Category Archives: Economy/Monetary Reform

City of London–The epicentre of the global crime scene

City of London - The Centre of the global crime scene

Originally published in May 2016: When it comes to The City of London, the term ‘tax haven’ is not describing all that it should. It is a It doesn’t just shield the mega-wealthy from paying their fair dues it goes further and offers a departure from the rule of law as you would know it. Secrecy is its raison d’être. These secrecy laws do not benefit the local people living in its jurisdiction but only those individuals and corporations with enough money and with something to hide.

 

The reality is that the City of London caters for those above the law, it operates on the basis of bypassing democratic society as a whole. This has come about over time where an extraordinary ‘ gentlemen’s agreement’ has stood the test of time. Over the centuries, the head of state and his/her governments have had the need for large loans for wars and the like. The City, in exchange for such commodity, has extracted certain privileges the rest of the population do not enjoy. The end result over the time is that it now has its own jurisdiction to do pretty much as it pleases.

A ‘watchman’ sits at the high table of parliament and is its official lobbyist sitting in the seat of power right next to the Speaker of the House who is “charged with maintaining and enhancing the City’s status and ensuring that its established rights are safeguarded.” The job is to maintain order and seek out political dissent that might arise against the CityThe City of London has its own private funding and will ‘buy-off’ any attempt to erode its powers; any scrutiny of its financial affairs are put beyond external inspection or audit.

For over a hundred years the Labour party tried in vain to abolish the City of London and its accompanying financial corruption. In 1917, Labour’s new rising star Herbert Morrison, the grandfather of Peter Mandelson made a stand and failed, calling it the “devilry of modern finance.” And although attempt after attempt was made throughout the following decades, it was Margaret Thatcher who succeeded by abolishing its opponent, the Greater London Council in 1986.

Tony Blair went about it another way and offered to reform the City of London in what turned out to be a gift from god. He effectively gave the vote to corporations which swayed the balance of democratic power away from residents and workers. It was received by its opponents as the greatest retrograde step since the peace treaty of 1215, Magna Carta. The City won its rights through debt financing in 1067, when William the Conqueror acceded to it and ever since governments have allowed the continuation of its ancient rights above all others.

The City effectively now stands as money launderer of the world, described now as the capital of the global crime scene. It is the heart and engine of the offshore haven, with Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man its european collection centres, the caribbean and others hoovering up billions of American dollars from all over the globe. Whilst there are good and legal reasons for offshore accounts, it has a dark and shadowy client list; terrorists, drug barons, arms dealers, despots, dictators, shady politicians, corporations and companies, millionaires and billionaires  – most with something to hide.

The Independent newspaper reported in July 2015 that The City of London is the money-laundering centre of the world’s drug trade, according to an internationally acclaimed crime expert. Another expert in Mafia criminology has come forward and stated the UK is now the most corrupt country in the world and firmly pins the blame on The City of London. In addition, every notable financial expert now agrees that due to incredibly lax financial laws facilitated by the British government, the London property market is heavily influenced by laundered money from all over the world involving hidden tax havens, most of which are British.

 

In 2016, the Home Affairs Select Committee concluded that the London property market was the primary avenue for the laundering of £100bn of illicit money a year. Yes, £100 billion laundered each year – in property alone.

 

The London money launderers don’t just wash money from crime into property. Worse, they are financing terrorist activities and operations all over the world.

Her Majesty’s British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies make up around 25 per cent of the world’s tax havens, which are now blacklisted by the European Commission and now ranked as the most important player in the financial secrecy world.

Tax havens featured on the EC’s blacklist of June last year include Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands to name just a few and each is inextricably linked to the City of London’s crime offices.

David Cameron won praise in 2013 after announcing at the Open Government Partnership summit in London that the UK intended to require companies registered in the UK to reveal the identity of their real owners in public filings at Companies House. This was then heavily watered down after the Queen was warned that her British territories were now ranked as some of the world biggest tax havens, harbouring tens of trillions of illegally stashed cash and assets that was described as a “web of secrecy jurisdictions”. The Tax Justice Network (TJN) said Britain now rules the world of tax havens.

The consequence of its operations is that money laundering is now at such levels and so widespread that the authorities have recently admitted defeat in its battle of attrition by stating openly it has been completely overwhelmed and lost control.

