Business for Scotland A few Posts of Interest

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is the Chief Executive of Business for Scotland. Before joining Business for Scotland he ran a small social media and sales & marketing consultancy and was the founding member of Business for Scotland. With a degree in business and economics, Gordon has worked as an economic development planning professional, and in marketing roles specialising in pricing modelling and promotional evaluation for global companies (including P&G). I rate his site very highly and recommend it to anyone who is seeking the truth on any matter regarding the Referendum

http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/author/bfsgordon/
Businesses in Scotland View

Independence isn’t just for large companies. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make up 99.3% of all Scottish businesses and 97% of all Scottish exports. They create the majority of private sector jobs in Scotland. That is why we are sharing the names of another 100 plus job creators from our growing membership.

http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/another-100-employers-declare-for-yes-through-business-for-scotland/
Scotland’s Food & Drink Industry Supports Independence

We believe the food and drink sector will have more opportunities and be a much great priority for an independent Scottish government than it will be for a UK government.

http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/40-leading-food-and-drink-figures-declare-for-yes/
Scare Stories Debunked

The people of Scotland are making an important decision on September 18th. They are making a choice between becoming a self governing independent national democracy just like almost every other nation on earth or a decision to be governed by a distant, disinterested and dysfunctional Westminster government over which they have no control and absolutely minimal influence within.

http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/5-biggest-no-campaign-economics-scare-stories-debunked/
Business for Scotland calls on BBC to leave CBI

The following is the text of a letter sent by Business for Scotland Chair Tony Banks to Tony Hall, Director General of the BBC, calling for the BBC to end its membership of the CBI.

http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/business-for-scotland-calls-on-bbc-to-leave-cbi/
200 Business people declare for YES with an economic vision

Today 200 Business people from all sorts and sizes of companies from all over Scotland publicly declare that they are voting YES – they see it as “the business and jobs opportunity of a lifetime for this and future generations”.

http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/200-business-people-declare-for-yes-with-an-economic-vision/
Leading surgeon says Yes vote will save Scotland’s NHS from Westminster privatisation

Dr Philippa Whitford, one of Scotland most respected surgeons, delivered an insightful and hard hitting guest speech at the 2014 Vision for Scotland conference.

http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/leading-surgeon-says-independence-will-save-scotlands-nhs/
First Minister: No Currency Deal, no Debt Deal

This is because if there is no deal on currency there will be no deal on debt.

http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/first-minister-no-currency-deal-no-debt-deal/
Top businessman says independence is ‘the jobs opportunity of a lifetime’

Ralph Topping, retiring as Chief Executive of betting giant William Hill plc and is one of Britain’s foremost business leaders with 44 years’ experience, said that a Yes vote will improve “life”.

http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/top-businessman-says-independence-is-the-jobs-opportunity-of-a-lifetime/
Independence and the Economy – The Facts

Scotland can more than afford to be independent. Independence will make Scotland’s economy stronger and its people better off financially.

http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/independence-and-the-economy-the-facts/
What big business has really said about independence

Many of Scotland’s most successful businesses operate globally. They work across many countries. For them Scotland gaining full economic powers to improve economic growth is a positive or neutral step.

http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/what-big-business-has-really-said-about-independence/
New think tank: high-growth Scotland can be one of the most prosperous nations

It makes clear Scotland should benchmark itself against small independent and highly competitive economies such as New Zealand, Denmark and Singapore.

http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/new-think-tank-high-growth-scotland-can-be-one-of-the-most-prosperous-nations/

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Fear in the Corridors of the Scottish Whisky Association

Last evening on Channel 4, I watched a, “Project Fear” propaganda presentation blatantly bundled as a fair minded presentation of the Scottish Independence debate.

At interview, Gavin Hewitt, former Whitehall career diplomat and later chief executive of the, Scotch Whisky Association, (retired December 2013) offered that whilst he had not been approached directly, he had been advised of other members of his former executive team that they had been pressurised to remain, “neutral” in terms of the referendum and that they felt intimidated by, (faceless members of the Scottish Government). He went on to say the Association had to be careful since it was likely the SNP would be in power, in Scotland for some time regardless of the outcome of the referendum. When pressed to produce factual evidence in support of his assertions he couldn’t do so. He had however, “sewn the seeds of mischief” which were readliy seized on as fact by the programme presenter.

