Alun Cairns AM – once a banker always a banker?

cairns twat

banker

As allegations of corruption against Welsh MPs grow, perhaps it’s time they took a leaf out of Tory assembly member Alun Cairns’ book?

First it was shadow Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan’s squalid claim for pet food, then Stephen Crabb’s bill of £9,300 in reclaimed stamp duty, followed closely by Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan’s claim of £450 for a TV and Paul Murphy’s £1,000 for TV and hi-fi system.

Two other South Wales MPs have since added their names to the list of disgraced, but unrepentant Westminster politicians. Ex-Tory vicar Chris Bryant (below), Labour MP for the Rhondda since 2000, has trousered over £90,000 of taxpayers’ money to spend on properties in London and the Rhondda. Meanwhile, the sale of his West London flat in 2003 netted him a tidy (tax free) profit of £77,000, enabling him to buy another property worth £670,000. Madeleine Moon, Labour MP for Bridgend, has also allegedly had her snout in the trough. Despite strict rules to the contrary, she had furniture costing thousands of pounds delivered to Wales, while designating a London flat as her second home. 

chris bryantReaders of South Wales Anarchists’ blog and sister publication, Gagged!, will certainly be familiar with former banker Alun Cairns, AM for South Wales West. Cairns infamously described Italians as ‘greasy wops’ during a radio programme. He was subsequently forced to resign as chair of trustees of the assembly members’ pension fund when we revealed that the £10 million pension pot is currently invested in some of the world’s worst polluters, while the assembly boasts of pursuing a green agenda.

Nevertheless, even we were pleasantly surprised when Tory boss, Nick ‘iPod’ Bourne, proudly announced that from April this year Alun Cairns wouldn’t be claiming a penny of the £13,000 additional costs allowance to fund his second home in Cardiff Bay. A breath of fresh air amidst the stench of corruption, we wondered?

Not a bit of it.

Why Cairns should ever have been allowed to maintain a second home at taxpayers’ expense beggars belief. He lives in Ewenny in the Vale of Glamorgan, only 22 miles or 30 minutes by car from Cardiff Bay. Welsh assembly rules, however, allowed him to claim tens of thousands of pounds to spend on his Cardiff Bay flat because his home was deemed perversely to be in the Bridgend constituency. That was until 2006 when electoral boundary changes meant that Ewenny, once more, became part of the Vale of Glamorgan and Cairns’ gravy train came to a grinding halt. But rather than accept the change, he ‘lobbied’ members of the assembly house committee to get an exception to the new ruling and, in a secret meeting held in November 2006, the committee duly upheld his request.

Nevertheless, could his decision to ‘sacrifice’ £13,000 be a genuine desire to send a message to the voters that, in stark contrast to the crooks in Westminster, he’s now a reformed politician?

Alas, no sooner had Alun made his noble gesture, he was heading straight for one of Cardiff’s leading letting agencies to put his luxury pad up for rent. And at a going rate of up to £1,300 a month, the Tory twat could pocket £15,600 a year! Reformed politician? Don’t make us laugh…

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Three ‘not guilty’ of assaulting police at anti-Israeli demo, as more evidence emerges of ‘secret’ police files on protesters.

arrestWhen police struggled to arrest a protester at a demonstration against the Israeli Ambassador‘s visit to the Welsh Assembly last June, three of them alleged assault. One said he’d been given a kick in the balls, another that he’d had his wrist scratched, a third that someone had pulled on his arm. Three people were arrested.

But what came out of the court case, as the CCTV showed, was that it was the protesters who had been assaulted. They had behaved, according to the District Judge, entirely lawfully. Yet the three defendants had been pushed and shoved across the road, one had been swung around by her arm, another thrown to the floor.

Why? There were ‘concerns’ the officers said, but none of them could explain further. PC Cook said he ‘feared a breach of the peace’. But he could not tell us why he feared such a thing. “I had reasons,” he said, “but I don’t think I can tell you what they were”.

It was not enough to convince the District Judge and he found all three defendants not guilty, as the police had not proved they were acting lawfully.