 

Keith Bristow Director-General of the UK’s National Crime Agency said just six months ago that the sheer scale of crime and its subsequent money laundering operations was “a strategic threat” to the country’s economy and reputation and that “high-end money laundering is a major risk”.

 

Banks located in The City of London are connected to terrorists committing some of the worst atrocities of our time, the same with the international drug trafficking trade. Many people around the world are suffering and dying as a direct result of the activities going on in this one tiny regime. One bank alone laundered $7billion in cash. When caught its cocky arrogance was no better defined than its response “in the past, we have sometimes failed to meet the standards that regulators and customers expect” when they were fined $2billion in the USA for breaking international sanctions. Toothless financial regulators in Britain look aside and do nothing other than pay lip service to this crime wave set in the heart of one of the most important capital cities in the world.

This from Michael Meacher MP “After a blizzard of revelations of financial wrongdoing over this last year, without parallel in recent history, what do the following have in common: Barclays forced to pay $360m over its manipulation of Libor, HSBC fined $1.7bn for money-laundering and flouting sanctions, Standard Chartered made to pay $667m over breached in sanction laws, RBS over Libor fixing to name but some? They are all British companies that have committed very serious offences, but they were not prosecuted by British regulators at all, only by US ones.” The scandals escalated and the authorities had to act but did little in real terms.

As a consequence, the City of London remains politically immune and acts with criminal impunity as it sucks up what is now understood to be trillions in ill-gotten gains. Bankers and hedge-fund operators dodge the authorities with skill sets honed over hundreds of years who stride with disdain over anything remotely resembling decency. HMRC investigates nothing, it takes what it is given, the austerity ridden taxpayer continually short-changed.

It is of no coincidence that this small area of Britain, just 1.2 square miles has the highest pay in the land and the third lowest council tax for property anywhere in the United Kingdom. A £10 million mansion costs less than £1,000 a year in council tax, the same residence for New York bankers attracts $225,000 a year in property taxes.

At the last census, its population stood at just 7,325, its employees stand at 414,600, nearly 40 per cent of them in financial services. Nearly 17,000 businesses are registered there, 2,700 are finance and insurance based and just over 45 per cent are foreign owned entities. HSBC’s organisation is the ninth largest bank in the world following four Chinese and four American banks located down the road in Canary Wharf.

This tiny island haven, with its own borders and police force, sits inside London as an international hub, the tax haven of all tax havens. Glass towers full of international crime lords. The banks use offshore business organisations to escape regulation and the grip these organisations have over an ever corrupt political class is incomprehensibly astounding. The Conservative party is literally bankrolled by bankers and hedge funds. Half of the wealthiest hedge fund managers in the land pay millions each year to the Tories – what do they expect back from their investment? Not just hundreds of millions of stamp duty exemptions and taxes the hedge funds no longer have to pay.

The City of London would have you believe they contribute massively to the state for their efforts. One year after David Cameron’s arrival at No 10, corporation tax represented 40.8pc of tax collected from the London financial industry, while last year it was just 19.8pc. This is an environment where banks are earning even more by taking even bigger risks with our economy having fleeced the taxpayer for half a trillion pounds a few years earlier – enough additional money to fill the funding gaps for the NHS, education, police and social services for decades.

Unrecoverable VAT and employers’ National Insurance together make up over half of taxes borne, with corporation tax less than a fifth of this so called massive contribution. The City of London does very well like no other.

Thatcher’s neoliberal dream is now totally out of control. The legislators have capitulated to its power. Democracy is systematically deconstructed in favour of the corporations. In the legislators’ place, people-powered organisations emerge such as Tax Justice Network, Democratic Audit, New Economics Foundation to name a few who operate in the arena of social justice in an attempt not to stifle capitalism, but to level the playing field a bit.

https://therearenosunglasses.wordpress.com/2018/10/15/city-of-london-the-epicentre-of-the-global-crime-scene/

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Africa 2018: Worth Far More Than Blood Diamonds to the Colonials

14.09.2018 Author: Phil Butler

The world needs to be prepared for raging imperialism to resurface in Africa. The new form of colonialism will take a friendlier appearance, but the legacy of Africans will be nonetheless devastated. Here’s a straight razor look at the struggle four the world’s last resources.