Angus Robertson, SNP Westminster MP leader having responsibility for constituences within which much of the Whisky is produced , was singled out by Mr Hewitt as exercising an over interest in the trade, promoting the impression of subtle bullying. Once more he could not provide evidence in support of his claim. His fantasy’s know no bounds.

Clearly on a roll Mr Hewitt also spoke to, “The Herald” 13 June 2014 stressing that, any intimidation directed at him by Nationalists had not been in the context of the independence referendum. More likely outstanding, “Minimum Pricing Unit” business.

Get the flavour of the poor wee soul. An extract from his address to the, “World Whiskies Conference);

“During its hundred year existence, the Association has tackled war, and cereals shortage as a result of war, prohibition in America and many similar challenges – not least from our own governments at home. It has fought against tax and tariff discrimination at home and abroad, and more recently the very serious threat of minimum pricing justified on spurious health grounds. (Hardly a shrinking violet).

http://www.thedrinksreport.com/guest-columns/2013/38-a-scotch-perspective.html

Three extracts from his written response to the UK Government’s (Intimidating) Budget, Oct 2013;

“The UK Government continues to impose unacceptable excise duty rises on Scotch and other spirits. Tax now represents 79% of the price of a standard bottle of whisky and this goes straight to the Treasury. There is 48% more duty levied on Scotch Whisky than beer. The French know how to look after their wine trade; it’s a pity that the UK government doesn’t learn from our neighbours.”

“The UK Government’s decision to increase duty on spirits while cutting beer duty is unfair, incomprehensible and undermines one of Britain’s major industries in its home market. It also sends unhelpful signals overseas on how Scotch Whisky should be taxed. Responsible drinkers who like a dram rather than a pint are being penalised and efforts by the government and the industry to create fairer tax regimes for Scotch in its 200 overseas markets are undermined.”

“It is time for the UK Government to scrap the duty escalator for all alcohol to create a more level playing field between alcoholic drinks. The struggling pubs and the hospitality industry rely on spirits and wine sales for more than 40% of their sales.”

This from the wee man, intimidated by Westminster who then subscribes to the, better together lot.

http://www.enterprisingscotland.com/golden-age-scotch-whisky/

Scottish Government Alcohol Industry Partnership – (Founding Member Scottish Whisky Association) Mr Hewitt!!!

The Scottish Government, concerned at the high and ever increasing levels of alcohol related death’s,illnesses and injuries in Scotland, brought together a group of wide ranging informed opinions from throughout Scotland tasked with a remit to find a way forward much reducing the harm.

Mission Statement.

“The aim of the Scottish Government & Alcohol Industry Partnership (SGAIP) is to deliver a long term collaborative approach to fostering a culture which recognises that responsible, moderate consumption of alcohol can be part of a healthy society.”

The Report. Approaches to Alcohol & Drugs in Scotland

http://www.scotlandfutureforum.org/assets/files/report.pdf
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/newsandmediacentre/17909.aspx

Gavin Hewitt – Retiral Address – 27 Nov 2013

Alcohol and health has risen up the agenda; I spend a great deal of time addressing how the industry might better contribute to practical work to reduce dependence. We have to do it in partnership; it’s not helpful when your own government gets the wrong end of the stick and risks undermining our success in foreign markets.

http://www.scotch-whisky.org.uk/news-publications/blog/gavin-hewitts-10-years-at-the-swa/

Not long after publication of the report Mr Hewitt declared that the Whisky Trade Association would not agree to the introduction of a, Minimum Price Unit, (MPU). A position, at odds with his membership of the, ” Scotland Futures Forum”. Despite his objection the Scottish Government passed the bulk of the recomendations of the Advisory Group into Law. The Whisky Trade Association speedily referred the matter to countries in the, “European Spirits Organisation” soliciting a response in supporting of their stance. Their was a measure of support resulting in the entire matter being referred to the European court. It is anticipated a decision could take between 5-10 years. Meantime the annual scourge of about 40 deaths and countless injuries,illnesses will still be visited upon Scotland.

