Swire’s business pal in more difficulty in United States

As a commentator points out – an article from the Daily Telegraph of 5 December 2018:

US congressional investigators have launched an inquiry into possible links between British-based companies owned by Russian oligarchs and their relationship with Russia’s intelligence agencies.

The move follows increasing concerns by U.S. congressmen over the extent of Russian meddling in both the U.S. and Europe, with a number of oligarchs with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin forming the main focus of the inquiry.

Among the UK-based companies that have aroused the interest of congressional investigators is EN+, the energy company owned by Oleg Deripaska and chaired by Tory peer Lord Barker of Battle.

Mr Deripaska, a close ally of Mr Putin, is already under investigation from congressional committees over allegations, which the oligarch denies, that he was involved in efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential elections.

Recent documents released by the FBI revealed Mr Deripaska loaned $10 million to Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign manager, who has been charged with fraud and money-laundering. Mr Deripaska is one of several Russian oligarchs who were hit with U.S. sanctions in April.

Now US investigators say they are interested in apparent links between British-based companies owned by Russian oligarchs and Russian intelligence agencies.

Their interest in EN+ comes after FBI officers identified Evgeny Fokin, who is the company’s Director of International Cooperation, as formerly being the SVR’s declared liaison officer with U.S. intelligence agencies in Washington DC in the mid-1990s.

Apart from being employed by EN+, Mr Fokin, who is said to be a close ally of Mr Deripaska, has previously been employed by Basic Element, another company owned by Mr Deripaska.

“There is particular concern in Congress about the links between Russian businesses owned by oligarchs and the Russian intelligence agencies,” a U.S. official told the Daily Telegraph.

“There is concern about the large numbers of former Russian intelligence officers who now hold senior positions in major Russian businesses.

“There are growing suspicions in Congress that the distinction between the Russian state and businesses owned by Putin’s supporters may be on paper only.”

Lord Barker, a former energy minister under David Cameron, provoked criticism from MPs earlier this year after he helped EN+ raise £1 billion on the London Stock Exchange, money that was then used to pay off Russian banks subject to U.S. sanctions.

The claim by FBI officials that Mr Fokin is a former SVR officer would make him the third former Russian intelligence officer to have been identified as working for Mr Deripaska’s business interests.

Valery Pechenkin, another former SVR officer, has been appointed to run Basic Element, while Viktor Boyarkin, a former officer with the same Russian GRU military unit accused of carrying out the Salisbury nerve agent attack in March, has previously worked for Mr Deripaska’s Rusal aluminium conglomerate.

A spokesman for Mr Fokin denied that he had been a member of the SVR, and said Mr Fokin had not been contacted by anyone connected with the U.S. congressional investigation.

A person familiar with the situation told The Telegraph: “Mr Fokin resigned from the Russian Diplomatic Service over twenty years ago to pursue a career in the private sector. He has been with En+ since 2012.”

Both US congressional intelligence committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives have had long-running investigations into every aspect of alleged Russian interference in U.S. elections as well as other organisations.

In October Senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced his investigation was looking a new lines of inquiry. Following the outcome of the mid-term elections in November, the Democrat-led House intelligence committee has intensified its inquiry into Russian meddling, with U.S. officials confirming that Mr Deripaska, as well as other oligarchs, remain a particular focus of both investigations.

Mr Deripaska has recently been visiting London to give evidence in a court case involving a £74 million property dispute with former Russian minister Vladimir Chernukhin.”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/12/05/british-companies-owned-russian-oligarchs-investigated-us-congress/

Two degrees of separation: Paul Manafort and Hugo Swire

Manafort is heavily implicated in the Trump Russia scandal and facing jail:

To recap some of the crucial plot points in the Paul Manafort story, based on my own reporting and lawsuits filed against him:

1. He owed millions of dollars to Oleg Deripaska, who invested in a fund that Manafort created for buying up assets in Russia and Ukraine.

2. Manafort was so deep in debt to Deripaska that he avoided him when the oligarch came asking for his cash in 2010.

3. When Manafort went to work for the Trump campaign, he suggested giving Deripaska “private briefings,” with the hopes of the Russian forgiving his debts. (All this is obliquely explained in emails obtained by The Atlantic last year.)”

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/12/mueller-manafort-lied-about-russian-brain-kilimnik/577693/

Deripaska is closely linked to Sir Greg Barker – Chairman of Deripaska’s UK company EN+:

“This spring, a British lord with deep ties to the governing Conservative Party and a reputation as a do-gooder environmentalist arrived in Washington on an unlikely mission: to save the business empire of Oleg Deripaska, one of Russia’s most infamous oligarchs.

Mr. Deripaska was in deep trouble. In April, the Trump administration had announced sanctions on oligarchs close to President Vladimir V. Putin, and on their companies, as punishment for Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and for other hostile acts. A billionaire who controls the world’s second-largest aluminum company, Mr. Deripaska faced possible ruin.

