Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Qui bono? Who wins when the PM invites the CEO of a UN sanctions busting company to dinner?

The name of one of the Tory's 'premier league' donors caught my eye when they finally published the list of donors who had bought a £250,000 dinner at 10 Downing Street - Ian Taylor.

Taylor is the Chief Executive Officer of a company called Vitol. I first came across Vitol some years ago while researching something else, but what stuck in my mind was two things: firstly, that they had broken UN sanctions during the Yugoslav civil war, and secondly that Alan Duncan MP had worked for them. Having seen the name, I thought I'd bring myself up to date on what else they had been up to in the intervening years.

Back in the 90's, Vitol had paid a war criminal, Arkan - also known as 'the butcher of Vukovar' after he murdered 250 hospital patients - $1m as a go between to sell Vitol oil to the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosovic, in contravention of UN sanctions. Arkan 'persuaded' a former business associate of Vitol to ignore a court ruling in his favour.

It seems that this breaking of sanctions is a profitable business to be in. In 2007, Vitol was fined £17.5 milliion in a New York court for paying kickbacks to members of Saddam Hussein's regime in return for oil shipments under the UN Aid for Oil programme. In case you miss the point, if the sanctions had been watertight, it is not inconceivable that the Hussein regime would have toppled, and there would have been no need for the 2nd Gulf War.

Then there was the contaminated oil scandal, when Vitol sold 280,000 tons of contaminated oil to Pakistan, failing to mention that it was contaminated, and causing £140 million of damage to oil infrastructure.

And then, by complete coincidence, Vitol is the company chosen by the British government to have exclusive rights to trade with the Libyan rebels: a deal agreed by a secret committee on which Alan Duncan - a close friend and associate of Vitol owner Ian Taylor - was represented. It is estimated that Vitol made up to £650 million from the deal, and other international oil companies - including British Petroleum - were not approached.

To add insult to injury, it isn't Vitol plc or Vitol Ltd which makes the money: its Vitol SA, a Swiss company, which has a global turnover of £114 billion annually. Which means it pays little tax on its profits here in the UK - echoes of Mittal Steel and Labour, perhaps?

I scarcely know where to begin with this one. Are these the sort of people the Prime Minister should be publicly associated with? Is Alan Duncan a suitable person to make decisions which favour - rightly or wrongly - a multi-national company he has worked for, and for whom he acts as a consultant and/or director in a number of subsidiaries? Were the donations made to gain a veneer of respectability for a business which was fundamentally shady and dealt with war criminals and other international undesirables in breach of UN sanctions? Qui bono?
Surely common sense would have said that no good could possibly come of this for the government, and as all of the above are matters of public record, it is inconceivable that the government did not know: after all, you're reading this here, and that's without Taylor giving you £200k, eh? Did nobody think, " Hang on, that Taylor chap, didn't his company hire a mass-murdering psychopath to put the frighteners on an oil trader in Serbia so they could take a cut of an UN santions busting oil deal with a regime which practised genocide?". Clearly not. With such forward thinkers at the head of government, I can only quote Private Fraser.

"We're doomed".


Bad luck for workers at factory as Cameron takes policy to the working class

A letter to Peter Cruddas

Dear Mr Cruddas,
I would really like to meet Mr Cameron. I take note of your comment that £200,000 to £250,000 is enough to buy 'premier league access' and a private dinner at Number 10.

Unfortunately, unlike the captains of industry, Chancellors of the Exchequer and Prime Ministers to whom you usually speak, I have had to work for a living all my life. My parents, though remarkable people, could only ensure I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth.

As you will understand, as I have had to work, the government has already taken well over £250,000 from me in income tax and national insurance over the 28 years of my working life to date. When I spend what is left, it then takes another 20% in VAT. When I drive to work to earn more money, the government takes 75% of what I spend on fuel, in addition to £200/year to put my car on the road, £50 to MoT it, and £20 in insurance premium tax. In case the peasants should revolt, the army is now being trained to drive fuel tankers.

In my leisure time, I enjoy smoking and a pint. The government, represented by Mr Cameron, takes 80% of what I spend on cigarettes, and 70% of what I spend on beer.
When I am at home, the government taxes me roughly 1% of the value of my rented home a year. If I want to heat it, it charges me another 5% on the cost of gas and electricity. Since a previous Conservative government sold the gas and electricity supply companies to multi-national corporations - even though I along with every other taxpayer owned them, and we saw nothing in return - the cost of these staples has gone through the ceiling. If I need to drink water - which falls out of the sky free of charge - I must also pay through the nose.

I consider that I have easily met not just the £250,000, but probably closer to £500,000, which must surely lift me out of 'premier league' and catapult me into, say, Murdochian realms of access. Admittedly, these sums have been for the benefit of the British people and not the Conservative Party, but as successive custodians of the office of Prime Minister have proved largely indistinguishable from each other, I am sure you will not feel that that makes a difference. I therefore look forward to receiving my invitation.

Yours faithfully,

Every working man and woman in the country