Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fox's trail in Haymarket may lead to bigger prey

ARRIVING at Embankment, Unite banners followed by that of Wandsworth prison officers. In several prisons staff held union meetings in defiance of ban on strikes.
Probation officers and Court staff were also on march, along with head teachers and members of the Chartered Society of Physio-Therapists - all those who according to Tories were just "militants itching for a fight".
And on a day when Cameron jeered at Labour for being "union funded", we got reminded of where the Tories get their funds.

WITH two million people
on strike across the country yesterday, and many thousands, from teachers and nurses, to physiotherapists and prison officers, marching to within a stone's throw of Parliament. a small group of demonstrators invading an office building on Haymarket may seem just a sideshow.

So it is. But neither irrelevant nor insignificant. In fact the 'Occupy London' commandos may have picked a target that was more significant than they realised, or tame media are willing to admit. They should be congratulated.

The suprise action took place at Panton House, the headquarters of global mining company Xstrata, which occupies the third and fourth floors of the five-storey building. About 40 activists got into the unguarded building and raced up stairs, unfurling a banner on the roof.

Police kettled about 200 more people in the street outside, while territorial support group officers and others were brought in to remove those inside, who had taken up slogan chants about tax evasion and top bosses' pay. Some protesters said they were roughly handled and thrown down stairs by the heavy mob. About twenty arrests were made.

According to Xstrata's annual report its CEO, Mick Davis, received a pay and free share package worth £17.7m in the last financial year.

As one of those held in the police kettle said: "I'm here because the public sector is getting cut. All the people who are getting hurt by them are the poorest in the country. All the people who don't suffer are the bankers and the rich people."

In a press release Karen Lincoln, a supporter of Occupy London, said: "Mick Davis is a prime example of the greedy 1% lining their own pockets. In this time when the government enforces austerity on the 99%, these executives are profiting. The rest of us are having our pensions cut, health service torn apart and youth centres shut down. We refuse to stand by and let this happen."

But there is more to Mick "the Miner" (City nickname, bet he never got coal dust in his sandwiches!) Davis than his top salary. In the strange business which emerged this year leading to the resignation of Tory Defence Secretary Liam Fox, Mick Davis was one of three top Zionist lobbyists revealed to have funded the activities of Fox's associate Adam Werritty.

Davis, 52, is chairman of United Jewish Israel Appeal, a British charity which splits its contributions between charitable work in the UK and Israel. But that is just one of his favoured causes. Davis gave £150,000 to Conservative party central office over the last 21 months according to Electoral Commission records. He also gave £7,500 to the office of the education secretary Michael Gove in August.

Gove you may remember intervened to tell London schools they must not have anything to do with a Palestinian children's cultural event this year. The Education Secretary was also on TV yesterday criticising the teachers for being on strike over their pensions, and complaining that the BBC and other media were not doing enough to investigate the political past of union leaders like Unite's Len McCluskey. As though there was anything shady or hidden about the man we elected general secretary of my union, unlike the background of the education secretary's sponsors.

In June, Mick Davis was among a delegation that included Poju Zabludowicz, heir to an Israeli arms fortune and the chairman of the Zionist lobby Bicom, which met the foreign secretary William Hague to discuss the impact of the Arab spring on Israel. Zabludowicz's Liechtenstein-registered company Tamares, which owns property in Las Vegas and the West Bank settlement of Ma'alei Adumim, has been another generous donor to Mr.Werrity and the Tories.

The maverick former British diplomat Craig Murray is continuing like a terrier to worry the government with questions about Mick Davis' protege Mr.Werrity, his trips to Iran, to mention another topical subject, and how he helped arrange for Britain's ambassador in Tel Aviv, Matthew Gould to meet Israeli generals over dinner, and what they talked about.

But the Middle East is only one corner of Mick Davis interests, helping Israel but a hobby you might say. According to Wikipedia, Xstrata plc is a global mining company headquartered in Zug, Switzerland and with its registered office in London. It is a major producer of coal (and the world's largest exporter of thermal coal), copper, nickel, primary Vanadium" and Zinc, and the world's largest producer of ferrochrome. It has operations in 19 countries across Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, North America and South America. Xstrata has its primary listing on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. It has a secondary listing on the SIX Swiss Exchange. Its largest shareholder is Glencore International plc, which has a stake of approximately 34%.

