“Morality is simply the attitude we adopt toward people we personally dislike.”
Oscar Wilde, from “An Ideal Husband”
“I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said.”
William F. Buckley Jr.
“Everybody knows that the dice are loaded,
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed;
Everybody knows that the war is over,
Everybody knows the good guys lost:
Everybody knows the fight was fixed,
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Leonard Cohen, from “Everybody Knows”
I wonder if you were as flabbergasted as I was to discover the sole reason Britain has not cracked down before now on the flood of dirty money lapping its shores is because…are you ready? Because the rest of Europe is so corrupt, Britain had to pretend to be corrupt, too, or else it might not fit in!! I’m not even kidding; read it for yourself.
“Brexit will free the UK to intensify its crackdown on dirty money sloshing through the City of London because the authorities will no longer have to win the approval of the rest of the EU.”
The article is The Telegraph’s ‘Premium content’, and so you can’t see the rest of it without being a subscriber – but for my part, I’ve seen enough. If that isn’t the most goodie-goodie, self-serving teacher’s-pet bullshit I’ve ever heard, it would certainly be in the top five.
As I’ve queried elsewhere, if the rest of Europe is perfectly happy rooting in its corrupt sty, while Britain holds its nose and plays at being the bad-ass so that the European hoodlums will accept it, what draws foreign robber-barons to London with cash that they need laundered? Why don’t they just go to Paris or Berlin? Can they not sense how uncomfortable Britain is with money that was not honestly earned by the sweat of one’s brow? Dear God, it makes me want to scream.
Let’s just dispense with the notion that Honest-John Bull yearns to boot out the rotten Russian oligarchs because of a deep-seated aversion to dirty money, right now. In fact, Uncle Sam told Britain back in the spring that it was going to have to cut the Russian oligarchs loose if it wants to have continued access to the US market. And considering the arsehole Britain is making of itself in Europe, it doesn’t actually have a lot of other friends. What would happen to Britain without the coziness of the Special Friendship? Like The Eagles sang in “Already Gone”, it would have to eat its lunch all by itself.
“Sigal P. Mandelker, a top American Treasury official in London to meet with her counterparts, said British banks could face “consequences” if they continued to carry out significant transactions on behalf of the 24 influential Russians sanctioned by Washington on Friday. The list includes the industrialists Oleg Deripaska and Viktor Vekselberg, along with Kirill Shamalov, who American officials have identified as President Vladimir V. Putin’s son-in-law.”
So I guess if Britain is going to have to bury its face in the pillow while Uncle Sam rides it from behind like a pile-driver, it might as well amuse itself – and everyone else – with the notion that showing the Russian rich the door to the cold outside was all its own idea. Yes; ‘course it was!
The welcome mat is still emphatically out for guys like Len Blavatnik, though, the richest man in Britain, with an estimated fortune of £15 billion. Because he’s from Odessa originally, and the last time I looked, that was in Ukraine. Even when it was prodding Britain to impose sanctions against certain Ukrainian oligarchs (never Poroshenko, of course, who is a ‘tycoon’, which is a different thing altogether), the USA made it clear that sanctioning Ukrainians was meant to pressure them to break with Viktor Yanukovich, not to punish them. Mr. Blavatnik had a spot of bother when he was accused of working through his connections with TNK-BP oil company in Russia to drive westerners – including Britons – out of Russia in a dispute between TNK-BP and BP. You would think critics’ attitude was a bit churlish, considering Mr. Blavatnik had just donated £75 million to Oxford University, the largest single donation in its history and one recognized publicly by the British Prime Minister. But Mr. Blavatnik knows how to spread money around; he is a patron not only of Oxford, but of the British Museum, the Tate Modern, the Royal Opera House, the National Portrait Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art. He is a personal friend of Benjamin Netanyahu, and a generous supporter of both US political parties, although he leans heavily Republican. He could show up at a Royal Opera House performance of Anna Karenina with a human head in his lap and nobody would give it a second look.
Good thing they did not investigate far enough back to learn that Mr. Blavatnik outmaneuvered BP in an almost-identical riposte back in the late 90’s…except then he did it with the help of his Washington advisers.
Moreover, to secure the credit guarantees, Blavatnik and his Washington advisers have so far outmaneuvered a Goliath: BP-Amoco. The largest producer of oil and gas in the United States, the British-American giant is fighting to keep its interest in another rich Siberian field also coveted by Tyumen Oil. BP-Amoco contends that Tyumen’s takeover tactics there are unfair and could jeopardize its $571 million investment, one of the largest by a western company in Russia.
