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Global spies who came in from the heat

Peter Fieldman

Well, the weather is better but the economic and political climate is still depressed by the increasing corruption and financial scandals which just will not go away. Are we seeing the beginning of the fall of the giants? In Italy a court has finally had the courage to condemn Berlusconi at the same time as another Vatileaks scandal breaks over money laundering. In France, Bernard Tapie has been indicted for fraud (this does not mean he is guilty). If this can happen in Italy and France surely Spain can follow suit and see the corrupt are brought to justice and, if convicted, pay.

The list now includes 13 properties sold in the name of the Infanta. It seems inconceivable that an administrative error could involve so many separate properties with different owners. They keep finding offshore accounts in the name of Bárcenas. While Correa and Blesa are now out of jail, Bárcenas joins Diaz Ferrán in prison, but for how long? A prize for naming the tax haven where Barcenas does NOT have an account. And Messi is in a mess with Hacienda over allegedly evading four million euros in tax.

Why are the bankers and advisors not being investigated for their role in arranging all the huge cash transfers and offshore payments. Messi’s “image rights” is a tax avoiding measure reserved for the sporting elite. Naturally a deal is on the cards.. No question of arrest or prison because he is a soccer player, one of the untouchables. As are, so far, Aznar, his friends Blesa, Correa and many others who know too much about evading tax, fraud and cash filled envelopes. It is easier to condemn the judges. After Garzon’s removal, Ruz, Silva and Alaya are in the sights of those in power.

In the midst of the scandals, Spain’s political leaders, bankers and corporate bosses organised a conference to talk about the economy and have all agreed that what is needed is to lower wages and make layoffs and sacking easier and cheaper. Meanwhile despite the problems of banks and real estate companies, boardroom bosses and executives continue to increase salaries, bonuses and pensions and evade tax as if the crisis does not exist. Something not quite right here. An idea. If the banks can shift their toxic assets into a bad bank to clear the balance sheets, why can’t every family with debts shift them into a bad family bank and start afresh.

Angela-Francois_PeterFieldmanThe Troika could be on the verge of collapse. But if three major organisations can’t agree over what steps to take to save Europe, what chance is there for the twenty eight member states. (Welcome Croatia since 1 July). The political and business leaders seem far too concerned over what “investors” think about the economy. It suggests that these nebulous and opaque hedge funds, sovereign funds, pension funds etc, which manage billions of dollars and euros, control our economies. They speculate, manipulate world markets and play one state off another purely to make short term gains from derivatives, shorting, futures and other financial instruments to the detriment of every nation State while paying little, if any, tax from their offshore bases. Hardly a scenario for stability.

After Spain, Paris, London, Cairo and Istanbul, Brazil is the latest country to erupt in the face of protests from its population who, like so many around the world, are sick of the greed and corruption by the elite who believe the world is their private, tax free playground. It is clear from the protests that it is the young who have decided to take action, a lost generation without jobs or future, ignored by Governments and the privileged elite who are just too intent on looking after their own power and wealth.

It is interesting that the authorities do not know how to handle these protests which are spontaneous and unorganised without any group or leader to either arrest or talk to.

There will be no solution to the crisis without a change of mentality by the bankers, corporate bosses and politicians and a fairer distribution of the world’s economic wealth. Marc Rich, controversial boss of Swiss based, mining trading company Glencore, who has just died, was no doubt an astute businessman, but he was also a symbol of global corporate greed, exploiting the natural resources and workers of poor countries to make billions for himself, corrupt political leaders, investors and shareholders. They have made more money than they can spend in several lifetimes yet, thanks to political friends, avoid tax.

For football mad Brazil to attack FIFA shows how serious this protest is. It is a wake up call to Blatter and his opaque organisation, which controls soccer and fills its Swiss bank accounts thanks to the gullibility of supporters. Sports events have lost all sense and are now merely merchandising and sponsorship machines. Example: The Olympic Committee who jet around the world in style and the F1 Organisers who charged spectators £145 to watch an empty rain washed Silverstone track. They should be refunded. Of course the celebs, politicians etc and those who can well afford to pay the prices, get in free as guests of the sponsors and organisers.

Assange and Snowden, the spies who came in from the heat. There have always been spies and with the risk of terrorism we need surveillance. Spying on enemies is normal procedure, but spying on friends? Is this new? The spying game is about we know they know, and they know we know they know. The electronic age has changed the rules.

As well as cash filled envelopes, Spain’s latest special offer and summer sale is to offer resident status and visas to foreign buyers of expensive properties. It seems Portugal already offers similar deals and the UK has its Non Doms buying prime London real estate. These new arrivals will benefit from free movement within the European Union but if some of these buyers are undesirables, unilateral decisions by one or two member states are hardly in the spirit of the European Union. This follows the practice of offering sporting champions passports for medals. I do not believe nationality and resident status are products to be sold to the highest bidder. It is a dangerous precedent.

Anyway it might backfire since the new residents in Spain should pay wealth tax on their worldwide assets. This might damper their enthusiasm. That is of course unless Spain grants exemptions to new wealthy arrivals, which would not be surprising. Like everywhere else, Spain operates one law for the rich, another for the people.

brigadas-internacionales-complutense-madridThe Spanish Civil War never seems to go away and the memory of the International Brigades will not wither so long as the AABI, (Friends of the International Brigades) remains active. On Saturday 15 June I participated at the demonstration organised by the AABI, at the Complutense. They are incensed at the judgement seeking removal of the monument to the Brigades just two years after its erection on the university campus. The decision seems both cruel and unnecessary. With MPs in Westminster putting forward a motion to ask the House to pressure the Spanish Government into allowing the memorial to stand, this matter has now turned into a diplomatic crisis. Coupled with the recent Gibraltar incident, Cameron and Rajoy have a lot to talk about.

Last weekend to commemorate the battle for Madrid in 1937, I joined over 100 AABI members on the annual walk to Brunete. I did not realise that Republican supporters and foreign friends of the International brigade, young and old, with their banners aloft, were still so passionate about the cause. Then on Monday 1st July with a small group I visited the Jarama battlefield. I learnt about the Irish contingent which included, poet, Charlie Donnelly, who died during the battle. A monument in his honour is formed by stones, each one from one of the 32 Irish counties. There is also a remarkable private museum at Morata de Tajuna dedicated to the battle. It is the work of Gregorio Salcedo Díaz, a local man who has spent a lifetime collecting artefacts from the battlefield as well as military equipment and photos. It is in the grounds of the Meson del Cid. It is well worth the visit.

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