One of the largest donors to (both factions of) the Tory Party arrested in France over money laundering allegations

“Nineteen people working for the biggest donor to the Conservative Party have been arrested in France in connection with a multi-million pounds tax and money laundering scandal.

All are linked to Lycamobile, the multinational telecoms giant, which has given at least £2.2m to Prime Minister David Cameron’s party since 2011, including half-a-million last year alone.

Lycamobile also allowed Boris Johnson to use one of their call centres during his successful 2012 campaign to become Mayor of London. …

… Mr Jochimek [a director] appeared in a Paris criminal court on Friday, along with nine others who have been charged with a variety of offences related to financial fraud.

They specifically relate to alleged illicit transactions of 13 million pounds, but the French authorities believe the figure could be far higher.

It follows an investigation by BuzzFeed that caught Lycamobile ‘employing three cash couriers to drop rucksacks stuffed with hundreds of thousands of pounds twice a day at Post Offices scattered across London,’ according to the news site.

Bundles of cash were seized in raids on Lycamobile’s Paris headquarters, and a series of residential and business addresses across the city, while the company’s French bank accounts have since been frozen.

Lycamobile’s Sri Lankan-born owner, Subaskaran Allirajah, is a member of the exclusive Leader’s Group for top Tory donors.

He has dined with Mr Cameron or members of his cabinet twice in the past six months, and is also close to Mr Johnson, after bankrolling his campaign.

None of those involved admit any wrongdoing, with Lycamobile previously claiming that the filmed cash drops were just ‘day to day banking’.

But according to Buzzfeed investigators the French authorities have identified money coming from shell companies suspected of acting as fronts for ‘various networks laundering profits from crime.’

Buzzfeed probed 19 companies that allegedly funnelled tens of millions of euros into Lycamobile’s French accounts.

All but one ‘was registered at PO boxes, vacant offices, derelict buildings, or a construction site.’ David Cameron pledged to crack down on money laundering and offshore tax avoidance at the global anti-corruption summit in London last month.

He said he wanted to ‘send a clear message to the corrupt that there is no home for them here’.

According to the Buzzfeed investigation, Lycamobile is selling its prepaid calling cards on the black market in Paris for cash, and is then using a ‘a vast system of false billing’ to invoice fake companies for the sales in order to conceal other illicit payments.

Lycamobile’s own auditors declared over the past two years that they could not account for total of £646 million that moved through 10 companies in its complex corporate network.

Lycamobile is the world’s largest mobile virtual network operator, buying international airtime in bulk and selling it to millions of customers around the world on relatively cheap prepaid calling cards.

It has reported an annual turnover of 1.5 billion pounds, while legally avoiding corporation tax in the UK and Ireland by moving its money to the tax haven of Madeira.

Following the original Buzzfeed enquiry, the Labour Party wrote to the Conservatives demanding that the party freeze all donations from Lycamobile pending further investigations, but the letter was ignored. …”

Sovreignty and control

Nothing at all to do with Brexit or RemaIN, simply a good point on whether “sovreignty” is democratic:

Perhaps the most powerfully held aspiration for Brexiteers is to restore UK parliamentary sovereignty: in the words of Michael Gove, to “take back control” and, of John Redwood, for Britain to “be a democracy again .

But what would this “taking back control” mean in practice? Brexiteers imply that while EU legislation is “imposed”, Westminster parliamentarians control non-EU law-making through active debates and votes.

Except they don’t, because for voters what impacts on their lives most is not primary legislation – Bills – on which parliamentarians can vote, but the meaningful detail of the Bills, which Whitehall civil servants and ministers increasingly choose to hide in secondary legislation (sometimes called delegated legislation of Statutory Instruments – SIs).

The scale of this was estimated for the Lords by former minister Baroness Andrews:

“80 per cent of the laws as they impact on individuals are transported through statutory instruments, whether that is welfare benefits, food safety, planning requirements or competition across the NHS…”

Essentially Whitehall civil servants and ministers are defining important laws as “secondary legislation” in order to subvert the ability of parliament to choose whether to pass or not to pass laws.