The Whisky Trade Association, in their statement to the European court stated their was no evidence, Minimum Unit Pricing,(MUP) achieved any of the results claimed by the Scottish Government. This was refuted see;

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19149811

A Channel Four documentary, on alcohol minimum pricing accused the, “Whisky Trade Association” of adopting the same delaying tactics as the Tobacco firms in preventing the implementation of this important health measure. It further highlighted that the Association was not concerned about overall whisky sales, (since the vast bulk of whisky produced in Scotland is exported), but the cheap vodka products which are produced by the, “European Spirits Organisation”.

A wee bit more about the, (easily intimidated) Mr Hewitt

Having given up his post with the Whisky Trade Association he was elevated, (soon after) to the much more senior position as, “President of the European Spirits Organisation”. (CEPS) is the representative body for the spirits industry in Europe comprising of 30 National Associations representing the industry in 26 countries, together with a large group of leading spirits producing companies. Yup!! the companies with the cheap vodka.

Summary.

The Scottish whisky industry, (with worldwide sales in excess of £5billion), is a powerful mega bucks rich enterprise which through it’s powerful lobby, (Whisky Trade Association) those driving it are very capable of spreading fear and alarm. Indeed Mr Cameron, originally as one with the Scottish Government bringing forward similar MUP measures has been frightened off by the, Whisky Trade Association. Westminster is to introduce a scheme in England which will achieve nothing. It is now the case, in some instances that water is more expensive than beer. What a disaster.!!!!

Scotland is not backing down to the Whisky Trade Association, (or to the new kids on the block) European Spirits Organisation, bullyboy lobbyists. Vote, “Yes” in the referendum.

http://www.fdbusiness.com/tag/gavin-hewitt/
http://press.psprings.co.uk/bmj/february/AlcoholScotland.pdf
http://www.fdbusiness.com/tag/ceps/

Should Boot’s be given the The Boot?

Should Boot’s be given the The Boot?

New research shows that Alliance Boots, the high street chemist and pharmaceutical giant, has avoided more than £1 billion in tax since it went private six years ago through taking on excessive debts, profit shifting and corporate restructuring. This report, Alliance Boots & The Tax Gap, published by War on Want, Unite the Union and Change to Win, exposes the full scale of Boots’ tax avoidance for the first time.

At a time when Alliance Boots is trying to sell additional services to the NHS, the lost tax revenue from Alliance Boots has tangible effects on the British public. Using the tax Alliance Boots avoided, the government could have funded:

1. More than two years of total prescription charges for all of England.
2. The starting salary of more than 78,000 NHS nurses for a year– roughly 120 additional nurses each constituency.
3. Over 185,000 hip replacements.
4. More than 5 million ambulance call outs.

http://www.waronwant.org/campaigns/tax-justice-now/18010-boots-billion-pound-tax-dodge-report

What a bunch. These tax avoidance loopholes should be denied to companies operating in the UK. Boots is only one of a huge number of tax dodging enterprises. Many of them provide financial support to the Tory party. Vote, “Yes” in the referendum so that Scotland will be enabled through independence to ensure tax collection is applicable to all.

The Basket-case Economy- The UK or Panama?? Darling hopelessly wrong again

The Basket-case Economy- The UK or Panama?? Darling hopelessly wrong again

Panama announces major oilfield discovery in Darien. I seem to remember a number of the Darien shares were lodged, (for safekeeping) with the, Bank of Scotland. Might be Scotland retains some control of the area formally settled and claimed for Scotland all those year’s ago. Darling keen to put Panama down as a basket-case economy

But the truth is that it is the UK that is operating a basket-case economy and in the event of a, “no” vote Westminster will, (soon after) set about reducing the UK deficit, which is now larger than the total world deficit that brought the World to it’s knee’s in the 1930’s. Austerity measures. “You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet”.