PC Cook’s ‘reasons’ had been based on an ‘intelligence briefing’ received by all officers that day. But despite repeated requests from the defence, the contents of this briefing were never revealed.

This is further evidence that the police keep ‘secret’ files on protesters, and that they use this ‘intelligence’ (that even defence lawyers are not allowed to see) to justify assault and arrest. Other material that was disclosed shows that at least half a dozen others were identified at the protest and placed under surveillance, one of them having the movements of his car monitored even after he left the protest.

Protesters are not criminals or terrorists, and should not be treated as though they are. It’s about time the police came clean about what information they keep on their files and how they use it.

War in the Vale

A number of South Wales Anarchists attempted to disrupt this year’s ‘Aerolink Wales’ aerospace and defence fair, held at The Vale Hotel and Spa near Hensol on 7th April.

"Hardocre activists" "storm" The Vale Hotel...

"Hardcore activists" "storm" The Vale Hotel...

While members of the Red Choir, Campaign Against the Arms Trade, CND and Stop the War maintained a presence in a designated area at the front of the hotel, local anarchists approached the doors to attempt to gain access. However, they were prevented from doing so by police officers who described the group as ‘hardcore activists’ trying to ‘storm’ the building.

A police evidence gatherer filmed activists closely and became confrontational when protesters began to block him getting pictures. The officer was then instructed to put his camera away so as not to cause a scene! Erm, too late: the line of police at the entrance and the officers and police vehicles around the 4 Star facility had probably not gone unnoticed by its guests.

Police evidence-gatherer foiled by anti-militarist propaganda

Police evidence-gatherer foiled by anti-militarist propaganda

Leaflets were given to hotel guests and visitors, explaining that companies which supply the Israeli army who killed an estimated 1500 people in recent attacks on Gaza were showing off their wares and cutting deals in their hotel.

Many were shocked and upset to learn of what was happening in the hotel and made complaints to the manager. One guest took a number of leaflets back into the hotel to give out to other customers while another told us that when she asked hotel staff what the event was about, she was told they weren’t allowed to tell her!

Despite being informed that they were trespassing and being asked to leave by a nervous hotel manager, apparently under instruction from the police, the south wales anarchists continued to ensure that anyone going in or out of the hotel knew that profiteers from war were doing business in their hotel.

Meanwhile, as all police attention was focused at the front of the hotel, they totally missed posters and ‘blood’ covered dolls being left inside the hotel in protest against this Welsh Assembly supported arms fair. Doh! We think Aerolink 2010 may be actively looking for a new venue…

Doh!

Doh!

Gagged! 26

gagcover264Issue 26 of our newsletter is out now! featuring articles on Welsh assembly war crimes, death in Gaza, protests, Cardiff university occupation, shut down Aerolink 2009, G20 meltdown, police repression, deportations, the Cardiff anarchist book fair and much, much more!

Download GAGGED! #26 on .pdf

As well as our own input we have contributions from No Borders South WalesCardiff Anarchist Black CrossWestside Climate Action and FITwatch – if you want to see a story in Gagged! just get in touch!

Anti-Israeli protestors set to fight assault allegations in court

Three people are fighting accusations that they assaulted police following a protest last year against the visit by Israeli Ambassador, Ron Proser, to the Welsh Assembly.   The assaults were alleged to have happened as the three were pushed to the ground by police, desperate to keep protestors away from the visiting dignitary.

Ron Proser, war criminal

Ron Proser, war criminal?

Ron Proser’s visit to the Senedd in June 2008 sparked controversy when a number of Assembly Members refused to meet him.  The presiding officer, Dafydd Elis-Thomas pointed to the extent to which Israel had ‘failed to meet its international obligations to the Palestinian people’.  Protests were called to coincide with Proser’s arrival at the assembly building. 

However, the ambassador’s arrival was carefully planned to keep him well away from any protest.  A decoy convoy of diplomatic cars was used to draw the protesters’ attention to the main public entrance of the assembly, while Proser himself arrived at the Pierhead Street entrance in a much less ostentatious vehicle. 

