The Nether-World

March 14, 2007

Corrupt Rogue State To Renew Its Arsenal of WMD

Filed under: Bliar, Sleaze, UK Politics — netherworld @ 11:11 pm

A rogue state which has a reputation for corrupt arms dealing and which sells weapons to oppressive regimes run by despots as well as conducting illegal wars, has been found to be accelerating its program for developing more WMD. The rogue state has also been known to threaten some (but not all) states which also have programs (suspected or otherwise) for developing nuclear weapons. It tries to get around this hypocrisy by claiming that its WMD program is nothing of the sort but is instead an “Independent Nuclear Deterrent”. This Independent Nuclear Deterrent is neither independent nor a deterrent. It is, however, nuclear with the potential to kill 40 million people. It’s also very expensive for a country that is having to close hospitals and scrap pension plans.

Interestingly, the leading politicians of this rogue state once had rather different things to say about nuclear weapons than they are saying now.

  • Tony Blair: “Labour is the only party pledged to end the nuclear madness.” (1982)
  • Gordon Brown: The Trident programme is “unacceptably expensive, economically wasteful and militarily unsound”. (1984)
  • Peter Hain: ‘The more direct action there is against nuclear weapons in Britain, the greater the freedom a Labour government will have to get rid of them.’ (1983)

And that was during the Cold War!

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March 6, 2007

Sleaze In America – Sleaze In Britain

Filed under: Cash for Honours, Lord Levy, Nu Labour, Sleaze, US Politics — netherworld @ 7:22 pm

Two sleaze stories today, one from each side of the Atlantic. First, in the USA Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, has been found guilty of obstruction of justice and perjury. When he is sentenced in June, he faces up to 25 years in prison.

He was accused of lying to the FBI and a grand jury over revelations about CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity.

Libby’s lawyer said they were “very disappointed” at the verdict, and would ask for a new trial, or would appeal.

Libby was found guilty on four out of five counts. He was acquitted on one count of lying to the FBI.

I haven’t blogged much about this case but the BBC has an at-a-glance article about the trial and also other links to the background of this story for those who are unfamiliar with it. In short, it concerns the leaking of the identity of a CIA agent, Valerie Plame whose husband, Joseph Wilson displeased the Bush administration by disputing Bush’s claim that Iraq had tried to buy nuclear material from Niger. The trial itself, however, is about the cover-up (isn’t it always?). More updates on this can be found at Firedoglake and Iain Dale has a report. too.

Over in Britain, the sleaze story is the on-going saga of the cash for peerages scandal. The story all week has concerned a document (not an e-mail apparently) and an injunction placed on the BBC to prevent them revealing who sent it, who it was for and what it was about. This was a request by the police. The injunction was partially lifted yesterday so it could be revealed who sent it to who but not much else. Today the whole injunction was lifted revealing what most observers suspected anyway, namely that this document was written by Ruth Turner to her boss Jonathan Powell and it concerned Lord Levy whose position is now looking more precarious than ever.

There has been much speculation as to whether it was Downing Street that leaked the details in order to prejudice any trial. This is, of course, vigorously denied. After calling his arrests and the police behaviour “theatrical”, Lord Levy is now demonstrating his own skills in theatrics as he denounced the “prejudiced and distorted view” of the cash-for-honours affair presented by leaks to the media and played to the gallery by appalling for public sympathy. It is possible that Ruth Turner was concerned that Lord Levy was asking her to alter her evidence, something Levy denies. If true this opens the way for charges of perverting the cause of justice (again, it’s the cover-up rather than the original crime). The Guardian defied the injunction and broke the story which has caused the row as to who is doing the leaking in this case. Lord Levy blames the police, and everyone else seem to be blaming Lord Levy or Downing Street.

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February 5, 2007

Cash For Honours – The End Draws Near

Filed under: Bliar, Cash for Honours, Nu Labour, Sleaze — netherworld @ 7:14 am

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Greater love than this hath no man, that he lay down his friends for his life – Jeremy Thorpe speaking of Harold Macmillan’s 1962 Night of the Long Knives when he sacked most of the senior members of his cabinet to save his political career.

The Times is reporting that three of the people questioned by the police in the cash for honours scandal are likely to face charges. This must mean that the police investigation is drawing to a close and we’ll soon be waiting to hear what the Crown Prosecution Service has to say. It appears that someone questioned by the police has been singing like a canary.

Crown Prosecution Service lawyers have received files from the police indicating that charges should be brought against three people, although the inquiry is continuing.

“I would be very surprised if they are not charged,” a prosecution source told The Times. The same source said that Tony Blair was likely to be interviewed by the police for a third time because he had yet to answer certain questions.

So who are the people who are likely to be charged? It would seem on the face of it that Tony Blair might escape prosecution and it will be his minions that will carry the can for the Right Honourable Gentleman. Obviously Lord Levy is top of the list as he’s been arrested twice so far. Naturally he’s still protesting his innocence and has once again said that he will not swing for Tony Blair.

