This election should be about ridding Britain of the stench of corruption

cash envelopeIt is incredible how the reports of corruption in Britain are now going from bad to worse almost every single day. HSBC’s original lame excuse for the massive tax evasion engineered by its Swiss bank in Geneva was that it was previously run on a ‘federated’ basis so that central controls were much looser. Yet we now find that the HSBC chief executive, Stuart Gulliver, was himself engaging in exactly this tax dodging for his own personal benefit from his own bank, holding £5m in a Swiss account and having his huge bonuses paid through an anonymous company registered in Panama. What adds insult to injury is that instead of being forced to stand down for deliberately profiting from the financial malpractice he was supposed to be regulating and closing down, he is now getting a total remuneration package of some £7.5m as HSBC announces £13bn profits for 2014. Continue reading

MPs and second-jobbing

Didn’t they do well? Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw have done a blinder dragging Parliament’s reputation through the muck yet again. Fair play to The Telegraph too, who teamed up with C4 Dispatches to complete the sting. Fortuitous timing too, this has helped push the paper’s recent difficulties down the memory hole. Yet Rifkind and Straw, deary me. It is true that neither men were engaged in Parliamentary rule-breaking of Denis MacShane/Elliot Morley proportions, but it was very, very bad for all that. Writing to ministers on behalf of paying clients, that’s cash for questions by other means. However, Straw apparently getting paid to sort out Ukraine and EU regulations for his client are, on my understanding, *within* the rules. And there are some politicians who do not understand why Parliament’s standing is so low. Continue reading

Jack Straw is “mortified” to have been caught but completely lacking in remorse

jack-strawA couple of terms in student politics after Uni, local councillor before that was even over, another couple of years doing something outside politics, candidate in an unwinnable seat, few years as a SpAd, couple of years in the media and then into parliament. He was a model for so many New Labour wannabes to come. But in spite of 36 years as an MP, and having held some of the most senior offices in the land (and ironically the highest in the justice system), there’s nothing right honourable left about Mr Jack Straw.

Mr Straw said this morning he was “mortified” that he had fallen for the Channel 4 sting:

I’m mortified by the fact that I fell into this trap set by very skillful journalists from Channel 4.

He is “mortified”, in other words, that he has been caught though he still sees nothing wrong in what he has done. Continue reading

Why isn’t HSBC being prosecuted?

HSBC SCANDALThe differential treatment between those low-paid workers who fraudulently claim benefits and those top bank executives who launder hundreds of millions of pounds for drug cartels or pariah states tells you all you need to know about the class basis of justice in the UK. A person claiming benefits while working can get up to a year in prison with all the shame involved, yet the bank director responsible for HSBC Mexico, which handled a colossal $376bn of suspect money for the US bank Wachovia, gets off scot-free and is even, in flagrant disregard for the law, promoted to become head of HSBC global retail on a multi-million dollar salary. There could not be a more blatant example of one law for the poor and quite another one for the rich. Continue reading

HSBC is out of control and should be broken up

Banks at Canary WharfThe lesson of the HSBC debacle is not merely that tax evaders must be hunted down much more relentlessly, but that in its present form it’s ungovernable. It’s no good saying HSBC was run in a ‘federated way’, but now management has been tightened up (is anybody really taken in by that anyway?).

We were told that in 2012 when the HSBC Mexican bank was found guilty of money laundering for pariah states, drug cartels and big mafia crime syndicates, but 3 years later the same charges have erupted elsewhere. A senior US Department of Justice official got it right when he said that HSBC’s culture was “pervasively polluted”. The truth is that HSBC, once a cautious and conservative organisation, was derailed in the late 1990s by its chairman Sir John Bond into a huge overseas buying spree to satisfy the board’s ambition to turn it into a global empire. Any idea of serving the interests of Britain was pushed to the margins and the empire-building avarice of Bond took over and went wild. Continue reading