Anticipating such a tactic, a group of protesters had gathered in Pierhead street, determined that Proser should witness some of the protest against him.  However, just as he was arriving, the police moved in, apparently to prevent a ‘breach of the peace’.  Three people were thrown to the ground and arrested for assault.  One police officer alleges that he was kneed to the groin, a second that he sustained scratches to his wrist and a third that he was pulled to the floor.

The defendants have described these charges as pure fabrication, intended only to deter people from making any sort of effective protest at the assembly.  ‘I think we upset their plans to keep Proser away from the protests and because of that we were pushed, shoved, thrown to the floor and arrested for things we have not done’, said Val Swain, one of the people charged.  ‘But this is a man who has sanctioned war crimes against Palestine.  It doesn’t seem so unreasonable to me that he should be confronted with protests against the murderous regime he represents.’

The case will be tried at Cardiff magistrates court from the 20th April.  The trial is expected to last for four days.  At least one of the defendants potentially faces a custodial sentence due to the seriousness of the allegations, and it is possible that all three will be sent to prison if convicted. 

All the defendants would appreciate support when the case goes to trial in April.  Please send messages of support to val.swain@yahoo.co.uk .  Anyone able to spare a few hours to support the defendants in court during the trial would be very welcome. 

Trial dates: 20th – 25th April

Cardiff Magistrates Court

Contact for further info: val.swain@yahoo.co.uk

ALUN CAIRNS RESIGNS AS CHAIR OF ASSEMBLY PENSION FUND TRUSTEES

SOUTH WALES ANARCHISTS CLAIM VICTORY AS YET ANOTHER PENSION FUND SCANDAL EMERGES

 Following our revelations that the welsh arsembly members’ pension fund is being held in companies with appalling environmental and human rights’ records, chair of the pension scheme trustees, Alun ‘greasy wops’ Cairns has resigned.

another Tory twat bites the dust

another Tory twat bites the dust

End of story? Er, we don’t think so. Mr Cairns isn’t the only villain of the piece. There are, of course, four other trustees representing all the political parties who must have known as much or as little as Mr Cairns. Perhaps the lot of them should come clean and tell us exactly what they’ve been up to during their tenure as trustees? We’ll be sending a freedom of information question to the government requesting details of ‘meetings’ between trustees and Baillie Gifford Life Ltd, the Edinburgh-based partnership that manages members’ pensions. Watch this space, although we’ll probably be met with more porky pies from the freedom of misinformation team at the assembly.

But the story doesn’t end there. We’ve been in touch with the nice freedom of information officer at Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT), one of our favourite councils (see Gagged 24 and16) and we’ve learned that, coincidently, of course, Baillie Gifford, along with four other financial companies, manages RCT’s pension fund too! The assembly’s stash of £10.5 million pales into insignificance against RCT’s fund with a membership of 23,000 people. At the end of March 2008 the fund stood at £1.3 billion, with Baillie Gifford Asset Management holding £540 million.

 And, you’ve guessed it, many of the star performers in the arsembly fund feature in RCT’s. We asked specifically about money given to the arms and tobacco industries and were told the breakdown of holdings at 31st March 2007 in aerospace and defence was:

 BAE Systems            £2,908,645

Meggitt                        £3,305,736

Rolls Royce    £6,770,177

how many more Palestinian children will Israel murder?

how many more Palestinian children will Israel murder?

 

That wouldn’t be the same BAE Systems that supply Israel with parts for F-16 bombers currently being used to murder Palestinians, would it?

 

 

The breakdown of RCT’s holdings in tobacco was:

 British American Tobacco               £  6,252,715

Imperial Tobacco                              £10,838,441

Which, when added up, comes to £13 million to weapons manufactures and £17 million to tobacco barons.

By the end of March 2008 RCT’s investments in the arms trade had fallen to £9 million, following the sales of shares in arms companies including Lockheed Martin, worth £840,000 in 2006, and the sale of nearly £500,000 of shares  in our old friend, Raytheon (see Gagged 25). Investments in tobacco stood at almost £16 million.