That last sentence really is interesting. It is like you are exploring a cave and think you have come to the end, only to find a small opening to one side opening up into a whole bigger cave system. A dark labyrinth.

"Glencore's history reads like a spy novel"
So said an Australian programme about the company.

We could pick up part of that thread from January 20, 2001, when hours before leaving office, US president Bill Clinton granted a presidential pardon to a businessman called Marc Rich, who had been indicted by then federal prosecutor Rudy Giuliano, and was on the US Justice Department's Most Wanted List. The charges against Rich related to illegal trading with Iran and tax evasion.

Rich, who began in metals trading, had got to know the international materials markets and during the 1973-4 oil embargo he found ways to buy Iranian and Iraqi oil relatively cheaply then resell it for twice the price to US companies. He had reportedly gained a friend and business partner in Ayatollah Khomenei. While the Iranian leaders might fulminate against America and Israel, they needed to sell their oil, and were not too bothered apparently by Marc Rich's profitable sales to America or his donations to the Zionists.

Allegations were made that Clinton had decided on the pardon because Rich's ex-wife, a shoe factory heiress, had donated money to the Democrats. But among other factors revealed, Israeli leaders including then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Shimon Peres interceded with the President on Marc Rich's behalf. So for some reason did Spanish King Juan Carlos

Despite the pardon, Rich decided to stay in Switzerland, living for a time at Zug then moving to Meggen. He is said to hold both Spanish and Israeli passports, and to have boasted of his work for Mossad. He has been awarded honours by two Israeli universities, Bar Ilan and the Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

There were rumours linking Rich with the London-based Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), This bank, used by the CIA to fund Afghan mujahaddeen and by Abu Nidal for arms puchases, was also implicated in the Iran-Contra affair, by which arms sales to the Iranian regime helped fund support for right-wing Contras in Nicaragua, thus bypassing US Congressional scrutiny. The BCCI was wound up amid scandal twenty years ago, leaving innocent creditors such as Asian shopkeepers stranded.

But Marc Rich and Co. AG survived , having become Glencore International plc a multinational mining and commodities trading company headquartered in Baar, Switzerland and with its registered office in Saint Helier, Jersey. It is the world's largest commodities trading company, with a 2010 global market share of 60 percent in the internationally tradeable zinc market, 50 percent in the internationally tradeable copper market, 9 percent in the internationally tradeable grain market and 3 percent in the internationally tradeable oil market.

Glencore has production facilities around the world and supplies metals, minerals, crude oil, oil products, coal, natural gas and agricultural products to international customers in the automotive, power generation, steel production and food processing industries.

Glencore has mining interests around the world, from Colombia to the Congo, Katanga to Khazakhstan, .

"Glencore is also noted for its association with the publicly traded Xstrata mining group, also headquartered in the low-tax Canton of Zug, Switzerland. Glencore is reported to serve as a marketing partner for Xstrata. As of 2006, Glencore leaders Willy Strothotte and Ivan Glasenberg are on the board of Xstrata, which Strothotte chairs. According to The Sunday Times in 2005, Glencore controlled 40% of Xstrata stock and has appointed the Xstrata CEO, Mick Davis."
(Wikipedia again).

So what does it all signify? No good asking me. But having taken a glimpse at these affairs, and shone a torch briefly into that labyrinth, we must hope that people do ask questions and maybe someone better qualified may start to untangle the web,

Watching David Cameron on TV sneering about trade unionists funding the Labour Party, and accusing Ed Miliband of asking "trade union funded" questions, I reflected that at least the millions of working people who contribute to Labour through our unions are open and honest about how we earn our money and the way that it is spent. We pay our whack of income tax in this country, which is more than a lot of the Tories' backers can say.

Whether we, the mugs in their eyes, get as good value for money from our politicians as the billionaires make sure they get from theirs is another matter, of course.

PS A Footnote

I believe this is called serendipity, a happy coincidence, though not pehaps for friends and patrons of messrs. Cameron, Hague, Fox and Werrity, it is a remark by Robert Fisk in the Independent on Wednesday:

"Anyway, the Iranians trashed us yesterday and made off, we are told, with a clutch of UK embassy documents. I cannot wait to read their contents. For be sure, they will soon be revealed".

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