The UK population is currently, severely burdened down with debt, (encouraged by the excesses of successive governments). It is calculated that the debt, ( spread evenly across every household) equates to about 50% of the total weekly cash available to them.

The Governor of the Bank of England has given formal notice to the Con/Dem government that inflation, now rife in the economy will need to be reduced significantly or the UK will be in, “deep S***t.

The problem for the UK population is the only feasible fiscal correcting measure is a sharp rise in interest rates. A rise which will result in widespread bankruptcy, loss of jobs, homes and other moveable / transferable assets for many millions of UK citizens.

These measures will be kept well hidden until the, “Chancellors Autumn Statement” (well after the referendum) so as not to influence the Scottish vote in favour of independence. Scot’s need to be aware of the foregoing so that they will be able to vote, “Yes” in the referendum. “Beware of locusts bearing gifts” since there is very often a, “sting in the tail”.

Trading Penalties

Alistair (Flipper) Darling issues, (from his cave) another tome of gloom & doom twaddle, Said;

” Businesses in Scotland could suffer if they are cut off from the UK’s single market by a, “Yes vote”. But the rules of the EEC market are explicit; Countries, members of the European Economic Community operate with no imposition of duties on trade with one another. We would be wise to ignore anything emanating from the, “Bitter Campaign” lot. They have clearly lost the plot and I expect the referendum also.

Carrillion – £Billions of UK Taxpayers Hard Earned Cash Gifted to Obscenely Rich Shareholders with Offshore Accounts – Time to Get Shot of the Lot of Them

 

 

 

 

30 Oct 2017: PFI firms avoid tax despite £2bn profits – Carrilion shareholders should be held accountable – No Public Money to be used for any bail-out

Five of the largest listed offshore Private Finance Initiative (PFI) funds have paid    little or no corporation tax despite making billions in profits

The five companies, including Guernsey-based funds HICL Infrastructure Company (HICL), John Laing Infrastructure Fund (JLIF) and International Public Partnerships (INPP), own hundreds of public assets including schools and hospitals, a European Services Strategy Unit (ESSU) report has shown.

Between them, the funds made a profit of £2.9bn over a five-year period from 2011 to 2017, and paid £13.5m in taxes.

Nothing was paid in corporate tax by the funds, which have been registered in offshore territories for the past six years.

ESSU director Dexter Whitfield told BBC that offshore companies were profiting massively from buying public assets, having annual returns as high as 28% from their PFI investments.

Calling PFIs a “private sector profit machine”, Whitfield said that if the government had built public infrastructure through public investment and ran it through in-house services, the whole “edifice” would not be happening.

Research from the ESSU showed 12 offshore infrastructure funds had equity in 547 PFI/PPP projects, amounting to 74% of all 735 PFI/PPP projects in the UK.

Additionally, it was found that 45.4% of all 735 current projects was owned by 9 offshore infrastructure funds.

Projects in education and health accounted for two-thirds of PFI/PPP projects which offshore infrastructure funds had 50% to 100% project equity in. (Economia)

 

 

 

20 Nov 2017: Don’t believe the hype Carrilion is far from finished

The financial difficulties at Carillion and other construction groups has prompted the HSBC offshoot, offshore registered HICL Infrastructure to take steps to ensure it is not hit by the failure of a contractor at one of its many UK public sector investments.

As an operator of schools, hospitals and other buildings in the UK under public private partnerships (PPP), HICL has service arrangements with many facilities management firms.

Half-year results from the £2.8 billion infrastructure fund on Wednesday revealed 15% of its assets are linked to contracts involving Carillion, which is fighting for survival after a series of cost-overruns on projects in the UK and the Middle East and the ousting of its chief executive and the axing of its dividend in the summer.

Carillion’s plans to sell its healthcare division to Serco will reduce HICL’s exposure to the company to 8%, with Serco increasing to around 6%.

Outside healthcare, Carillion will continue to work with HICL on defence projects, such as Allenby and Connaught, a 35-year private finance initiative (PFI) providing four garrisons to the army in Salisbury Plain and Aldershot.

