Criminal Overworld

From time to time, we receive emails that are worth publishing like this one from G.

The Criminal Overworld: aka The Anglo-American War Business


On Monday morning I received an email from my publishers, Penguin Books saying that Kelvin Grove’s speaker for today had cancelled, and asking whether I could fill in. I was about to reply that I had a prior commitment at the Press Club, where the British author Victoria Brittain is today talking about her book Shadow Lives: And The War On Terror. I have been one of her minders this week whilst she has been visiting Cape Town. I then realised I could swap with another minder, and so accepted the invitation.
Only then was I told that I would be replacing Trevor Manuel. He has referred to me as “the gorilla on his back.” Thank you very much, Kelvin Grove for the honour. I normally prefer to speak extemporaneously. Given the content however, I decided to commit this to paper. So should any of you want a copy, just give me your email addresses. This talk is very decidedly different from what you would have heard from Trevor Manuel.
It is entitled:
The Criminal Overworld
(also known as the Anglo-American War Business)
One is familiar with the term “criminal underworld” of gangsters, drug dealers or the Mafia. By contrast, the “criminal overworld” comprises corrupt politicians, corrupt bankers, corrupt lawyers, corrupt auditors, arms dealers – in other words the elites of society, who abuse their privileged position to plunder the public purse, and then walk away from the consequences.
Remaining British colonies such as the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda or the Channel Islands are increasingly referred to as the “Treasure Islands” because of their role in money laundering. Thanks to recurring scandals at Barclays Bank, HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland and others, the City of London is also referred to as “the most corrupt square mile anywhere on the planet Earth.”
A century ago, just before the outbreak of the First World War, a young British politician Phillip Snowden told the British House of Commons:
“We are in the hands of an organisation of crooks. They are politicians, generals, manufacturers of armaments, and journalists. All of them are anxious for unlimited expenditure, and go on inventing scares to terrify the public and to terrify the ministers of the Crown.”
The British historian Niall Fergussen now admits that British involvement in the First World War was “the biggest error in modern history.” The cost was catastrophic, both financially and in human lives. Sadly, the madness continued after the Second World War. Within months after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Truman and Churchill were threatening to drop an atomic bomb on the Russians. The Korean War, the Six Day War and the Vietnam War, etc. followed. The result was 45 years of the Cold War when the international community was poised at the brink of nuclear oblivion.
Irrespective of political party, politicians in the United States and Britain – plus their business cronies and funders – are obsessed by war, and war profiteering for a few of the “criminal overworld.” Reagan and Thatcher, Bush and Blair, Obama and Cameron have been, and still are, the worst war criminals in history.
Phillip Snowden’s namesake, Edward has “blown the whistle.” The Americans are apoplectic. Edward Snowden has been condemned as a traitor, and temporarily is a refugee in Russia! Before Snowden, it was Julian Assange, now a refugee in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and before him, Chelsea Manning now serving a 35 year jail sentence in the US for blowing the whistle on American war crimes in Iraq.
For those of us in South Africa who rightly object to the Protection of State Information Bill – otherwise known as the Protection of Corrupt Politicians Bill – take comfort. If the American government cannot protect itself from WikiLeaks, what hope for our government which notoriously leaks like a sieve?
Before I move onto the arms deal, let me pre-empt the inevitable question as whether I fear for my life. My answer is NOT IN SOUTH AFRICA, unlike England, the US or Israel. I am not about to “pack for Perth”! And if Italy has survived Berlusconi (perhaps or maybe), South Africa will survive Zuma.
In England, once that bastion of freedom, Blair’s henchmen murdered Dr David Kelly who blew the whistle in 2003 on Blair’s lies and intentions to launch the war on Iraq. As I speak, the British author and journalist Victoria Brittain is speaking at the Press Club about her book Shadow Lives and the War on Terror. In England, people are detained for years without trial or else subjected to banning orders simply because they are Muslims.
