Whilst listening to the radio news today, I heard Moazzam Begg claim that he didn’t “receive a million pounds” from the British government in the settlement concerning his alleged torture in Guantanamo Bay. The rights and wrongs of the issue will never be known because the whole process has been shrouded by the government and those compensated in an attempt to whitewash the matter. The government wanted to avoid the enormous cost of a lengthy and complex court case and the terms of the settlement stipulated that it would remain confidential – something wanted by both the men and ministers. This suits the former detainees, as they have been handed hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds, without any admission of wrongdoing on their part, while the government has obstructed and buried any contemporary discussion of the matter.

 

We shall never know if the government was involved in torture and neither will we know the evidence against these men, nor how many millions were paid out by our government to compensate them. However, Moazam Begg’s adult life is a classic example of ‘smoke and mirrors’, wherein he has had links with known terrorists such as Anwar al-Awlaki and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab but denies any criminal intent or matter. He travelled to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia and attempted to travel to Chechnya, and fully acknowledges giving financial support for Muslim combatants, but insists that he never took a combat role himself.

 

However, in 2000 Moazzam Begg was allegedly arrested under British anti-terrorism laws during a raid on the Maktabah al-Ansar Islamic bookshop in Birmingham, which he had founded. The Police retrieved encrypted files from his computer and ordered Moazzam Begg to open them, but he refused and a judge ruled in his favour. Begg was released, incredibly, without charge. From 1st October 2007 the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) includes provisions for the decryption requirements from offenders and, in the case of anti-terrorism laws, the maximum punishment is five years in prison. As it is now a crime to refuse to turn a decryption key over to the police, can this case not be reopened and looked at so that we might at least know the truth about what Mr. Begg was up to that time?

 

I hope that it will be possible, even at this late stage – some eleven years after the police investigation – for the police to ask Mr. Begg for the encryption key to open the files and reveal their content, as Mr. Begg’s life so far seems like a massive conspiracy against the British people


Margaret Thatcher’s legacy of greed


There has been a great deal of discussion in the media recently about the rights and wrongs of Margaret Thatcher being given a state funeral. Quite how anyone sees such an honour as appropriate is beyond me, and I’m not saying that from a partisan perspective. It seems to me that Thatcher’s policies were an archetypal example of throwing the baby out with the bath water: She may have ‘freed’ us from the unions, but not all unions were Marxist or trouble-making organisations. Surely there was an alternative to the hardship that she caused? If not then it is a sad indictment of ‘liberating’ political methodology.

We are now at the mercy of ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’, multinational businesses who avoid paying anything like a fair contribution for operating in our market. Now the neo-cons – I will call them ‘righties’ for the purpose of this article because they have always sought to denigrate and ridicule left of centre thinking as flawed by calling neo-liberals ‘lefties’ (see the footnote) –  are attempting a resurgence because these businesses are at their zenith. These righties forget the fact that global businesses will not benefit them or the country generally  in any sense. They are set to concentrate wealth and power into the hands of the few – Greens, Murdoch, Abramovich and suchlike. They will continue to move their financial bases to tax havens (as Cadbury have just done), thereby centralising wealth in places inaccessible to us.

That is the most memorable part of Thatcher and Reagan’s legacy: Free market forces that drain our exchequer of income; that render our governments virtually impotent in the face of rampant, greedy capitalism. Think back now to my earlier quote “the unacceptable face of capitalism” and the days of Edward Heath when he  spoke out about the ‘dark side’ of free enterprise.  Do you really think it was the electorate that dumped Heath? It is possible and, indeed, history shows the electorate rejecting him. However, that this should happen in the nascent,  new world of global business is not a coincidence, I fear. Thatcher rode on a wave of support from big business to gain power in rather the same way that Abramovich exploited Yeltsin to seize  wealth in the shape of energy reserves from the Russian people.

We have seen recently the extent to which the Murdoch empire was prepared to go to increase its profits. Now we see companies like Google, Kraft and Walmart organising their financial structures so that they give us but the crumbs from their table. Arcadia,  now the owners of  BHS, Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Outfit, Topshop, Topman and Wallis – yes, almost half of the multiple retailers in the UK – but when Sir Philip Green grouped his empire under the Arcadia banner he gave it all to his wife, who promptly left the UK to live in Monaco saving £500,000 that would otherwise have been paid to the exchequer each year in dividend tax.

Thatcher is often lauded as a great thinker. It’s a pity then, is it not, that she evidently devoted so little time to thinking about how her free market freedoms might pan out?

Footnote: Type ‘lefty or lefties’ into a spellcheck and it standardises the spelling, i.e. this pejorative term is included in the dictionary. Type in ‘righty or righties’ – nothing! The Right-wing have by their actions legitimised this abusive name-calling for what is when all is said and done, a political belief.

Google – more ‘rip-off’ tax avoidance schemes but this time it’s Ireland


Google’s business in Eire increased its turnover by almost 30 percent last year, with a €10bn turnover – but paid a mere €15.3m in taxes in 2010 on the figures quoted.

Accounts  filed with the CRO (Companies Registration Office) in Dublin show that Google Ireland Ltd’s turnover increase by 28 per cent last year, thanks to increasing revenue from Google’s online advertising division. Despite this fact, the Irish company’s pre-tax profits fell by 61 per cent to just €18.5m – with the company’s administrative expenses surging by some €1.75bn in that financial year.

The management of the company explained that the exponential rise in expenses were “an increase in royalties paid as a result of increases in recorded turnover” – this is widely believed to be a disguise for an increased payment to a Google holding company which operates in Bermuda. The Irish Sunday Independent recently reported that the Irish-registered company, Google Ireland Holdings Ltd, has assets that include intellectual property for Google’s advertising systems and other products. The company is registered in Ireland, but it’s management and financial base is in Bermuda – neatly moving the most profitable parts of the business to a location where taxation is minimal. Bermuda’s gain is Ireland’s loss. What is shown in the accounts is that Google Ireland Ltd – the face of Google in the country – pays the unknown Google Ireland Holdings Ltd billions for the use of its intellectual property, top-slicing the profit margin from its income and leaving Ireland with a paltry €15m as the company’s contribution for operating in their market.

Company accounts at the CRO reveal that Google Ireland Ltd’s administrative expenses were €7.2bn in 2010, which is almost 75 percent of its turnover. We are at the mercy of greedy global businesses who are parasites on our national economies.

Link to a past article concerning Google: https://gobbledegooked.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/heading-in-the-wrong-direction-for-now/