Following profits warnings from other construction and facility operators, the issue of counterparty risk has risen up HICL’s agenda. ‘Contingency plans are in place to ensure continuity of operations if one or more of the group’s PPP projects are affected by the failure of a subcontractor,’ the company said.

Harry Seekings, infrastructure director at Infrared Capital Partners, HICL’s investment adviser, said: ‘This is not just about Carillion.’ He declined to give more details but said the company had a range of options, according to circumstances, from switching to another contractor or managing a facility itself.

 

 

But senior managers at Carrilion have no need to be worried financially

Financial clawback conditions for executive bonuses were significantly relaxed by the Tory government in 2016 with result that top managers gain financial benefit from the collapse of the organisations that they are responsible for.

 

 

 

 The PFI Scandals, (Blair, Brown and the Unionist Tory Party)

Ah !!! The Private Finance Initiative, (PFI). Lest we forget.

PFI is one of the greatest financial cock-ups in modern times. Recklessly committed to by a Labour government, all smitten by the spell of Thatcher John Major and their acolytes Blair and Brown.

The sell-off, (at knock down prices) of public owned building assets,  to private enterprise was a disgrace then and is even more so now.

Selection of one deal for a closer examination, from a huge number of sell-offs was difficult. But the contract quoted is atypical of arrangements put in place by the labour Government led by Blair and Brown:

Mapeley Steps, (a foreign owned conglomerate)  purchased in excess of 1000 properties within the UK, from the Inland Revenue,

The Inland Revenue then signed off a PFI contract with the company committing government to handing over vast amounts of taxpayers money in rent money, (leasing back the formally government owned assets almost without limit of time.

Adding insult to injury Mapeley Steps, (having bought the properties at a knock down price) immediately transferred ownership, title and all other aspects of the contract to a Caribbean tax haven so that all revenue gathered from the UK government would be free of any form of UK tax liability.

Embarrassing indeed, but there’s more. The property sell off, included the entire HM Revenue and Tax Office estates UK wide, who, at the time of the sale were officially committed to the closure of tax haven loopholes.

£Billions of taxpayers hard earned cash is being siphoned off to offshore trusts.!!!!! (RT)

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmpubacc/553/553.pdf

 

 

 

Nowhere is government-corporate collusion in tax avoidance more worrying than in the UK Private Finance Initiative (PFI) industry.

 

So as to realise maximum return on investment,  “special purpose vehicle” shell companies were registered ‘offshore’ for maximum ‘tax efficiency’ in a growing number of tax havens as subsidiary outlets of the main contractors and these have been have been major players in the PFI game from the outset.

An example is HICL, an offshoot of HSBC which provides backing for nearly 43 UK infrastructure projects – mostly NHS hospitals and schools.

The situation is that very many publicly treasured infrastructure assets, paid for by UK taxpayers, are now in the hands of the super-rich and the bankers.

 

 

 

Why does any of this matter?

It begs the question- “who would you rather was in charge of your hospital, a local health authority or a financial investment company?”

The NHS, for all its flaws, is organised around some noble principles such as universal access and the highest possible quality of treatment, but private ownership seriously threatens these. Investment companies are concerned only with profitability.

The ownership of hospitals by on and offshore investment funds sharply reduces accountability and transparency so monitoring the performance of PFI hospitals becomes problematical.

The veil of ‘commercial confidentiality’ prevents government from understanding and thereby solving any problems that arise.

Admittedly contractors can’t make any changes to previously signed PFI contracts they purchase but the practice of buying and selling PFI contracts has ensured the UK has ended up in a situation where the majority of the public infrastructure is owned by an oligopoly of offshore investment funds and banks.

This gives them disproportionate market power and provides them with a very real influence over the provision of public services in the UK.

But crucially the ownership of public infrastructure by private financiers is another indictment on the PFI system itself, which has consistently proven to be inflexible, bad value for money and impossible to regulate.