Well, enough of that; we’re not really here to talk about Mr. Blavatnik and his squeaky-clean money – we’re here to talk about the patently ridiculous announcement that Britain has an aversion to ‘dirty money’, and would have been much more a scourge of fiscal dishonesty if it had not been held back by its corrupt European partners.
The well-established facts suggest that Britain…how can I put this? A nice way to not be deliberately insulting would be to say that London’s financial centers do not discriminate against money based on its origins; there is no such thing as dirty money, or clean money, there is just money; how’s that? Or, to put it as the man who blew the whistle on the Naples crime syndicate, the Camorra – Robert Saviano – did back in 2016, “the UK is the most corrupt place on earth“. Not a lot of gray area there, I think you’ll agree.
“It’s not the bureaucracy, it’s not the police, it’s not the politics but what is corrupt is the financial capital.”
His assessment was backed by Transparency International, the outfit the UK worships whenever it is ripping on Russia for being an authoritarian hellhole ruled by an imp of Satan. The agency’s own UK head of advocacy and research had no argument with the allegation.
“It’s absolutely true that the UK is one of the leading financial centres for the laundering of corrupt money from overseas, whether through the property market, luxury goods or other sectors…The UK has been a prime location for stashing away illicitly gained wealth, as anti-money laundering systems are weak and sectors such as UK property represent a safe investment, as well as a place to hide corrupt money.”
All, all because the other European nations were mocking Britain for not being sufficiently corrupt, of course – what’s a country to do when its conscience says, “This is so wrong”, while the rest of the gang chants, “Scrub!! Scrub!! Launder that dirty money and pocket usurious profits, or you can’t be in the club!!” As if.
Oh, but wait! We don’t have complete agreement. The British Home Office – a term that, for me, always conjures an image of a crackling fire in a cozy fireplace, perhaps with a dog snoozing on the rug – said only this year that it was so darned proud that none other than, yes, Transparency International had ranked the UK the 8th least-corrupt country in the world!
How can those two realities co-exist?
Obviously, they cannot. I suggest the conundrum offers at least two considerations; one, the British Home Office has an obvious interest in refuting any talk about the UK being a festering swamp of corruption. Two, Transparency International cannot be relied upon to supply unbiased assessments so long as it is funded by, among others, the European Commission and the UK’s own Department of International Development. So you can consider their evaluations with the same gravitas you might accord a similar opinion expressed by the paper boy, or whoever cuts your hair – interesting, but not necessarily informed, and quite possibly influenced.
I’m sure most or all of you remember the “Panama Papers”; those who obtained the files gloated that the information revealed was going to be curtains for Putin, as it exposed his nefarious financial dealings that made him the richest person on earth. That turned out to be horseshit, as we have learned to expect – not because Putin would never do anything bad, but because of the ideological nutjobbery of those who make such promises, as if wishing really hard would make it true. Putin himself was not mentioned anywhere in the millions of documents, and attempts to link him to a few Russian accounts that were said to be those of ‘Putin’s cronies’ got no traction whatsoever.
However, the Mossack-Fonseca law firm’s stolen files did reveal some astonishing British connections, not least of which was the then-Prime-Minister of the UK’s father, who used an offshore account to evade British taxes. How do you guys feel about paying into his old-age pension now? But that was just a relatively-amusing diversion. This was the real money shot:
The Panama Papers leak – with 11.5 million documents the the largest leak in history so far – has implicated many of Britain’s biggest banks as well. HSBC, Coutts, and Rothschild were among the banks mentioned in the papers. Since the 1970s the Mossack Fonseca law firm set up over 3000 shell companies for the aforementioned banks. These shell companies allowed their clients to evade taxes, as well as allowing them to participate in criminal or corrupt activities.
Over 3000 shell companies set up, since the 1970’s, to allow HSBC, Coutts, and Rothschild – among others – to evade taxes and to engage in criminal or corrupt activities. Like money-laundering. Since the 1970’s, which mathematics bids me point out was at least 39 years ago. Kind of a long time to be striving for acceptance into the Corruption Club, don’t you think – what does a country have to do these days to receive its due acclaim?
Look; I don’t know who Britain thinks it’s fooling with that butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth wide-eyed innocence. But chances are good that it is not the US Department of State from whom Britain takes its orders, couched as ‘helpful suggestions’. The hash the British government is making of Brexit, coupled with the US State Department’s focus on squeezing only Russian oligarchs out of the money trough, virtually guarantees the whole effort will rebound on Britain in the worst kind of consequences.
Meanwhile, the fatuous premise that Britain was only pretending to walk the walk so that the mean kids in the gang wouldn’t beat it up for its lunch money is somewhere south of insulting.