By comparison, the apartheid era outrages in South Africa seem almost humane. For instance, children in England whose fathers have been “banned” under the War on Terror’s so-called “control orders,” may not possess computers to do their school homework. The result for the wives and children of these men is acute stress, depression and attempted suicides.
The consequences in the US of the so-called Patriot Act are even worse. Men with no connection to Al Qaeda have been imprisoned at Guantanamo for years simply because they are Muslims. Every Tuesday, President Obama signs an authority for execution without trial of people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, or… The American intelligence gathering system for drone strikes in these countries is totally discredited.
Or in Israel, there are more than 5 000 Palestinian political prisoners. An estimated one-third of all Palestinian males have been jailed simply because they are Muslims. Under Israeli military law, the Israeli army is allowed to detain young boys without trial for up to six months. As a peace monitor in Israel and Palestine during 2009 and 2010, I have sat in when Israeli human rights lawyers from B’Tselem have deposed affidavits from 13 year old Palestinian boys detained without trial by the Israeli army.
To my knowledge, Israeli soldiers burst into a family home at 2 o’clock in the morning in the village of Jayous, and dragged the teenage boys out of their beds. The purpose of arresting young boys is to terrorise the youngsters into becoming informers against their older brothers.
After 65 years of war since 1948, Israel is a gangster state. The generals, the banks and their business cronies are making so much money out of war that the last thing they actually want is peace. As highlighted in the recent Israeli documentary film the Lab, the Israeli armaments industry blatantly boasts that its weapons have been tried and tested on Palestinians.
The Israeli footprint and war profiteering in Africa is huge. An estimated ten million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo have died in what is referred to as “Africa’s First World War.” The reason for the name is that the war in the DRC is about the plunder of natural resources, such as cobalt, coltan or industrial diamonds needed by the “First World” war business. The profits are also used to fund construction of the illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine.
We are 98% certain that Israeli nationals in the diamond industry are the “money” that keeps Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe and Angola’s President Dos Santos and their cronies in power. That final certainly is blocked by the deliberate shenanigans of front companies in the British “Treasure Islands.” The British Virgin Islands (BVI), for instance, have 19 000 people but one million companies. The “Treasure Islands” are a key factor in international money laundering operations.
Which brings me both to the “arms deal,” and to my second book Eye On The Diamonds. The title is derived from the fact that BAE bribes for the arms deal were laundered through a company in the BVI called Red Diamond Trading Company.
The bribes were paid to so-called “black diamonds” such as Fana Hlongwane. Hlongwane was simply a “bagman” to do the dirty work, but he received over R200 million. He was the late Joe Modise’s personal assistant. The British arms company, BAE which used to be known as British Aerospace, is organised crime on a scale that makes the Italian mafia look like saints.
Diamonds have long been associated with both the glamour of British royalty and the escapades of James Bond. The Oppenheimer family in 2011 sold their 40% interest in De Beers. Even De Beers simply cannot compete with the ruthlessness of Israelis who now dominate the diamond business.
With the end of the Cold War, European arms companies including BAE were suddenly facing bankruptcy. So, after the simultaneous collapse of apartheid in South Africa, European politicians flocked to this country to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela and our new democracy with one hand, and to peddle weapons with the other. Even the royal yacht Britannia doubled as a floating British arms exhibition when Queen Elizabeth visited Cape Town in March 1995.
In 1998, through Campaign Against Arms Trade in London, I asked the British government to investigate whether BAE was laundering bribes to ANC politicians via Swedish trade unions. Scotland Yard were instructed by the government to investigate. In due course, I learned to my astonishment that it was not then illegal under English law to bribe foreigners, and therefore there was no crime for Scotland Yard to investigate.
In June 1999 ANC intelligence operatives approached me. They alleged that the arms deal was just the tip of the corruption iceberg led by Modise and the leadership of Umkhonto we Sizwe. They alleged the scandal involved not just the arms deal but also oil deals, tollroads, Cell C, Coega harbour development, drivers’ licences, drugs and diamond smuggling, weapons trafficking and money laundering. They said that the common denominator was 10 percent kickbacks to the ANC in return for political protection.
