Tag Archives: South Africa

HSBC money-laundering link: Is this ‘the listening bank’ – for criminals?

The bank HSBC has been connected with illicit financial practices once again.

Remember when HSBC was found to have been helping thousands of wealthy clients to evade hundreds of millions of pounds worth of tax?

How about the time Swiss authorities raided the offices of HSBC’s Geneva branch over allegations of money laundering? The bank was facing criminal investigations in the US, France, Belgium and Argentina over its failure to establish proper procedures to prevent money laundering by drug cartels and terrorists.

It was revealed later that the bank only escaped prosecution in the US after the UK’s then-Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, intervened.

Older readers may remember that HSBC used to be the Midland Bank before being taken over by the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). As the Midland, it was known as “the listening bank”. It seems these days, it mostly listens to criminals.

And earlier this year it was alleged that the bank was covertly funding the Conservative Party. This was no surprise to those of us who knew that its chairman during the tax evasion scandal, Stephen Green, had quit to become a Tory peer. A non-executive director at the time, Rona Fairhead, went on to be appointed chair of the BBC before becoming a Tory peer herself, earlier this year.

Now Lord Hain has written to another Tory Chancellor – Philip Hammond this time – calling for an investigation into possible money-laundering by HSBC and another bank, Chartered Standard, in South Africa.

Considering the close link between the bank and the Tories, what do you think will happen?

UK financial regulators and the Serious Fraud Office are to review if banks HSBC and Standard Chartered are linked to a South Africa corruption scandal.

It comes after Lord Peter Hain said the banks may “inadvertently have been conduits” for laundered money.

The Labour peer told the House of Lords that up to £400m of illicit funds may have been moved by the banks.

His concerns relate to links between South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and a wealthy business family, the Guptas.

The peer has written to the Chancellor Philip Hammond, telling him a whistle-blower had indicated the banks “maybe inadvertently have been conduits for the corrupt proceeds of money”.

Lord Hain told the BBC he named 27 people in the letter, in addition to companies, adding that any person or firm linked to alleged corruption in South Africa is “going to be badly contaminated”.

The Treasury has asked regulators, including the Financial Conduct Authority, and the SFO to look into the allegations.

Source: UK banks ‘exposed to money laundering in South Africa’ – BBC News


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Thatcher disdained sanctions. Why do her heirs love them so much?

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Vox‘s article on Nelson Mandela stirred up a huge amount of comment. As you might expect, much was complimentary; some was not.

One of the critics sought to alter the stated opinion of David Cameron and his Conservatives by pointing to a letter from Margaret Thatcher to then-South African President PW Botha in 1985, seeking Mr Mandela’s release from prison. This part of the letter didn’t sway yr (dis-)obdt srvt, as the suggestion seemed to be made as part of advice on how Mr Botha could gain political advantage from the situation, rather than from any genuine moral standpoint.

The letter did feature comments that are of considerable interest and relevance at this time – relating to sanctions. Mrs Thatcher wrote: “The Commonwealth meeting opened with forty-five countries seeking extensive trade and economic sanctions against South Africa… My rebuttal of the case… rested on two main premises: that sanctions do not work, indeed are likely to be counter-productive and damaging to those they are intended to help: and that it was inappropriate to take punitive action against South Africa at the very moment when you are taking steps to get rid of apartheid and to make necessary changes in the system of government in South Africa.”

Let’s take these comments back home and apply them to people who are unemployed in the UK today.

The Department for Work and Pensions, under Iain Duncan Smith, imposed a tough new regime of sanctions against Jobseekers’ Allowance claimants in November last year.

Now, sanctions can be imposed for a month if a claimant is judged to be not actively seeking a job or being available for work. Subsequent misbehaviour along these lines would mean a 13-week period without benefit. The claimant must then reapply for benefit in both instances.

Benefit may also be lost for 13 weeks if a jobseeker fails to attend an interview with a Job Centre advisor, although it restarts automatically at the end of this period.

The highest sanction withdraws JSA for 13 weeks if a person leaves their job voluntarily, rising to six months for a second “failure” and three YEARS for a third.

In the eight months between the application of the new rules and June this year, nearly 600,000 JSA claimants were sanctioned. Employment Minister Esther McVey claimed that this affected only a small proportion of jobseekers – “The vast, vast majority of people don’t get sanctions” – but when you compare the actual number of sanctions (553,000) with the number of people on JSA (1,480,000) it becomes clear that this is not true.

In September 2012, 1,570,000 people were on JSA. The government has been claiming that the figure has dropped because people are getting jobs but from these figures it seems far more likely that they have had their money stopped instead.

Ms McVey also said: “The people who get sanctions are wilfully rejecting support for no good reason.” Let’s have a look at that with the help of this website. All the sanctions it describes were really imposed on real jobseekers by Job Centre Plus employees, and these are just some of them:

“You apply for three jobs one week and three jobs the following Sunday and Monday. Because the job centre week starts on a Tuesday it treats this as applying for six jobs in one week and none the following week. You are sanctioned for 13 weeks for failing to apply for three jobs each week.”