PFI contracts are also legally protected from cuts, which ensures their sustained profitability and when faced with shortfalls in revenue,

PFI contracters force hospitals to re-shape around contractual needs, rather than clinical ones. This means that front-line services like beds, doctors and nurses are cut before non-essential items like maintenance and service work.

 

 

 

Scamming the Taxpayer – selling public assets

This is achieved when a number of companies form a single bidding entity (known as a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV).)

The SPV contracts to provide, construction, maintenance and services of the assets over their lifetime, (usually up to 30 years).

Companies within the SPV are free to sell their equity stake in the contract in a secondary market.

It is a fact that, after the construction phase of a project is complete, the financial risk associated with the project plummets and the project can be re-financed, making it very attractive to investors.

Construction companies have been exploiting the foregoing earning themselves a small fortune.

Reports are that Construction giant Carillion plc sold its stake in 24 contracts for £278 million, making an average profit of 40%.

When considered against Carillion’s average operating profit between 2003-2009 of 1.2% this figure is astonishing.

Other construction companies are enjoying similar levels of profit in the secondary market and reports estimate they have made in excess of £350 million in profit between them.

The contracts represent a sound investment and are being snapped up by banks and offshore investment funds in a market that has swollen over the past decade.

Although PFI is paid for ultimately by the public purse, there is no regulator in the secondary market or mechanism by which the public share any of the massive profits being reaped.

 

 

 

Massive sums of money supposedly ring fenced for patient care in the English NHS handed over to PFI private contractors

The English NHS will pay approximately £70bn to private contractors for PFI schemes originally valued at £11bn.

Many NHS trusts’ PFI repayments take up in excess of 10% of their annual turnover with many contracts lasting around 30 years.

And the annual payments continue to rise.  Currently, the English NHS pays £1.5bn per year. But, this figure is expected to rise annually until 2030 when it will reach £2.5bn. payments which are due to be a financial drain on resources until 2048.

The result is chaos within the NHS in England. With fees rising every year, and taxpayer cash being handed to private companies funds are not being spent on patient care or hospital staff.  And, as budgets are cut and NHS trusts are forced to look for “savings”, these payments bring about ever more closures and cuts in services to patients.

 

 

 

Labour Controlled Glasgow City Council guilty of financial mismanagement

In Glasgow, the 3ED consortium, (involving the Miller Group construction company, the Halifax bank and Hewlett Packard computers) signed off on a contract with Glasgow City Council to construct and retain operational control of the Council’s school buildings for 30 years.

The city council rents the buildings from 3ED for an annual adjustable fee initially at £40.5 million.

600 ancillary staff were removed from Council employment and transferred to a private employer.

At the end of the 30 year contract the assets will return to city council control.

Nice earner for the private contractors who, against an outlay of between £2-400m will recoup, in excess of £1.5bn – three or four times the initial outlay

 

 

 

 

 

The Weir Group – The Only Thing Scottish is the Badge on the Door – But Scots Still Dance to Their Tune

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Weir Group expands into Malaysia – David Cameron, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Weir Group chief executive Keith Cochrane.

 

 

The Weir Group

The company is a global leader in the design, supply and ongoing service of engineering equipment for the mining, oil and gas, power and industrial sectors and is listed on the London Stock Exchange. With annual sales in excess of 2 billion, it employs around 14,000 people and operates in more than 42 countries.

It maintains manufacturing facilities in North and South America, the UK, mainland Europe, Australia, South Africa, India and China. Annual profits vary between 300-600 million. Lord Smith of Kelvin was chairman of the Group 2002 – 2013.

The companies main operational thrust in the UK over the next few years (2016-2020)  is directed at the development and expansion of Nuclear Power and Fracking

The Group has consistently and actively solicited support to its campaigns against any form of Scottish devolution or independence. It is firmly Unionist and its political position is centre right. Although founded and registered in Scotland less than 5% of the Groups total workforce is Scottish based.