For anyone reading this report which still believes in the story that Africa was decolonized, I suggest you read the complete report of the German-Senegalese author, Kalidou Diouf here. It’s high time that intelligent people enter a discussion without the naivety of the past burdening the discussion of world policy. My previous reports here at NEO on the situation in Algeria, Western Sahara, and other African nations showed the nation-state view on Anglo-European control and some of the minute effects of this new colonialism. But the macro-view of the loss Africans are suffering because of external players is unbelievable. Let me begin with a report from Health Poverty Action which debunks the notion Africans are dependent on the outside world.

Africa Aid: By Any Other Name

When you hear about aid from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or USAID hitting Africa, nobody tells you about the “aid” being an investment. That’s right, anytime you hear of any entity “giving” aid to Africa, the real story is profit. Let me quote directly from the report from 2014:

“Whilst countries in Africa receive $162 billion in resources such as aid, loans, and foreign investment a whopping $203 billion is taken out, mostly by multinational corporations, debt payments, tax dodging, and the costs imposed by climate change caused by the rest of the world.”

So, in this one example, the world receives about $41 billion back on the various investments (aid). But this “aid” imbalance is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

If we focus for the moment on France alone, the human devastation Africans suffer is inestimable. I am remembering something that former French President Jacques Chirac said back in 2008 in describing the importance of French dependence on Africa. The former French leader said; “Without Africa, France will slide down into the rank of a third world country.” If we consider this a true statement, then it’s easier to put in perspective my past reports on new colonialism by France in North African nations. Quoting again from Kalidou Diouf’s story we find the reality with regard to the French:

“Industrial France has nothing to offer that would explain why it is still one of the richest countries in the world. The only reason the country is still as wealthy as it was 50 years ago is that the colonial system puts about 500 billion US-dollars a year from Africa into its treasury.”

While Diouf’s texts are not the most scholarly you can find, my research bears out his estimation of French blackmail and theft of African riches in past eras. What most people do not realize, however, is that France maintains tight control of at least 14 former African colonies through a currency called the colonial-era currency (CFA). I know, you never heard of it, but the French may as well have troops in nations like Benin, Congo, Ivory Coast, Tongo, and ten others. To be fair with France here; Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Portugal, Russia, and the Middle East OPEC crowd play an imperial role as well. But France deserves credit for being the biggest beneficiary from old Colonial times. But today’s African colonial system is dominated by one old imperialist player, alongside two nations that emerged as superpowers after World War II.

France Passes the Imperial Torch

In 2015, at celebrations of the 55th anniversary of the independence of Chad, President Idriss Deby declared to attendees:

“We must have the courage to say there is a cord preventing development in Africa that must be severed.’ The ‘cord’ he was referring to is now over 71 years old. It is known by the acronym ‘CFA franc.’”

In 2017, the United States Justice Department alleged Déby accepted a $2 million bribe in return for providing a Chinese company with an opportunity to obtain oil rights in Chad without international competition. And this brings us to the bigger colonialism criminals on our world. Enter America, Britain, and China. I turn now to a story written by Professor Macharia Munene, who’s a history and international relations instructor at the United States International University in Kenya. “Scramble for Africa II is gaining momentum,” frames the current struggle in between America, Britain, and China geo-strategic battle over Africa. The author does not go into great detail, but his point on nations “fearing” others will leverage control is a vital point here. This “fear” component can also be seen by the fact the French and Germans seem paranoid about Chinese influence growing in the region. What other reason can there be for the French firm Coface preparing the in-depth report “Sub-Saharan Dependency on China trade?”

Then there are the Americans to consider. If France is blackmailing African nations with currency and economic disasters, it’s no surprise to find the Americans deploying every dirty trick in the book to subdue the restless Africans. A case in point comes to us from none other than Voice of America, and the warning (threat) that the U.S. may withdraw all counterterrorism units from the continent. This unbelievable report was from September 2nd, the Sub-Saharan “China” report was reported September 3rd, “Scramble for Africa” was on the 2nd, and the story “China’s Xi promotes ‘Belt and Road’ as Africa growth tool” came out the same day. My question is, “Where is the Africa position in all this talk of Africa?” I’ll let you think about this.

Kimberly Ross at the Washington Examiner makes part of my summary for me, thankfully. “How the new colonizers forget the people of Africa,” albeit from the socio-cultural perspective. Ross delves into the “core” disruptive/control factor of policy toward Africa through a look at Nigerian activist and author Obianuju Ekeocha. To quote Ross on interventionists such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:

“African nations are filled with diverse and talented individuals with rich and colorful histories. Those born and those yet to deserve better than to be used as pawns by foreigners who want to be seen as a continuous funding source and necessity, but never an actual solution to internal ills.”