Perhaps it’s time for the Pension Panel Members, which include council leader Russell Roberts and councillor Clayton Willis, to step up to the mark and account for their murderous investment decisions.

RCT councillor Roberts

RCT councillor Roberts

                                

RCT councillor Willis

RCT councillor Willis

     

WELSH ASSEMBLY IN PENSION FUND SCAM

AN EXCLUSIVE REPORT IN TO THE ABUSE OF PUBLIC FUNDS

While most of us will deplore Gazprom’s inhumane decision to stop gas supplies to millions of people across Europe this winter, Welsh assembly members are, no doubt, breathing a sigh of relief that the world’s largest gas extractor is putting profits before lives. That’s because Gazprom is one of the companies included in the National Arsembly for Wales Members’ pension scheme! The scheme, worth £10.5 million, is run by Edinburgh-based Baillie Gifford Life Ltd, which trousered nearly £800,000 last year for investing taxpayers’ money in companies which systematically destroy the environment, are mired in corruption and mistreat their workforce. All so that our hard-working assembly members can enjoy a very handsome payout when they retire.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the fund’s main holdings.

Flooded jungle downstream from the Ok Tedi mine. Courtesy of World Resources Institute

Flooded jungle downstream from the Ok Tedi mine. Courtesy of World Resources Institute

BHP Billitonis the world’s largest mining company. Created in 2001 following the merger of Australia’s Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP) and the UK’s Billiton, the company’s worst environmental crimes have been committed in Papua New Guinea where BHP ran the OK Tedi Mine from 1984 to 2002. In 1999 BHP’s boss, Paul Anderson, finally admitted that the project was ‘not compatible with our environmental values‘; rather an understatement considering BHP was discharging 80 million tons of toxic waste into the OK Tedi river system each year affecting 50,000 people in 120 villages downstream. BHP were forced to pay $28.6 million in compensation, but don’t seem to have mended their ways. In January 2007 a further claim for $5 billion was lodged on behalf of 13,000 villagers known as the Ningerum people

In 2006 BHP Billiton became embroiled in the Iraq oil-for-food scandalwhen it emerged that United Nations contracts had been inflated by £4.5 million so that BHP could recover a debt owed by the previous Iraqi regime. Involved in the same scam which impoverished millions of ordinary Iraqis, is another star performer in the Welsh Arsembly pension fund: Atlas Copco, the Swedish industrial company. The 2004 oil-for-food inquiry led by Paul Volcker, former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, found that Atlas Copco paid kickbacksfrom both its construction and mining division in Sweden and Airpower, its huge air compressor manufacturing division in Belgium. Airpower paid $1.3 million on sales of $15 million while Atlas Copco CMT paid an undisclosed amount for a $500,000 contract.

The stink of corruption hangs over Vodafone, another major pension fund holding. In 2007 the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) launched an investigation into allegations of corruption involving Vodafone’s activities in Kenya, notably its links to a mysterious Guernsey-registered company called Mobitelea, which was allegedly connected to members of the family of former reviled president, Daniel Arap Moi. Vodafone refused to co-operate with the inquiry and the SFO inquiry was later dropped for reasons of ‘resources’. A year later Vodafone were accused of ‘blatant dishonesty’by the National Consumer Council (NCC) after blocking customers from legitimately quitting their contracts over price rises.

The decapitated Appalachians

The decapitated Appalachians

Following in BHP Billiton’s destructive footsteps is Arch Coal, the second largest US coal producer. Arch Coal practices mountaintop removal mining (MTR) in West Virginia, reducing the height of the Appalachian mountains in the area by 800 feet. As a result vegetation is destroyed and mining waste pours into mountain streams, causing flooding, erosion and water contamination. Due to the huge amount of explosives the company uses, neighbouring communties complain of stray rocks hitting homes, damaged water wells and endless clouds of dust.

