Saturday, September 10, 2011

Whoever pays the pipers

POLITICAL chat shows here tend to bore me with trivia and make me reach for the remote, but it need not always be so. The host of a popular Israeli programme has resigned live on air, citing a “breach of ethical and professional values.” Channel 10 newscaster Guy Zohar resigned at the end of a programme during which a junior colleague read out the text of an apology to one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main patrons, Sheldon Adelson.

Adelson is a Las Vegas casino tycoon and proprietor of the fiercely pro-Netanyahu freesheet Yisrael Hayom, the most widely read newspaper in Israel. As Zohar announced his resignation the production credits at the bottom of the screen rolled blank, without any names. The camera then panned to the program’s control room, which erupted with applause.

The row between Adelson and Channel 10, began in January, when the channel ran an in-depth profile of the billionaire. Adelson alleged that the profile piece contained two defamatory segments: One, an interviewee claiming Adelson owed him substantial sums of money, a claim the interviewee reportedly recanted a few months later; and another interviewee seemingly insinuating Adelson got special treatment when appealing for a casino operation license. The report was removed this week from the channel’s website.

While Adelson attempted to pursue legal action against the news company, the apology was eventually aired thanks to a direct intervention by one of the financially strapped channel’s three shareholders, Ron Lauder, of the Estee Lauder business dynasty. According to a source involved in the preparation of the original Adelson report, who spoke to the Walla news site, the channel negotiating an agreed phrasing to the apology when Lauder intervened to stress the news company must aired the apology as dictated to them by Adelson’s attorney. The apology included references not only to the disputed quotes but to the phrasing of the questions asked by the channel’s reporter and to the channel “not checking the accusations” prior to broadcast.

Thanks to Dimi Reider and 972:

Vegas gambling house bosses may seem like a seedy source of backing for politicians, particularly if we consider how the resort owes its origins to the Mob, but then the Mob's Meir Lansky found a comfy second home in Israel with the help of money he splashed around some politicians and their favourite funds. Anyway, who are we Brits to get all snooty over things like that?

Here's an item from today's Guardian:

"The Liberal Democrats' biggest donor, who has been on the run for three years after being convicted of a multimillion pound theft, is hiding in the Dominican Republic under a false British identity, the Guardian can disclose.

Michael Brown, 45, the convicted Glaswegian who bankrolled the party with £2.4m of stolen money, is being sought by British authorities on the Caribbean island but is currently at large. Brown disappeared from Britain while on parole and was sentenced in his absence to seven years in prison.

The disclosure of Brown's bolthole will be an embarrassment for Nick Clegg. His party has refused to compensate Brown's victims, some of whom claim their money went directly into the party's coffers to finance the 2005 election campaign.

City of London police detectives have been in talks with the Crown Prosecution Service over how to bring back Brown. The Dominican Republic does not have an extradition treaty with Britain. The Home Office is believed to have approached its government for help in apprehending him.

While on the island, Brown has been based in the province of La Altagracia, the easternmost tip of the Republic close to some of its most beautiful beaches.

One source with knowledge of Brown said he has lived a low-key but pleasant life. "His businesses have been doing OK. He has lived in a wealthy area, he loves the beaches and he plays golf on some of the world's best courses. It could be worse."

Brown, who was using an alias, was held on remand by the Dominican authorities while he was investigated over an oil deal. Court papers from the country's capital in Santa Domingo show he was accused by a Dominican businessman in February of failing to honour a contract for 4,820 tonnes of oil.

It has also been established that he launched a real estate business in 2008 based in the Republic, and has launched a subsidiary in Nassau in the Bahamas.He was ordered to be held for three months while the investigation continued. Its outcome is not known.

Mind you, I know finding money to pay for politics is a desperate business in these times. It must be. Only yesterday I received a letter inviting me to contribute to London Mayor Boris Johnson's re-election campaign. Maybe they think I'm dressed like this to kid the taxman, or it must be my posh post code that gives the wrong impression.

"Oi, has Boris got his targeting wrong!" commented a friend when I told her about it.

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