Portrayed as little more than a thug by his critics and suspected by United States officials of having ties to Russian organized crime, Mr. Deripaska, 50, has spent two decades trying to buy respect in the West. London welcomed him; Washington still mostly has not. Successive administrations have limited his ability to travel to the United States.

Even Mr. Putin was unable to resolve the situation when he interceded personally with Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama on Mr. Deripaska’s behalf.”

Sir Greg Barker has 50/50 stake in a company with Hugo Swire (Eaglesham Investments:

https://companycheck.co.uk/company/10520733/EAGLESHAM-INVESTMENTS-LIMITED/companies-house-data

The company (currently dormant) describes itself as “investing in “emerging economies”:
https://eastdevonwatch.org/2018/05/30/swire-and-his-investment-in-emerging-economies/

Brazil, China, India and Russia are currently considered the top 4 emerging economies:
https://www.thebalance.com/top-emerging-market-economies-1979085

Tory MP blocks BBC journalist who quoted his exact words about food banks to expose his hypocrisy

“Conservative MP Dominic Raab has blocked a BBC journalist on social media after she repeated his comments about food banks.

The former Brexit Secretary posted a photo in which he posed with food bank volunteers in his Esher and Walton constituency. He wrote: “Thank you to Tesco in Molesey and the Trussell Trust for partnering to encourage customers to generously provide food collections for families in our community, who are struggling at this time of year.”

In response, Victoria Derbyshire quoted verbatim previous remarks made by Mr Raab in the run-up to the 2017 general election. She reminded him he had previously blamed the rising reliance on food banks on those who had a “cash flow problem”, insisting they were not “languishing in poverty”.

The journalist soon found herself blocked from following Mr Raab’s Twitter account. Ms Derbyshire tweeted: “I repeated verbatim what Mr Raab said about people who use food banks..”

On Victoria Derbyshire’s 2017 debate show, Mr Raab had said: “I’ve studied the Trussell Trust data. “What they tend to find is the typical user of a food bank is not someone that’s languishing in poverty, it’s someone who has a cash flow problem episodically.”

Food bank charity the Trussell Trust handed out a record 1.3million emergency parcels in 2017, with 41 per cent of recipients putting their need down to delays and changes in their benefits.”

https://inews.co.uk/news/dominic-raab-blocks-victoria-derbyshire-twitter-food-banks/

Pub chain owner denies tweet that Universal Credit allows him to push zero-hours contracts

Probably not the best PR for a wealthy businessman to be seen publicly boasting about how he is happily using taxpayers’ money to subsidise his staff wages.

So it’s a bit strange to see this tweet from the DWP quoting the MD and owner of pub chain Whiting and Hammond bragging about how so very little he pays his staff that his workers have to rely on Universal Credit to get by. …”

https://tompride.wordpress.com/2018/12/09/pub-chain-owner-denies-using-taxpayer-money-to-subsidise-wages-in-public-row-with-dwp-over-universal-credit/

“Pensioner poverty rises as benefits freeze bites”

“Declining home-ownership and rising rents mean that one in six may have to choose between food and heat, warns Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

One in six pensioners is now living in poverty as a result of declining home ownership, soaring rents and the benefits freeze, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has warned. Pensioner poverty is rising, having fallen steadily for nearly two decades, the charity said. The figures prompt fears that many pensioners will be forced to choose between paying for heating and buying food this winter, as benefits remain frozen below inflation for the third year in a row.

The foundation’s chief executive, Campbell Robb, said: “Pensioner poverty is a problem that we thought had gone away.”

The incidence had halved over 20 years, but began rising again in 2012-13. By 2016-17, 16% of pensioners were living in poverty, rising to 31% among those in social housing and 36% among private renters. Poverty here is “relative poverty” – an income of less than 60% of the median among pensioners, after housing costs.

Robb said: “For middle-aged people who have been struggling over the past few years, who don’t have many savings and don’t own their own home, the prospect of being a pensioner is very challenging.” The “golden age” when people enjoyed rising home-ownership and well-paid work was coming to an end, he added. About 20% of all pensioners rent their home, and the proportion is growing.

The problem is compounded by the benefits freeze, in place since 2016. “As rent goes up faster than housing benefit, pensioners have a huge gap to fill,” Robb said. “This tips people into poverty, and forces them to choose between food and heating.”

Figures published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies this year reveal that relative poverty among pensioners has risen in the past five years, while “absolute poverty” – an income of less than 60% of what the median of the general population was in 2010-11 – has fallen by just 1%. By comparison, absolute pensioner poverty fell by 12% between 2002-03 and 2007-08, and by 3% between 2007-08 and 2011-12.