This was on a scale way, way beyond my wildest imagination and fears. The operatives were highly trained in the Soviet Union, and saw the corruption in Russia when communist apparatchiks suddenly became super-capitalists. The team was led by the late Bheki Jacobs, who sadly died in 2008.
Then Jackie Selebi was appointed as commissioner of police. President Thabo Mbeki systematically destroyed the checks and balances of the Constitution. Parliament became a rubber stamp. When Mbeki rejected a call from Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane for a commission of inquiry, I introduced the whistleblowers to Patricia de Lille. The arms trade is notorious as a means of funding political parties.
I went to the Cape High Court in November 2001 in an effort to cancel the loan agreements signed by Finance Minister Trevor Manuel that give effect to the arms deal contracts. I won discovery of documentation, but then Manuel and Maria Ramos refused to comply with the court order. The court had previously rejected their arguments that that it was not in the national interest to disclose how the government conducts its international financial arrangements.
By the end of 2003 I was mentally and financially exhausted. The judgement against me in 2004 was that Manuel was merely implementing a cabinet decision, and therefore I had sued the wrong party. In short, the Minister of Finance was merely a messenger boy! Court costs of R1 million were awarded against me, but by then I had run out of money. Fortunately, my wife Lavinia continues to feed me.
Advocate Paul Hoffman approached me in late 2008, and together we resumed the effort. In their last action before they were disbanded, the Scorpions in November 2008 raided BAE’s premises in Pretoria and the Western Cape. They seized 460 boxes and 4.7 million computer pages of evidence. One week later I prevailed upon Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former President FW de Klerk to petition (acting) President Kgalema Motlanthe to appoint a judicial commission of inquiry into the arms deal. Motlanthe told us to take our information to the police!
President Jacob Zuma likewise responded in July 2009 that there was no case to answer. So I took President Zuma to the Constitutional Court in October 2010. We argued in our papers that given this mountain of evidence (plus the evidence against the German submarine and frigate consortia) it was irrational and therefore unconstitutional for the President to continue to refuse to appoint a commission of inquiry.
Amongst the documents that I submitted to the Constitutional Court in 2011 were 160 pages of affidavits from the Scorpions and the British Serious Fraud Office that detailed how and why BAE laundered bribes of £115 million (R2 billion), to whom, and which bank accounts in South Africa were credited.
In September 2011 Zuma told the ANC’s national executive council that he was going to lose the case in the Constitutional Court. Therefore, reluctantly, he would appoint a commission of inquiry in order to control it. The Seriti Commission was supposed to complete its work in two years. It has degenerated into a farce. It is estimated that the senior lawyers are being paid R6 million a year.
Three of the six terms of reference refer to offsets – in short the bizarre idea that R30 billion spent on warships and warplanes would somehow generate R110 billion in offsets to create 65 000 jobs, and thus stimulate South Africa’s economic development. It is like saying spend R30 in a spaza shop to get R110 back in change.
Back in February 2001 there were public hearings in Parliament on the purported economic benefits of offsets. Literally every submission from business, trade unions, churches, academics, ngos slated offsets as a scam. At the end of the day Alec Erwin, as Minister of Trade and Industry, was interviewed by E-TV. I stood behind the tv camera, waiting to be interviewed. Erwin was shaken, but unrepentant. He declared to my astonishment that he and his cabinet colleagues were “neither criminal nor stupid.”
My immediate mental response was that Erwin and his cabinet colleagues were “both criminal and stupid.” Thirteen years of lies and cover-ups have followed. Last week the Department of Trade and Industry finally admitted to Parliament that offsets were a complete scam. City Press declared in its front page story last Sunday: “Erwin’s arms deal offset flop.” The accompanying editorial was headlined: “Arms deal comes back to haunt us, again.”
The DTI and media reports have put the Seriti Commission into a flat spin. It has adjourned until Monday to assess the situation. A year ago, one of the Commission’s senior investigators Norman Moabi resigned, and alleged that Judge Seriti had a “second agenda to silence the Terry Crawford-Brownes of this world.”
