme of things, these political figures are essentially peripheral. The level of corruption is widespread and systemic. As far as the major players are concerned, the media need to focus closer to home.