Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Barclays gags Guardian over tax

Barclays Bank obtained a court order early today banning the Guardian from publishing documents which showed how the bank set up companies to avoid hundreds of millions of pounds in tax.

The gagging order was granted by Mr Justice Ouseley after Barclays complained about seven documents on the Guardian's website which had been leaked to the Liberal Democrats' deputy leader, Vince Cable.

The internal Barclays memos – leaked by a Barclays whistleblower – showed executives from SCM, Barclays's structured capital markets division, seeking approval for a 2007 plan to sink more than $16bn (£11.4bn) into US loans.

Tax benefits were to be generated by an elaborate circuit of Cayman islands companies, US partnerships and Luxembourg subsidiaries.

The documents had been leaked to Cable by a former employee of the bank, who wrote a long account of how the bank works.

The anonymous whistleblower wrote to Cable: "The last year has seen the global taxpayer having to rescue the global financial system. The taxpayer has already had a gun put to their head and been told to pay up or watch the financial system and life as we know it disappear into a black hole.

"It is a commonly held view that no agency in the US or the UK has the resources or the commitment to challenge SCM. SCM has huge amounts of resources, the best minds rewarded by millions of pounds. Compare this with HMRC [Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs] recently advertising for a tax and accounting expert with the pay at £45,000.

"Through the use of lawyers and client confidentiality SCM regularly circumvents these rules, just one example of why HMRC will never, in its current state, be up to the job of combating this business."

The Guardian's decision to publish the documents came on a day when the chancellor, Alistair Darling, told parliament he had asked HMRC to publish shortly a draft code of practice on taxation for banks "so that banks will comply not just with the letter of the law but the spirit of the law".

Barclays's lawyers, Freshfields, worked into the early hours to force the Guardian to remove the documents from the website. They argued that the documents were the property of Barclays and could only have been leaked by someone who acquired them wrongfully and in breach of confidentiality agreements.

The Guardian's solicitor, Geraldine Proudler, was woken by the judge at 2am and asked to argue the Guardian's case by telephone. Around 2.31am, Mr Justice Ouseley issued an order for the documents to be removed from the Guardian's website.

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Australia: Banned hyperlinks could cost you $11,000 a day

Asher Moses reports in the Sydney Morning Herald :

The Australian communications regulator says it will fine people who hyperlink to sites on its blacklist, which has been further expanded to include several pages on the anonymous whistleblower site Wikileaks.

Wikileaks was added to the blacklist for publishing a leaked document containing Denmark's list of banned websites.

The move by the Australian Communications and Media Authority comes after it threatened the host of online broadband discussion forum Whirlpool last week with a $11,000-a-day fine over a link published in its forum to another page blacklisted by ACMA - an anti-abortion website.

ACMA's blacklist does not have a significant impact on web browsing by Australians today but sites contained on it will be blocked for everyone if the Federal Government implements its mandatory internet filtering censorship scheme.

But even without the mandatory censorship scheme, as is evident in the Whirlpool case, ACMA can force sites hosted in Australia to remove "prohibited" pages and even links to prohibited pages.

Online civil liberties campaigners have seized on the move by ACMA as evidence of how casually the regulator adds to its list of blacklisted sites. It also confirmed fears that the scope of the Government's censorship plan could easily be expanded to encompass sites that are not illegal.

"The first rule of censorship is that you cannot talk about censorship," Wikileaks said on its website in response to the ACMA ban.

The site has also published Thailand's internet censorship list and noted that, in both the Thai and Danish cases, the scope of the blacklist had been rapidly expanded from child porn to other material including political discussions.

Already, a significant portion of the 1370-site Australian blacklist - 506 sites - would be classified R18+ and X18+, which are legal to view but would be blocked for everyone under the proposal. The Government has said it was considering expanding the blacklist to 10,000 sites and beyond.

Electronic Frontiers Australia said the leak of the Danish blacklist and ACMA's subsequent attempts to block people from viewing it showed how easy it would be for ACMA's own blacklist - which is secret - to be leaked onto the web once it is handed to ISPs for filtering.

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Turn off the Stockholm Programme - No Future for the 'Future Group'!

From no-racism.net :

Following Tampere 1999 and Hague 2004, the EU plans to decide the next five-year plan on "Justice and Home Affairs" (JHA) this year.