In June 2012, I made my written submission to the Commission supported by a legal opinion from Advocate Geoff Budlender that offsets fail the constitutional requirements for government procurements. Section 217 (1) requires all government procurements to be conducted in accordance with a system which is “fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective.”
Quite patently, the arms deal contracts fails all of those constitutional requirements. When BAE repeatedly failed the tendering criteria, the late Joe Modise removed price from consideration. He called it a “visionary approach.” Likewise, the German warships came last in the tenders, but won the contracts. The Germans subsequently admitted that bribes were paid after German tax authorities rejected their claims that bribes were tax deductible as a “useful business expense.”
Not only were the arms deal offsets unconstitutional and illegal, they were also fraudulent. As the British jurist Lord Denning once declared: “fraud unravels everything.” A further principle is that the fraudsters should not financially benefit.
The arms deal contracts also contain “remedies in case of bribery” clauses. These give the government the right summarily to cancel the contracts, and to claim compensation. My goal remains to cancel the contracts, to return the warships and warplanes to Europe, and to recover the money. In recovering the money, we would obviously also recover the bribes since they would have been built into the prices. So let the British, Swedish and German taxpayers carry the financial consequences. R70 billion is worth recovering.
That however, is by no means the end of the story. Over the internet, a British peace activist in 2002 sent me the Barclays Bank loan agreements that cover the BAE Hawk and BAE/Saab Gripen fighter aircraft contracts. The documents have been verified as authentic in the Cape High Court, and are signed by Trevor Manuel as Minister of Finance “for and on behalf of the Republic of South Africa.”
The agreements run until 2019, and are guaranteed by the British government’s Export Credit Guarantee Department. The British knew from long experience that nothing so destabilises a country as unleashing a culture of corruption. Thus, the arms deal represents nothing less than the betrayal of the struggle against apartheid.
Manuel’s own legal counsel described covenant, representation and default clauses (paras 21-23) of the loan agreements as “potentially catastrophic for South Africa.” Manuel far exceeded his borrowing authorities as Minister of Finance. He and his mistress, Maria Ramos (then Director General in the Treasury) committed perjury and embarked on massive cover up operations to frustrate the course of justice.
Manuel’s responsibility in the arms deal saga was affordability and financing. The arms deal affordability study in August 1999 warned Cabinet ministers that the arms deal was a reckless proposition which could lead the country into mounting fiscal, economic and financial difficulties. The study also noted that instead of job creation, the negative economic consequences of the arms deal would be major job losses.
Those warnings were ignored. The study has been in the public domain since 2001, but this week the Seriti Commission is apparently trying to squelch the information with the spurious reasoning that the document is classified. Both Manuel and Ramos are scheduled to testify before the Commission in April.
As I commented earlier, if the Americans can’t protect themselves from WikiLeaks, our government leaks like a sieve. It is one of the triumphs of our constitutional democracy and amazingly robust media. SABC News reported this morning that the auditors Price Waterhouse have released a report that ranks South Africa as one of the worst money laundering countries anywhere in the world.
The Barclays Bank loan agreements are a textbook example of “third world debt entrapment” by European banks and governments. Numerous banking scandals, most recently the LIBOR scandal, have for many years made Barclays notorious as one of the most corrupt banks anywhere in the world. South Africa is now beholden to the so-called “Washington Consensus.”
Undeterred by the arms deal scandal, Manuel in 2005 approved the takeover of Absa by Barclays. Barclays has milked Absa instead of injecting improved banking services. Not coincidentally, Ramos (now Mrs Manuel) is the chief executive officer. There are obviously huge conflicts of interest here, including the old Trust Bank lifeboat saga!
The government in 1997 signed an agreement with British investigators, CIEX to recover assets siphoned out of South Africa during the dying days of apartheid by the Broederbond with the collusion of the SA Reserve Bank. For some still unexplained reason, Manuel apparently cancelled that agreement with CIEX just one year later. The matter is currently under investigation by the Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela. Her report was due several months ago. The sums involved are said to amount to between R200 and R300 billion.