Ms. Ross’ report is sharp, stunningly critical, but it only presupposes that rich philanthropists are naïve do-gooders. The issue taken a step further, we find the “investment” quotient laying just beneath the surface. Ross’ “ideological neocolonialism” is only one facet of the greater neocolonialism ravaging Africa and other parts of the world. In fact, there are no such things as an “ideological” version, for robber barons have only one ideal – profit. The intensified battle over the African legacy is best framed via reports like this one from South African analyst and coordinator of the Economic Justice Program at the AIDC, Dominic Brown. In this fine essay, the author lays out neoliberal economics and the failed fiscal policies that now fuel a war for Africa’s remaining resources. Brown describes how failed economics have led to the “New Cold War” in between the U.S. and Russia, and to the friction in between America, China, and to a lesser extent Europe. The author goes on to describe

Africa Value: Far More Than Blood Diamonds

Africa as the “economic playground” of these old and new imperialist nations. Africans, sooner or later, are going to have to shun the aid and maybe even the investments of failed imperial systems. This is the cold, hard, truth of the matter of neocolonialism. Look at the hypocrisy of the whole situation. The Trump administration’s National Security Strategy recognizes Africa’s economic potential and strategic value, and warns us of an “often extractive economic footprint” of the Chinese on the African continent! Citing directly from the

“China is expanding its economic and military presence in Africa, growing from a small investor in the continent two decades ago into Africa’s largest trading partner today. Some Chinese practices undermine Africa’s long-term development by corrupting elites, dominating extractive industries, and locking countries into unsustainable and opaque debts and commitments.”

This nonsensical hypocrisy stands in stark contrast to what Aisha Dodwell, a campaigner for Global Justice Now, told The Guardian back in 2017:

“There’s such a powerful narrative in western societies that Africa is poor and that it needs our help. This research shows that what African countries really need is for the rest of the world to stop systematically looting them. While the form of colonial plunder may have changed over time, its basic nature remains unchanged.”

Trump’s administration is no different from any other U.S. presidency where African relations are concerned. Nick Dearden addresses the fallacy that Africa is poor and past/present policies abruptly, but correctly when he says; “Try something different. Africa is rich, but we steal its wealth.” But, if you really want to understand American aid and investment in Africa, this Heritage Foundation think tank report (PDF) lays it out. I leave you with a final quote from these brilliant Washington thinkers that ends my report perfectly.

“According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 18.6 percent of U.S. oil imports in 2005, compared to 17.4 percent from the Middle East. “

And that’s just energy from 2005, my friends. Now tell me about the nations “helping” Africans.

Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he’s an author of the recent bestseller “Putin’s Praetorians” and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”
https://journal-neo.org/2018/09/14/africa-2018-worth-far-more-than-blood-diamonds-to-the-colonials/

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AFRICOM or the New Silk Roads

It’s Africa’s choice

When China calls, all Africa answers. And Beijing’s non-politicization of investments and non-interference in internal affairs is paying off big time

September 4, 2018 5:22 PM (UTC+8)

People hold Chinese and Djiboutian national flags as they wait for Djibouti's President before the opening of a 1,000-unit housing construction project in Djibouti on July 4, 2018. The project was financially supported by a Chinese company. Photo: AFP/Yasuyoshi Chiba

People hold Chinese and Djiboutian national flags as they wait for Djibouti’s President before the opening of a 1,000-unit housing construction project in Djibouti on July 4, 2018. The project was financially supported by a Chinese company. Photo: AFP/Yasuyoshi Chiba

That breaks down to $15 billion in grants and interest-free loans; $20 billion in credit lines; a $10 billion fund for development financing; $5 billion to finance imports from Africa; and waving the debt of the poorest African nations diplomatically linked to China.

When China calls, all Africa answers. First, we had ministers from 53 African nations plus the African Union (AU) Commission approving the Beijing Declaration and the FOCAC Action Plan (2019-21).

Then, after the $60 billion announcement, we had Beijing signing memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with nine African nations – including South Africa and Egypt – related to the New Silk Roads/Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Additionally, other 20 African nations are discussing further cooperation agreements.

Debt trap or integration?