Brexit is no guarantee of British control of its own destiny or of parliamentary sovereignty because our parliament is not in control.

SIs are rarely debated, and historic Westminster procedure means they cannot be amended. The idea that parliament meaningfully votes to “pass” them is no more real than the idea that the Queen gets to decide the content of the Queens Speech. …

Donations to Jo Cox Fund

“In celebration and memory of Jo Cox, we are raising funds to support causes closest to her heart, chosen by her family:

The Royal Voluntary Service, to support volunteers helping combat loneliness in Jo’s constituency, Batley and Spen in West Yorkshire.

HOPE not hate, who seek to challenge and defeat the politics of hate and extremism within local communities across Britain.

The White Helmets: volunteer search and rescue workers in Syria. Unarmed and neutral, these heroes have saved more than 51,000 lives from under the rubble and bring hope to the region.

In her husband Brendan’s words:

“Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life with an energy, and a zest for life that would exhaust most people. She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her.”

Let’s come together and give what we can to help create that better world.”

“Cronyism in the south west”

Something we all know about in East Devon!

“Cronyism in the South West”
The sheer amount of unsuitable and damaging development that has been pushed through against all objections in my home town of Totnes, but also throughout the south west, is making me question the role of cronyism in the deals made.

It starts at the very top of course in government, but appears to have sucked up many of our more august bodies that we are more used to seeing as our defenders and protection, into its net. The National Trust for example, now has a right wing business leader as its head. I wouldn’t suggest for a moment that this is as a result of any wrong doing, but I question why he is there, when he comes with no history of interest or involvement in conservation or the heritage sector. It is a coincidence of course that the National Trust appear to be engaged recently in the development business themselves, aiming to sell land, given to them in trust in Bovery Tracey and also in Somerset, for housing. To say local people aren’t happy is a bit of an understatement.

Natural England also, is now headed up by a right wing business man, an ex-developer actually, with little to no interest up to now in the environment, or preserving the countryside, he was too busy working to concrete it over as head of Linden Homes. George Monbiot describes his appointment as, ‘The government wants a chairman who can flog nature and have chosen a Tory party donor with a background in investment banking and housing developments.’

So our conservation and heritage organisations appear to be headed by cronies, our secretive Local Enterprise Partnership appears to be also. This is the self-appointed group tasked with pouring vast amounts of public money into encouraging enterprise and business down here and with running our devolution bid. The fact that the majority of those on the board come from the construction and housing sector and a few who are involved in weapons manufacturing won’t come as a surprise when you see that our devolution bid, which they mostly engineered, is very heavy on giant construction projects, which the board’s companies appear to profit from and very weak on tourism, farming and sustainability. This bid is about growth. ‘I want to only build structures that you can see from space,’ the chair is quoted as saying. The fact that this undemocratically elected group hold their meetings in private, have no head office, very little accountability and have managed to keep the lid on their activities very successfully is worrying and the ultimate in cronyism.

This culture goes down the line; housing developments pushed through when they are so obviously damaging and ridiculous. In Totnes, Great Court Farm was sold to developers in very suspect circumstances in my opinion. It is the last dairy farm in Totnes, the home to a fourth generation of farmers, a totally unsuitable spot for yet more mass building in this beleaguered town. The access is terrible, the logistics ridiculous and yet it was pushed through by a combination of cronyism and mis-management. The people who suffer are the people who always suffer when cronyism is allowed to flourish and that’s us – everyone else and in this instance the farmer and his family and the people of Totnes, who see their landscape the plaything of those in power.

Across the county, across the country in fact, the same story is played out endlessly. Local people left shocked and devastated as those in power find the wherewithal to circumnavigate due process and make an absolute fortunes flogging nature and our land to line their own pockets.”