Amongst the allegations are that the Reserve Bank’s gold reserves were transferred to Switzerland as collateral for Swiss bank loans during the apartheid era. In addition, a former Minister of Finance is alleged to have absconded with US$200 million in banknotes.
As the ANC whistleblowers told me back in 1999, the arms deal is just the tip of the iceberg. I published my first book Eye On The Money in 2007. This was followed by Eye On The Diamonds in 2012. I am currently working on the third in the trilogy to be entitled Eye on The Gold.
Of course, gold was the reason for the South African War. Migrant labour practices at diamond and gold mines which still persist, as evidenced by the Marikana massacre, remain a disgrace in post-apartheid South Africa.
Gold of course has since been replaced by oil – otherwise also referred to as “black gold” as the foundation of the international monetary system. Nonetheless, the Bank of England remains a crucial player in the Anglo-American war business. Margaret Thatcher and the Saudi Arabian Prince Bandar in 1985 negotiated the notoriously corrupt £43 billion Al Yamamah arms deal. Blair renewed the deal in 2007 after BAE paid bribes to Bandar of over £1 billion, and laundered them through the American banking system.
Bandar has a long history of destabilising countries as a “bagman” for the war business. In the 1980s he organised the mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Russian occupation. He was the Saudi ambassador in Washington for 22 years, and in the US is referred to as “Bandar Bush” because of his close relationships with the Bush family.
The Al Yamamah and Al Salam deals negotiated by Thatcher and Blair are extraordinary in many, many respects. Payment for the weapons is by shipments of Saudi oil consigned to the Bank of England, which then distributes the oil to Shell and BP. Over the years a huge surplus has accrued. Its purpose, but which is concealed from British investigation because of the Official Secrets Act, is threefold:
1. To guarantee American and British support for the Saudi royal family against domestic insurrection.
2. To underwrite the dominance of the US dollar in the international monetary system by pricing oil in dollars, and
3. To fund covert destabilisation of resource-rich countries in Asia and Africa under the guise of the “War On Terror.”
Having instigated the war in Afghanistan during the 1980s, Bandar continues to destabilise resource-rich countries, most recently Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Libya and currently Syria. You will recall the chemical weapons attack in Syria last August which reportedly killed 1 400 people. “False flag” attempts to blame Syria’s Al Assad regime backfired after Russian and other intelligence sources revealed it was Bandar who distributed those chemical weapons to Al-Qaeda linked rebels in Syria.
Having created a monster in Syria, the war lobbies in Britain and the US were stunned when British parliamentarians blocked an intended attack against the Al Assad regime. British and American citizens are now war-weary after the succession of senseless wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Regime change in Syria was an intended preliminary prior to an attack against Iran. Israel and Saudi Arabia are both paranoid about Iran. A seemingly unlikely alliance has developed between Israel and Saudi Arabia. It is premised on the assumption that the powers of the Zionist lobby in Europe and the US combined with the enormous influence of Saudi money and oil will enable Israel and Saudi Arabia to control events in the Middle East and beyond.
South Africa, as one of the world’s mineral treasure houses, is an obvious target for covert destabilisation by the Anglo-American war business. Bandar was a frequent visitor to South Africa during the 1990s. He was the only foreigner present at President Mandela’s secret wedding to Graca Machel in 1998, and had both Mandela and Mbeki “in his pocket.”
I asked Judge Seriti to subpoena Blair in August last year when he visited Johannesburg. Judge Seriti replied “it was premature.”
Unfortunately, both Eye On The Money and Eye On The Diamonds are already out-of-print. They are however, both available on e-books. Penguin Books assure me that we over-50s are avid readers of e-books on our Kindles and other tablets. So please buy your e-book copies. And meanwhile, I’ll try to complete Eye On The Gold.
Thank you.
Terry Crawford-Browne
Kelvin Grove, Newlands
February 20, 2014
Time: February 27, 2014 at 8:22 pm
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