Tony Blair’s chief fund-raiser Lord Levy is ready to tell the police that the Prime Minister is to blame for the cash-for-peerages scandal.

The Labour peer is furious that he has become the prime suspect.

And he is ready to defend himself by arguing that Mr Blair, not him, should be made to take full responsibility for the affair.

This is at least the second time Lord Levy has stated that he won’t be the fall guy for Tony. To be fair to him he does have a point. Only the Prime Minister can bestow honours on people. But it does seem that the noble lord is in it up to his neck, and let’s not forget that the second time he was arrested it was in connection to a potential cover-up. Perverting the cause of justice is a far more serious crime.

Ruth Turner, Downing Street’s director of government relations is also in the frame following her recent arrest (again on suspicion of perverting the cause of justice). This means that her boss, Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s chief of staff might also face further questioning and possible arrest. So who has been spilling the beans? Well it seems possible that it might be Tony Blair’s director of political operations John McTernan. Back to the Times article:

A CPS source said that the case had been strengthened by the testimony of John McTernan, the Prime Minister’s director of political operations, who gave a different account of discussions about honours from that given by other Downing Street figures questioned.

Oh dear, perhaps it was this that has re ignited what was beginning to look like a moribund inquiry. The Government has in recent days pulled out all the stops in trying to deflect attention from this investigation and create the impression that it was going nowhere after 11 months. We’ve had MPs and Cabinet Ministers as well as peers either coming out against the investigation or insisting that Blair should stay on as Prime Minister and friendly ‘journalists’ also saying to the police in effect “shit or get off the pot“. We’ve had anonymous leaks in the case of the alleged plot in Birmingham which some police suspect may be politically motivated. If all this sounds like desperation, it probably is. Tony Blair is not out of the woods yet. There is already speculation that he might be questioned for a third time by police, perhaps under caution. Even if he himself is not charged, he will be very badly damaged if his closest members of staff are charged. This might mean that he will be visited by the dreaded men in grey suits.

It is starting to look like Blair won’t be able to hang on until the summer as he intends to. The irony is that it will be a scandal which is relatively trivial in comparison with the far more serious crimes committed in Iraq which forces him out. But then Al Capone was caught out on tax evasion rather than his violence and racketeering.

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January 30, 2007

The Blair Crime Family Expands Its Gambling Operation

Filed under: Bliar, Cash for Honours, Nu Labour, Sleaze, UK Politics — netherworld @ 3:23 pm

Not content with its usual rackets of selling honours, halting or tampering with police investigations, arms dealing, bribery and assassination, the Blair crime organisation (also known to be operating under the name of NuLabour) has expanded its operation into gambling. Britain’s biggest criminal organisation, dominated by its boss ‘Teflon’ Tony is about to open the country’s largest and swankiest gambling joint in the city of Manchester.

There was some confusion as to where the location for this new venue was going to be. Some thought it would be in Blackpool which has aspirations to be another Atlantic City. Others thought the location would be in London in a spot famed for a failed diamond heist by an unaffiliated local gang. However this might have attracted too much heat after the negotiations with an American billionaire conducted by the under boss John ‘Cowboy’ Prescott were exposed.

The move into gambling is happening under the leadership of capo regime Tessa ‘Under-Bus‘ Jowell who has been urging the family to stake a claim in the lucrative gambling racket for some time. She is known to have links with the famous Don Berlusconi in Italy who is currently awaiting trial for corruption and perverting the cause of justice along with her husband.

This audacious move is happening as the police get ever closer to busting the family for its peerages racket. It is thought that even ‘Teflon’ Tony might not escape justice this time and he is said to be handing control of the family business over to his associate Gordon ‘One Eye’ Brown. The crime syndicate is so worried about police attention after the recent arrests of other senior members including consiglieri Michael ‘Cash Point’ Levy a.k.a. Sleazy, that it is thought that even ‘Machine Gun‘ Blunkett can’t save them.

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January 20, 2007

A Roundup of This Week’s Political Corruption, Sleaze and Hypocrisy

Filed under: Bliar, Cash for Honours, Nu Labour, Sleaze, UK Politics — netherworld @ 4:42 am

As the Middle East situation goes from bad to worse, the British Government has a few problems closer to home to deal with. These problems reflect Tony Blair’s loss of authority and the decline of New Labour as we enter the last months of his Premiership. Let’s start with the continuing BAE scandal. If Blair thought that by halting the SFO investigation into BAE’s corrupt dealings with the Saudi government over the Al Yamamah arms deal the problem would go away, he was sorely mistaken. Now instead of the original corruption being investigated, the focus is firmly on Blair’s misguided decision. As pressure on Blair mounted to reverse his decision from 130 campaign groups, the Prime Minister reverted to the defence we’ve seen so often:

“The Attorney General set out the reasons for the decision on that and I have nothing further to add,”

Lord Goldsmith’s reason for dropping the inquiry was, we were told, national security and he told Parliament on December 14 that the security services agreed with his assessment. Unfortunately the newly knighted John Scarlett. head of MI6 was reading from a different script.