As well as mining companies, taxpayers’ money is also being handed out to some of the world’s most notorious oil and gas corporations. Apart from Russian bully Gazprom, the pension fund has holdings in Royal Dutch Shell, Petrobras, the Brazilian giant, and Reliance Industries Ltd, India’s largest private sector conglomerate.

While Shell continue to make record profits, an alliance of human rights and green groups, including Friends of the Earth, estimated the environmental cost of the damage caused by Shell’s irresponsibility at £10 billion. We’re aware of the destruction to the Niger Delta thanks to Ken Saro-Wiwa’s efforts to expose Shell’s crimes, for which the Nigerian writer was executed. Shell has also attracted criticism over its running of the massive Sakhalin II project in Russia and the controversial Corrib gas field development in Ireland.

Meanwhile, Petrobras is doing its very best to destroy the Amazonian rainforest. It currently extracts 35,000 barrels a day from its facilities in Ecuador. However pressure from the Huaorani people, who live in the Yasuni rainforest, has meant that further destruction has been halted temporarily. Not to be outdone, Petrobras is now building a $500 million natural gas pipeline through the rainforest, despite the growing wave of protests.

Reliance Industries Ltd is doing its bit to destroy the environmentand accelarate climate change through its involvement in a multi-billion dollar project to build dams in the Himalayas. ‘Mountains of Concrete’, a report published in December 2008 by International Rivers, a non-governmental organisation which protects rivers and defends the rights of communities that depend on them, concludes that ‘the projects are likely to have huge social, environmental and cultural impacts, impacts that will be especially harsh on locals, tribal people, farmers and others living in the remote valleys of the Himalayas. These projects threaten not only livelihoods but often the very identity and culture of these people.’

Also included in the assembly members’ managed pension fund is United States Steel, which finished second in the Toxic 100, a list of top US air polluters in 2002 compiled by the Political Economy Research Unit of the University of Massachusetts. Another fund holding, US company, Berkshire Hathaway, whose directors include Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, came thirty-fourth.

Our investigations into Hon Hai Precision Industry Company, which trades under the name Foxconn, a Taiwan-based electronics manufacturer, have revealed widespread abuse of workers’ rights. An inspection report commissioned by Apple, a customer of Foxconn, found that workers were forced to work up to an extra 80 hours per month even though labour law restricted over time to 36 hours. A quarter of employees were denied at least one day off a week and workers were punished by being made to stand to attention for long periods of time. 

Of course, no Baillie Gifford pension fund would be complete without a link to the defence industry. Step forward the Taiwan Semi-conductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s largest dedicated semi-conductor foundry. In a 2006 report entitled ‘Defence Critical Technologies‘ published jointly by the US Defence Department and UK Ministry of Defence, TSMC was on the critical technologies list.

Neither should we exclude British American Tobacco (BAT), whose

Start 'em young!

BAT likes to start 'em young!

shares form part of the pension fund’s UK equities. Last year the company’s activities in Africa were the subject of a BBC2 documentary which found that BAT targets childrenthrough music, competitions and the sale of individual cigarette sticks; practices which broke BAT’s own code of conduct and company standards.

And, finally, we shouldn’t forget the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), whose beginnings date back to Britain’s involvement in the Chinese opium trade. Last December,the US Justice Department expanded its criminal investigation into banks that sell offshore private banking services to include HSBCand Credit Suisse. The investigation centres on allegations that the two banks helped wealthy Americans hide as much as $30 billion in offshore accounts in order to avoid tax. Meanwhile HSBC is growing its private banking division by 24% a year, making over $1.5 billion in 2007.

And when arsembly members plead ignorance over their shameful support for these criminal corporations, don’t believe them. While Baillie Gifford run the scheme, politicians from all parties sit on a board of trustees to which Baillie Gifford report.  Alun ‘greasy wops’ Cairns, the diminutive Tory AM, currently holds the chair; Eleanor Burnham represents the liberals; Carwyn Jones and Rosemary Butler represent labour and Mohammad Asghar is plaid’s man.

Just how are they going to explain themselves?