21 AND THE GRASS WON’T PAY NO MIND
It takes wit and resources to persuade people that the economic impact of a crisis should be born by the poor, the least able. In the last fourteen years this has happened not once but twice. This is nothing new. It is a constant deceit that haunts history. And we pretend we were creating a civilisation. After the bank liquidity crisis in 2008 the Tories introduced not just an austerity programme but restructured the tax system so that the rich became richer and the poor suffered. During the Covid pandemic the wealth of billionaires doubled. Something similar is happening during the present cost of living crisis. The people that voted for this British government still have enough money to feed themselves, pay housing costs and keep those homes warm. More than a few, though, cannot afford all three. Translated that means more hunger, more homelessness and more shivering children.
And while there will be some billionaires that will also feel the draught of a cold wind because of what is happening in Ukraine the majority will be able to move their money around the planet. They will find bubbles of sudden economic activity that will explode their wealth. In Ukraine vast numbers of ordinary people are losing their lives, their homes and their livelihoods. Already one and a half million refugees have fled the country. Pfeffel has proclaimed that Britain leads the world in how it welcomes refugees, and not quite sane Pritti Patel tells lies about the facilities the British have installed at Calais. The inadequate British facilities were in Brussels. This mix of delusion and lies has enabled just 300 Ukrainian refugees to be welcomed into the country. Moldovar with a population of four million has taken 80,000. One and a half million on the road west and just 300 have been given homes and jobs in Britain. That should make a difference, not.
And anyone that thinks the only way sanity can prevail is by having a large-scale war where the Russians will be finally defeated and humbled by the West is a more utilitarian man or woman than I will ever be. But then I never did like war movies and I like the real thing a lot less. No apologies are given for insisting that diplomats need to get round a table and come up with a few compromises that prevent more lives being lost and more livelihoods ruined. Putin is a thug and a gangster but he does not exist alone in Russia. His initial popularity amongst Russian people was because, although they knew he was a gangster, he was not just on their side but could sort out all the other gangsters that the crash bang capitalism had created during the Yeltsin years. An escalated military conflict with a thug with nuclear weapons will not produce extended liberal democracy with more fair minded national leaders, just more deaths and wreckage. Serious pressure needs to be put on Putin but it should have the objective of getting him to the negotiating table and it should hit him, and not ordinary people, where it hurts, in his many bank accounts.
This brings us back to money and how the Tories persuade ordinary people to accept reduced affluence. Tory wit, which should never be underestimated, consists of nuanced arguments and language that both flatters and deceives. Without ever offering definitions or ever considering how the unrestrained behaviour of the rich and powerful reduces the lives of others they talk of freedom, individualism and aspiration. Wit, though, is not enough. Money helps, and the Tories have plenty and a lot of it comes from the Russian mates of Putin because, of course, the Russian President did not really clean up the gangsters. He just picked the gangsters he could work with and who could help him get rich and powerful. Lubov Chernukhin is a lady that has attended something called Tory ladies nights. There she has rubbed elbows with Theresa May and Liz Truss. Lubov has donated more than £2m to the Tories. Germaine Greer will be disappointed to hear that socialite Lubov does not have a job. Lubov is described as being supported by her husband. Lubov has also paid £160,000 to play tennis with Boris Johnson. Not bad for someone that has to exist on pocket money handed over by hubby. The husband of lovely Lubov was a deputy finance minister of Putin. One woman also worth a mention is Zamira Hajiyeva. Zamira is the wife of the former Chairman of the International Bank of Azerbaijan. Between 2006 and 2016 Zamira used 54 different credit cards to spend £16.3m shopping at Harrods. It has to be said that the clothes and sunglasses are transformative. At least this lady has now been subjected by the National Crime Agency to a wealth order. The average monthly wage in Azerbaijan is $350. Rent, utility bills and transport costs average at $300 a month. No transformative grooming for those folk. Without a lot of fleeced Russians the Tories would be a lot poorer but if it is used to convince ordinary Brits that the rich deserve more money and the poor less, a lot of people will think the cash well spent. But just in case this talk of housewives throwing spare millions around has put Germaine Greer feminism into a tailspin, let us talk about the real bad guys, the men.