The Group is an active member of the shadowy organisation, “Common Purpose” (because it spots interesting opportunities and because its unique connections and professional approach makes the relationship highly productive._

In 2013, a team of their “selected” leaders undertook specialist leadership development programmes and attended a global leadership conference run by “Common Purpose” which assembled exceptional senior people from across the Commonwealth to tackle challenges that businesses, governments and society face today with the aim of building global relationships for them to use in the future. The Weir Groups tentacles of influence spread far and wide.

 

 

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Lord Andrew Dunlop ( old friend of Cameron’s) visiting the Weir Group

 

 
17 December 2010: Weir Group prosecuted for providing kickbacks to the Iraqi regime

In agreeing to overcharge the Oil For Food Programme (OFFP) (set up to ensure United Nations’ sanctions didn’t hurt ordinary Iraqis) for contracts agreed between 2001 and 2003, the Weir Group was able to divert 3.1m of humanitarian aid to Saddam Hussein’s coffers.

Fining the company 3m at the High Court in Edinburgh, the judge said he was taking into account Weir Group’s guilty plea and its willingness to pay back the 9.4m profits it made from the deals, the 3.1m it diverted from the OFFP and the 1.4m it paid to its Iraqi agent for acting as a conduit for the illegal payments.

Yet some believe justice has not yet been done. Like many other firms which traded with Iraq in the early Noughties, Weir Group PLC put profits before ethics; when told it had to pay a 10 per cent kickback or it wouldn’t win contracts, any scruples about UN sanctions disappeared.

According to a director of the company the decision had been taken at board level. A senior manager and the principal salesman together with directors and the manager of the principal subsidiary company involved in the deals were all present at a meeting when the illegality of the kickbacks was spelt out.

Not one, of more than 50 employees of the Weir Group involved was identified or pursued through the courts. This despite the fact that a number of individuals from other UK companies charged with similar offences of corruption and violation of sanctions, were charged, tried and punished. Moreover, though most of those at the helm at the time had moved on, many secured prestigious posts elsewhere.

In a statement explaining its decision on keeping individuals out of the frame, the Crown Office said: “In the course of this investigation it became clear that the decision to pay kickbacks to the Iraqi government, and to pay fees to the Iraqi agent, was taken at Weir Group level. It was, therefore, deemed that the most appropriate course of action was to prosecute The Weir Group plc rather than any individual who may have been involved in these events.”

Critics of the Crown Office said “the fines levied against The Weir Group is a pittance when set against the groups overall turnover. They will simply be incorporated into the annual profit and loss account reducing the corporation tax bill. The fines should have been made the personal responsibility of the directors which would have added bite to the punishment.”

Lord Smith of Kelvin, Weir Group’s chairman, said the judgement “finally draws a line” under the prosecution investigation. “What happened back in 2001 was wrong and we accept full responsibility”.

 

 

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HM being shown a pump

 

 

 
The “Kickback” scheme explained

The offences committed by Weir Group PLC came against a background of trade sanctions against Iraq. Introduced after Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990. It soon became clear the measures were leading to suffering and starvation among the Iraqi population and the UN set up the Oil for Food Programme (OFFP). From 1996 onwards, Saddam was allowed to sell oil, but all the receipts were placed in a UN account in Paris. Iraq was then able to use the funds to buy goods approved by the UN for the benefit of its population. Using its French subsidiary Wemco to administer the deals (because of Iraq’s “Buy British Last” policy), the Weir Group tendered for and won several contracts which involved supplying spare parts for water and oil pumps to Baghdad mayoralty, Iraq’s North Oil Company and South Oil Company.

 

 

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Lord Smith apologises to the public for the criminal acts of the group

 

 

 
However, in 2000, Saddam’s Revolutionary Command Council decreed that, in order to secure contracts, foreign companies would have to pay a kickback or “after-sales tax” of 10 per cent. The companies were told they would have to bring their goods through the port of Um Qasr, and would be prevented from unloading until they proved the kickback had been paid.  Weir Pumps, the subsidiary most heavily involved in the contracts, were informed that if the company didn’t pay, there would be no more orders.