The foundation called on the government to end the benefits freeze and to build genuinely affordable housing. “These figures are part of a wider increase in poverty across all age-groups,” said Robb. “If we don’t tackle the causes now, we fear that we are going to see poverty – particularly among pensioners – rise even more.”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/dec/09/pensioner-poverty-rises-bnefites-freeze

Fake news on Labour Party being manufactured by secretive group in Scotland funded by Foreign Office

Owl says: the UK becoming more like Russia every day!

“Secret Scottish-based office led infowars attack on Labour and Jeremy Corbyn.

Explosive leaked documents passed to the Sunday Mail reveal the organisation’s Integrity Initiative is funded with £2million of Foreign Office cash and run by military intelligence specialists.

A secret UK Government-funded infowars unit based in Scotland sent out social media posts attacking Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.

On the surface, the cryptically named Institute for Statecraft is a small charity operating from an old Victorian mill in Fife. But explosive leaked documents passed to the Sunday Mail reveal the organisation’s Integrity Initiative is funded with £2million of Foreign Office cash and run by military intelligence specialists.

The “think tank” is supposed to counter Russian online propaganda by forming “clusters” of friendly journalists and “key influencers” throughout Europe who use social media to hit back against disinformation. But our investigation has found worrying evidence the shadowy programme’s official Twitter account has been used to attack Corbyn, the Labour Party and their officials.

One tweet quotes a newspaper article calling Corbyn a “useful idiot”, that goes on to state: “His open visceral anti-Westernism helped the Kremlin cause, as surely as if he had been secretly peddling Westminster tittle-tattle for money.”

A message from the UK Government-funded organisation promotes an article that states: “Unlike Galloway (former MP George Galloway) Corbyn does not scream conspiracy, he implies it,” while another added: “It’s time for the Corbyn left to confront its Putin problem.”

A further message refers to an “alleged British Corbyn supporter” who “wants to vote for Putin”.

It is not just the Labour leader who has been on the receiving end of online attacks. His strategy and communications director Seumas Milne was also targeted.

The Integrity Initiative, whose base at Gateside Mill is near Auchtermuchty, retweeted a newspaper report that said: “Milne is not a spy – that would be beneath him. “But what he has done, wittingly or unwittingly, is work with the Kremlin agenda.”

Another retweet promoted a journalist who said: “Just as he supports the Russian bombardment of Syria, Seumas Milne supported the Russian slaughter of Afghanistan, which resulted in more than a million deaths.”

The Integrity Initiative has been accused of supporting Ukrainian politicians who oppose Putin – even when they also have suspected far-right links.

Further leaked documents appear to show a Twitter campaign that resulted in a Spanish politician believed to be friendly to the Kremlin being denied a job. The organisation’s “Spanish cluster” swung into action on hearing that Pedro Banos was to be appointed director of the national security department.

The papers detail how the Integrity Initiative alerted “key influencers” around Europe who launched an online campaign against the politician.

In the wake of the leaks, which also detail Government grant applications, the Foreign Office have been forced to confirm they provided massive funding to the Integrity Initiative.

In response to a parliamentary question, Europe Minister Alan Duncan said: “In financial year 2017-18, the FCO funded the Institute for Statecraft’s Integrity Initiative £296,500. “This financial year, the FCO are funding a further £1,961,000. Both have been funded through grant agreements.”

Politicians and academics have reacted with fury to news a covert Government-funded unit had been attacking the official opposition in Parliament.

Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “It would appear that we have a charity registered in Scotland and overseen by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator that is funded by the UK Government and is spewing out political attacks on UK politicians, the Labour Party and the Labour movement. “Such clear political attacks and propaganda shouldn’t be coming from any charity. We need to know why the Foreign Office have been funding it.”

David Miller, a professor of political sociology in the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol, added: “It’s extraordinary that the Foreign Office would be funding a Scottish charity to counter Russian propaganda which ends up attacking Her Majesty’s opposition and soft-pedalling far-right politicians in the Ukraine.

“People have a right to know how the Government are spending their money, and the views being promoted in their name.”

Source: Scottish Daily Record

Good job EDDC’s HQ is almost finished … and let’s hope it is perfect … !

“Cabinet Office mandarins are believed to have sounded out Interserve’s rivals about the possibility of taking on some of the outsourcer’s work.

The cleaning and building company is heading for a debt-for-equity swap with its lenders as it creaks under debts of £650m. The swap could wipe out shareholders.

Interserve is a significant government supplier, with long-term deals for schools, hospitals and motorways. Jon Trickett, Labour’s shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, last night called for a temporary ban on the company bidding for public contracts — “until they have proved they are financially stable and there is no risk to the taxpayer”.

Interserve said: “The fundamentals of the business are strong and the board is focused on ensuring Interserve has the right financial structure to support its future success.”

Source: Sunday Times