Apart from the husbands behind those two ladies, Mohamed Amersi has given the Tories £525,000 since 2018. He earned his wealth as a consultant to telecom deals in corrupt countries. He has not fleeced ordinary citizens, just given well paid advice to the gangsters that do. Victor Fedutov has donated £1.5m to the Tories. He has been accused of stealing $4bn from the Russian oil industry. Victor or Vic the something is worth £1.5bn according to Transparency International. He owns London property valued at £25m. Even by London standards that qualifies as comfortable accommodation. Victor denies everything, and now the heat is on he has said that he feels unwell.
UK property worth £15bn has been linked to Russians that are either linked to those in the Kremlin or have been accused of corruption or both. London is the money laundering capital of the world. This is because it is easy to register a British shell company while locating its account anywhere but Britain. I know, whatever happened to common sense. Last year 810,316 companies were registered in the United Kingdom. Finding a home for them all would be difficult except 62,859 are registered in just one building, Kemp House in City Road. Not a bad earner for one of those struggling landlords we hear so much about. Companies can be registered in any name. No evidence is needed of identity. Who knows, even Elvis Presley might own a few. Once the shell company has been established and the owner of all the dodgy wealth is hidden from public view then the company can buy all those wealth-accruing London properties. Oligarchs favour properties that begin at £10m plus. Every cloud has a silver lining. So many of these properties are now empty, parking in Belgravia is a breeze. British banks, of course, could establish the identities of shell company owners. But these are the people that have willingly taken money from the owners of drug cartels. British banks could but they don’t.
It does not help that the National Crime Agency is underfunded. Not only that, there is plenty of detailed advice to be had that outlines the legal limitations of the Agency or what the rest of us call loopholes. This advice can soon be googled. But Pfeffel is on alert. No, not for a tasty, well-groomed and free with the credit cards Russian lady about town. Pfeffel has established a Kleptocracy Unit. Of course, we all know where the staff are going to come from for the brand new Kleptocracy Unit, that’s right, the underfunded National Crime Agency. There has, though, been a response to the war in Ukraine and the escalating violence. Russian assets are now being seized, and some Russian owned companies will be barred from trading. Thatcher always reminded fellow Tories that they needed to look after what she called ‘our people’. The British based Russian oligarchs have spent more than a few bob proving they are what the Tories call ‘our people’. The first wheeze from Pfeffel was to allow the Russian oligarchs 30 days to move their money to somewhere where it would not be seized. There may be a war going on but there are plenty of dodgy rulers willing to take backhanders. But even the 30 day option allows for exceptions that will have until 2023 to transfer their assets. There are no prizes for guessing which oligarchs might qualify as exceptions. The situation, though, is fluid and an initially reluctant Pfeffel has been forced to act.
Chelsea football club which is owned by Roman Abramovich has been permitted to continue playing football but because of the trading restrictions that have been imposed this week the only Chelsea fans that will be able to watch Chelsea matches will be season ticket holders. The fans might, though, be able to buy tickets from the opposing clubs. Chelsea fans thought it could not get much worse than being beaten 11-10 in a League Cup Final at Wembley and by hated opponents as well, those lefties from Liverpool. Chelsea will be barred from raising income. The football will continue, and players and staff can be paid. The government has described its action as a sanction. The terminology and in-built elbow room suggest a political gesture. Chelsea fans, or what some Liverpool supporters would call class traitors, used to chant ‘loads of money’ when they visited the Anfield stadium. The possibility exists that at some point the money will run out and the players and staff at Chelsea will cease to be paid. The faces of Liverpool fans are beaming with ironic smiles. Whatever happens, life for football fans has suddenly become a lot more complicated. Roman Abramovich has to try to sell the Chelsea football club in the next few weeks. A sale would resolve the problem but that constitutes trading. If it happens there will have been a lot of fancy legal wrangling. The same confusion exists over the proposal that the West will cease to use Russian oil and gas. If global companies can sidestep National Crime Agencies they will have wheezes to maintain low cost supplies from Russia. Pfeffel has a plan, world leading he says, but then he had one of those two years ago and look where we are now. And neither should we forget the paltry number of Ukrainian refugees that have been admitted to the UK.
Howard Jackson has had thirteen books published by Red Rattle Books including novels, short stories, travel books and collections of film criticism. His latest book Long After This is now available here.