“You have a job interview which overruns so you arrive at your job centre appointment 9 minutes late. You get sanctioned for a month.”

“Your job centre advisor suggests a job. When you go online to apply it says the job has “expired” so you don’t apply. You are sanctioned for 13 weeks.”

“You are on a workfare placement and your job centre appointment comes round. The job centre tells you to sign on then go to your placement – which you do. The placement reports you for being late and you get sanctioned for 3 months.”

The victims of these sanctions were clearly people who were trying to take steps to rid themselves of their unemployed status and get a job – but they were sanctioned by our Conservative-led government under a policy created by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith. Draw a parallel with what Mrs Thatcher was saying about South Africa and it is clear that she would call that “inappropriate”.

But do they work? No.

According to Liam Purcell, writing in the Church Action on Poverty blog: “Where there are few jobs available, as in the North West of England, taking money away from people is hardly going to help them find jobs.

“Many of the unemployed despair of getting help and meaningful training. For most people who are sanctioned, it does nothing to help them acquire skills that would help them compete in the labour market.

“Having to apply online for dozens of inconvenient, unsuitable jobs for which they are poorly qualified, and which they may be physically or mentally incapable of holding down, is hardly a profitable use of time… Yet failure to comply can mean an end to even the minimum income produced by benefits.”

And the result? “Destitution, which follows, merely helps the poorest to learn how to survive by ducking and diving, by applying to charity, by falling into the clutches of payday lenders and loan sharks, by begging and sometimes stealing. Increasingly we come across people who find the whole process of claiming out-of-work benefits so demeaning and stressful that they just can’t be bothered to apply, and conveniently disappear from the official register of the unemployed.”

And conveniently disappear from the official register of the unemployed.

For those the system was originally “intended to help”, as Mrs Thatcher put it, her letter of 1985 was absolutely right: “Sanctions do not work [and] are likely to be counter-productive and damaging.”

But for a government that is desperately trying to claim that its policy on jobs is succeeding, sanctions that “conveniently disappear” people work very nicely indeed.

 

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Death of a great man marred by the hypocrisy of a weasel

Hypocrite: We can't prove Cameron was behind the 'Hang Mandela' campaign of the 1980s, but we do know he opposed Mandela's politics and supported apartheid in South Africa. He did not think Mandela was a "great light" or a "hero" - he's just saying what he thinks you want to hear.

Hypocrite: We can’t prove Cameron was behind the ‘Hang Mandela’ campaign of the 1980s, but we do know he opposed Mandela’s politics and supported apartheid in South Africa. He did not think Mandela was a “great light” or a “hero” – he’s just saying what he thinks you want to hear.

I hope everyone in the UK is as saddened by the death of Nelson Mandela as they are disgusted by David Cameron’s two-faced tribute.

According to Wikipedia, Mr Mandela rose to prominence in the ANC’s 1952 Defiance Campaign. Working as a lawyer, he was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities and, with the ANC leadership, was unsuccessfully prosecuted in the Treason Trial from 1956 to 1961. Although initially committed to non-violent protest, he co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in 1961 in association with the South African Communist Party, leading a sabotage campaign against the apartheid government. In 1962 he was arrested, convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the government, and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia Trial.

Mandela served 27 years in prison, initially on Robben Island, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison. An international campaign lobbied for his release, which was granted in 1990 amid escalating civil strife.

After his release, he served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalised racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation.

While he was in prison, David Cameron was involved in some extremely shady anti-Mandela activities.

According to a statement that was put out across the social media in the summer, “When he [Mr Mandela] does die, and David Cameron jumps on the Mandela bandwagon, remember that in 1985 he was a top member of the Federation of Conservative Students, which produced the “Hang Mandela” posters.

“In 1989, Cameron worked in the Tory Policy Unit at Central Office and went on an anti-sanctions fact-finding mission to South Africa with a pro-apartheid lobby firm sponsored by PW Botha. Remember this when he tells the world he was inspired by Mandela.”

Cameron’s membership of the Federation of Conservative Students is questionable, as is his participation in the “Hang Mandela” campaign. His participation in the fact-finding mission is well-documented, though.

As for his party – well, let’s look at the words of Conservative talisman Margaret Thatcher: “The ANC is a typical terrorist organisation.” Tories revere the Blue Baroness; if that was her opinion, no doubt it belonged to many of them as well.

If you still need to be convinced, see the following:

“Nelson Mandela should be shot.” – Tory MP Teddy Taylor

“This hero worship is very much misplaced.”- Tory MP John Carlisle

“How much longer will the Prime Minister allow herself to be kicked in the face by this black terrorist?” – Tory MP Terry Dicks

(All the above are taken from Tom Pride’s article on the subject earlier this year)

Conservatives hated Mandela; Cameron was a Conservative then and is Conservative leader now.

When you see him saying things like, “A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time,” remember that.

What a two-faced, hypocritical slug.

 

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