That does not exactly paint the picture of the BRI as a vicious debt trap enabling China to take over Africa’s top strategic assets. On the contrary, the BRI is seen as integrating with Africa’s own Agenda 2063, a “strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years” tackling unemployment, inequality and poverty.

Apart from letting the numbers speak for themselves, Xi deftly counter-punched the current, massive BRI demonization campaign: “Only the people of China and Africa have the right to comment on whether China-Africa cooperation is doing well … No one should deny the significant achievement of China-Africa cooperation based on their assumptions and speculation.”

And once again Xi felt the need to stress the factor that does seduce, Africa-wide – Chinese non-politicization of investments, and Chinese non-interference in the internal affairs of African nations.

This comes right after Xi’s speech celebrating the five years of BRI, on Aug. 27, when he stressed Beijing’s organizing foreign policy concept for the foreseeable future has nothing to do with a “China club.”

What that reveals, in fact, is a Deng Xiaoping-style “crossing the river while feeling the stones” fine-tuning, bent on correcting mistakes in what is still the BRI’s planning stages, and including the approval of a mechanism of dispute resolution for myriad projects.

African leaders seem to be on board. For South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the FOCAC “refutes the view that a new colonialism is taking hold in Africa, as our detractors would have us believe.” AU chairman Paul Kagame, also the president of Rwanda, emphasized a stronger Africa was an opportunity for investment, “rather than a problem or a threat.”

A ‘non-enduring contingency location’?

According to the China Chamber of International Commerce, over 3,300 Chinese companies have invested Africa-wide in telecommunications, transportation, power generation, industrial parks, water supply, rental business for construction machinery, retail, schools, hotels and hospitals.

China is, in fact, upgrading its investments in Africa beyond infrastructure, manufacturing, agriculture and energy and mineral imports. China is Africa’s top trading partner since 2009; trade expanded 14% in 2017, reaching $170 billion.

In November, Shanghai will host the first China International Import Expo – jointly managed by the Ministry of Commerce and the Shanghai municipal government, a convenient stage for African nations to promote their proverbial “market potential.”

Xi depicted as a new and ruthless Mao? China mired in abysmal corruption? China’s massive internal debt about to explode like a volcano from hell? None of this seems to stick Africa-wide. What does impress is that in three decades, a one-party system managed to multiply China’s GDP per capita by a factor of 17. From a Global South point of view, the lesson is “they must be doing something right.”

The ultra-sensitive military front

In parallel, there’s no evidence Africa will cease to be a key BRI node for investment; a market with an expanding middle class receptive to Chinese imports; and most of all, strategic reasons.

And then there’s the ultra-sensitive military front.

China’s first overseas military base was inaugurated on Aug. 1, 2017 – on the exact 90th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The official Beijing spin is that Djibouti is a base for peacekeeping and humanitarian missions, and to fight pirates based on the Yemeni and Somali coastlines.

But it goes way beyond that. Djibouti is a geostrategic dream; on the northwest Indian Ocean and at the southern path to the Red Sea, en route to the Suez Canal and with access to the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Gulf and most of all the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait. This prime economic connectivity translates into transit control of 20% of all global exports and 10% of total annual oil exports.

Not accidentally, Djibouti’s top capital source is China. Chinese companies fund nearly 40% of Djibouti’s top investment projects. That includes the $490 million Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, whose strategic importance far exceeds elephants, zebras and antelopes “roaming freely alongside a railway.”

Djibouti’s aim, as expressed by President Ismail Omar Guelleh – who visited Xi in Beijing last November – is to position itself as the number one connectivity/transshipment node for all of Africa.

Now compare it with the Pentagon’s AFRICOM agenda – as in an array of Special Ops deploying nearly 100 secret missions across 20 African nations at any given time.

As Nick Turse extensively documented in his must-read book Tomorrow’s Battlefield, there are at least 50 US military bases Africa-wide – ranging from what AFRICOM designates as “forward operating sites” to fuzzy “cooperative security locations” or “non-enduring contingency locations.” Not to mention 36 AFRICOM bases in 24 African nations that have not previously made it to official reports.

What this spells out, once again, is further evidence of the ever-replicating Empire of Bases. And that brings us to Africa’s stark “contingency location” choice. In the ultra-high-stakes development game, who’re you gonna call? FOCAC and the New Silk Roads, or Ghostbusters AFRICOM?

http://www.atimes.com/article/its-africas-choice-africom-or-the-new-silk-roads/

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