Knowing the money could not be paid into an Iraqi bank, it was agreed an Iraqi agent would pay it from his own pocket. When it received the money from the OFFP, the company would pay the 10 per cent kickback plus a further 4 per cent for the agent’s services to a fake Geneva-based company, Corsin Finance Ltd. These payments would be unlikely to arouse suspicion as paying an agent to act on overseas deals is in itself entirely legitimate.

Two meetings were held on 13 and 14 September 2001 at the behest of a group director who was not involved in the OFFP contracts, but had become aware of what was going on. At the second meeting, the director gave the go-ahead for the kickbacks despite being told they were illegal. The first payment was made that same day. In total, Weir Group plc secured 16 contracts worth 35 million paying kickbacks of 3 million.

 

 

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Things began to unravel after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It quickly became clear the OFFP had been abused by the Iraqi regime and several UN officials. In the two years that followed a report by the US Defence Contract Audit Agency, a hearing before the US Senate and an independent inquiry committee headed by US banker Paul Volcker all implicated Weir Group as one of dozens of companies which might have capitulated to Saddam Hussein’s demands.

At first the chief executive Mark Selway denied the company had been involved in any wrongdoing, but, following an internal investigation, Weir Group admitted irregular payments had been made.

Sir Ron Garrick, (executive chairman) became a non-executive director and then deputy chairman of HBOS before retiring.

Mark Selway, (chief executive) became chief executive of Australian building firm Boral.

Sir Robert Smith (Lord Smith of Kelvin) (Chairman) who took up his role in 2002, is still in his post.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2010/dec/15/weir-group-fined-3-million-bribes-saddam-hussein-iraq

 

 

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Chief executive Keith Cochrane Anti – devolution or independence

 

 
3 April 2014: Weir Group report and Chief Executive, Keith Cochrane – Nicola Sturgeon exposes the agenda

The Weir Group is an important company in Scotland. I welcome its contribution to the debate and I am looking forward early next month to meeting senior management and staff at the Group to discuss those very issues. I hope to reassure them on some of the points that have been made this morning.

It is worth pointing out—this is not a criticism of the Weir Group; rather it is to provide some context—that the Group was against devolution before the 1979 and 1997 referendums.

It warned then of consequences that simply did not materialise. It is also worth noting that the Group, a successful Scottish company, operates in 70 countries around the world; an independent Scotland would form the 71st country in which it operates.

The Group’s report on independence states clearly that Scotland “could succeed” as an independent country. “Independence would bring” control over policy making “closer to the people”. It would allow an expanded range of economic policy levers to be tailored to the needs and circumstances of our economy and to the distinctive views and values of our people, and the flexibility to tailor business tax rates would be a significant attraction of Scottish independence in principle.

Nicola Sturgeon – https://www.theyworkforyou.com/sp/?id=2014-04-03.12.0

 

 

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Keith Cochrane

 
27 August 2014: Weir Group chief executive canvasses support of business leaders to his cause

A letter supporting “Better Together”, (signed by bosses from a variety of industries) has been published in the press and reported on by the broadcasting media. Its architect is, Keith Cochrane, chief executive of engineering company Weir Group which has never supported any form of Scottish devolution let alone independence.

http://www.londonlovesbusiness.com/business-news/scottish-independence/economic-case-for-independence-not-made-say-scottish-business-leaders/8735.article

 

 

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RIVALS: Weir Group chief Keith Cochrane (left) “Better Together” and Clyde Blowers Jim McColl (right)  “Yes”

 

 
12 September 2014: Weir Group to move Glasgow HQ if Scotland votes ‘yes’

Chief Executive Keith Cochrane has said that the group could not guarantee that it would keep its Glasgow headquarters if Scotland became independent after the referendum, although the group’s three service centres would remain in the country.

 

 

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Lord Smith of Kelvin

 

 

 
27 November 2014: The Lord Smith of Kelvin Commission Report on devolved powers for Scotland

The Smith Commission issued its report on the shape and form of the devolved powers promised to Scotland by the political parties at Westminster in the days before and after the Scottish Independence referendum. This is a good read.

http://www.theedinburghreporter.co.uk/2014/11/the-lowdown-and-the-views-on-the-smith-commission-report/

 

 

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