Friday, 7 June 2013

Bilderberg - a Dirty Weekend as Lawbreakers meet

I wrote the following piece as a second part of this  weeks  Morning Star column on Lycamobile- but didn't have enough space to fit it in, so   I thought I would put it here:-

A bunch  of the corporate executives  hobnobbing with George Osborne Ed Balls and Ken Clarke  at the Bilderberg Conference in a hotel near glamorous Watford this weekend (8th-9th  June) come from firms involved in serious lawbreaking.  Last December HSBC paid a $1.9 billion fine in the US to settle charges they had laundered $881 million of money from Mexican drug cartels – drug dealers were depositing so much money at HSBC’s Mexico branches that the criminals had special money boxes designed to fit through the space in HSBC cashiers windows. In America Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is outraged they got away with just a fine. She said “You know, if you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you’re going to go to jail. If it happens repeatedly, you may go to jail for the rest of your life. But evidently, if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night, every single individual associated with this. I think that’s fundamentally wrong.”

HSBC Chairman Doug Flint, Deputy Chairman Simon Robertson and Chief Exec Simon Robertson are all at Bilderberg.

Arms firm BAe Systems have repeatedly been investigated for bribery. In 2010 they paid  £257m in criminal fines to the US and £30m to the UK for bribery relating to Saudi, Hungary and Czech officials. Sherard Cowper-Coles, BAE systems “Business Development Director” for the Middle East will be at Bilderberg. Balls and Osborne probably know him already, as he had a long diplomatic career, including being Robin Cook’s PPS and  Britain’s envoy to Afghanistan before he joined the arms firm. According to a Wikileaks US telegram, when Cowper-Coles was UK Ambassador to Saudi Arabia he had a “profound effect” on a Serious Fraud Office not to prosecute BAE Systems for bribery in 2007

Bribery is always an issue in the arms trade. Arms firm EADS had their German offices raided by Police last year looking for evidence of bribery in sales of Eurofighter jets to Austria. The Serious Fraud Office is investigating an EADS subsidiary over bribery in the Middle East. EADS boss Thomas Enders insists his firm did no wrong. He can tell that directly to Osborne and Balls as he too  will be at the Bilderberg conference.

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