Whitehall sources have told the Guardian that the statement to the Lords was incorrect. MI6 and MI5 possessed no intelligence that the Saudis intended to sever security links. The intelligence agencies had been merely asked whether it would be damaging to UK national security if such a breach did happen. They replied that naturally it would.

Later the Foreign Office issued a statement which stated that:

“Contrary to the Guardian article, SIS (MI6) shared the concerns of others within government over the possible consequences for the public interest of the SFO investigation.”

Obviously furious at having their investigation halted, the SFO leaked the names of top BAE officials involved in more corruption in South Africa.

BAE’s chief executive, Mike Turner, is named along with the former chairman, Sir Dick Evans, and two other executives, in a document dated June 26 last year.

The document is a request for mutual legal assistance sent from the SFO in London to authorities in South Africa, where a £1.5bn aircraft deal with Britain is under investigation. The SFO’s dossier says: “There is reasonable cause to believe that all the above-named persons and company have committed offences of corruption.” It was leaked to the Mail & Guardian, a Johannesburg newspaper.

The closing of the Al Yamamah inquiry is now being investigated by The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which has condemned the closure and says Britain may have reneged on its promise to combat corruption in the developing world. It isn’t just Saudi Arabia and South Africa involved in corruption with Blair and BAE Systems. There’s another scandal, this time in Tanzania. Tony Blair personally backed a plan to sell Tanzania a military air traffic control system which was ten times more expensive than anything that country actually needed. Tanzania, one of the world’s poorest countries which had just had its debt written off, has only eight military aircraft. In order to push through this sale, Blair, with the support of Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon went against Gordon Brown, Clare Short and the World Bank which condemned the deal as a complete waste of Money. Now it turns out that BAE used a $12, million bribe to get the deal.

The UK’s biggest arms supplier secretly paid a $12m commission into a Swiss account in a deal which led to Tanzania, one of the world’s poorest countries, buying a controversial military radar system.

A Tanzanian middleman, who has a long-standing relationship with military and government figures, has admitted that the sum was covertly moved to a Swiss account by BAE Systems, which is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.

The SFO are now investigating this case and are going through BAE’s Swiss bank transactions with Tanzania. It remains to be seen whether or not Blair will decide that this investigation too is a threat to national security and close it down as well.

The disaster that is Iraq has caused some Government Ministers to try to distance themselves from the foreign policy they previously supported and Blair’s close relationship with George Bush. Hilary Benn, James Purnell, and Yvette Cooper are all now criticising the decisions that were made. Most interesting of all though, was Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain’s outburst in The New Statesman:

“The neo-con mission has failed … It’s not only failed to provide a coherent international policy, it’s failed wherever it’s been tried, and it’s failed with the American electorate, who kicked it into touch last November. The problem for us as a government … was actually to maintain a working relationship with what was the most rightwing American administration, if not ever, then in living memory.”

Peter Hain, who voted strongly for the Iraq War and strongly against investigating the Iraq war, is of course launching his bid to become Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. If you thought Ruth Kelly was a hypocrite, take a look at this and this and this:

There is vigorous public debate about Britain’s support for UN sanctions on Iraq. I have no intention of ducking this debate, because I am convinced Britain’s policy is right.

This week also saw another development in the cash for honours scandal. A fourth arrest has been made in the investigation and this time it is a senior Downing Street political adviser. Ruth Turner was arrested 6:30am on Friday, she is first salaried government official to be arrested. She was later released without charge. What is interesting is that she was questioned not only about cash for honours but also about perverting the cause of justice which suggests that the police suspect that attempts at a cover-up have been made. As you’d expect, Ruth Turner denies any wrongdoing and is expressing her willingness to co-operate fully with the police.

“I have already given the police two lengthy interviews and made it clear to them that I was happy to speak to them again at any stage. I have been completely open with the police throughout and will continue to co-operate with them fully . . . I absolutely refute any allegations of wrongdoing of any nature whatsoever.”

So far, Blair is still supporting her. That might well change if she decides to spill the beans.

“Ruth is a person of the highest integrity for whom I have great regard and I continue to have complete confidence in her,” said the prime minister.

There is more than a hint of nervousness at Downing Street now and the previously cordial relations between the police and Downing Street have cooled significantly. I was amused by a statement by Lord Puttnam who was himself ennobled by Tony Blair after donating money to the Labour Party:

“What about turning up at 9 o’clock, or what about phoning and saying: ‘I wonder if you’d mind coming into the police station, we’d like to talk to you’? Why do you send four policemen at 6.30 in the morning to arrest a perfectly nice woman? It’s ludicrous. I think they’re into theatrics.

Hmmm, theatrics. That sounds familiar. My guess is that the police will now want to interview her boss Jonathan Powell again… possibly under caution this time. And I suspect Lord Levy might well be contemplating another trip to the Middle East. As for Blair, well we’ll have to wait and see but I doubt he’s sleeping that easily.

Anyway that concludes this week’s roundup of sleaze and corruption. I wonder what next week will bring.

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