 

After the implementation of data retention and new databases, the creation of "Frontex" and the "European Security Research Programme" , the "harmonization" of terrorism laws and more surveillance of the internet, next severe changes are foreseen to bet set in the new guideline.

Under swedish EU presidency in the second half of 2009, probably in November or December, the ministers of interior and justice will meet to agree the new "Stockholm Programme".

A self-announced "Future Group" of some of the ministers, initiated under german EU presidency 2007, already published the wishlist "European Home Affairs in an open world":

An EU population register, 'remote' forensic searches of computer hard drives, internet surveillance systems, more implementation of satellites and 'drone' planes for surveillance, automated exit-entry systems operated by machines, autonomous targeting systems, risk assessment and profiling systems, e-borders, passenger profiling systems, an EU 'entry-exit' system, joint EU expulsion flights, dedicated EU expulsion planes, EU-funded detention centres and refugee camps in third countries (even "overseas"), expansion of the para-military European Gendarmerie Force, deployment of EU Battle Groups, crisis management operations in Africa, permanent EU military patrols in the Mediterranean and Atlantic, more power for EU agencies, interlinking of national police systems, an EU criminal record, a permanent EU Standing Committee on internal security (COSI) dealing with operational matters, more partnerships with the security industry.

By 2014, the ministers wish to establish a "transatlantic security partnership" between the EU and USA, that can be seen as a kind of domestically NATO. NATO strategists on the other hand approach to internal politics by claiming in the paper "Towards a grand strategy in an uncertain world" that military could only supply "strong defence" if there is a "strong homeland security".

The blog http://stockholm.noblogs.org tries to collect calls, background texts, links, dates and material in different languages for campaigning against the meeting in Stockholm.


See also:
Statewatch Report: The Shape of Things to Come - EU Future Group (Sep 2008) (pdf)

Repression has no place in our boat ...

From no-racism.net :

Call for the noborder camp in Lesvos, Greece from 25. - 31. August 2009.

In the last few years the island of Lesvos has represented one of the main entrance gate for thousands of refugees and migrants seeking to reach Europe. Packed in tiny plastic boats they try to cross the sea border between Turkey and Greece but some of them can't make it. More than 1.100 migrants and refugees have lost their lives that way in Aegean sea the last 20 years.

The Hellenic Coast Guard, following the european and greek policies of "prevention of entrance" violates the rights of the refugees and put their lives in danger. At the same time, though, its activities are supported by Frontex, whose first boat started operating on the island in July 2008. Recently Frontex's officials started interviewing / investigating refugees and migrants in Pagani (Lesvos).

Pagani (5 kilometres outside Mitilini, the capital of the island) is where the detention centre is located, to which refugees and migrants are sent, as soon as they set foot on Lesvos. And where they are detained for weeks and months. It is a prison in which fundamental human rights are not respected. Besides, the building is not suitable to host human beings, since it lacks the basic infrastructure for that purpose. Moreover, the refugees are not given any possibility to communicate, are not informed about their rights and are not allowed access to fresh air.

Once registered in the :: Eurodac system, refugees are set free with an administrative deportation order requiring them to leave the country within a month. Some of them who lodge an asylum application end up in a bureaucratic chaos, go through state violence (there were :: two victims at the Athens Aliens Department in the last few months) and in the end only a 0,60% of the applications is accepted.

Those who decide to stay in Greece and find a job have to endure several constraints, hard working times, inhuman conditions and all this in exchange of an humiliating pay. Given their precarious situation they are not given the right of association in order to acquire better working conditions. An example of this is the recent assassination attempt (with vitriol) of a foreign woman - a trade representative - in Athens.

Those who try to set forth their journey, in order to reach (usually via Italy) other European countries, flock to the western ports, like Patra's, where the Coast Guard's repressive activities are an everyday phenomenon. And very often refugees are found dead inside the trucks with which they try to leave the country. And those who manage to continue their journey, if caught, are sent back to Greece in :: application of the Regulation Dublin II.

From the :: Schengen Agreement to the :: Dublin Regulation, from the :: European Pact on Immigration and Asylum to the so called :: "Directive of Shame", from :: Frontex to the :: IOM, from the detention centres to the practices of expulsion and deterrence, from the borders to the capitals, Europe is clearly dealing with the phenomenon of immigration with measures of repression and border control.

Here in Lesvos the building of the "Fortress Europe" is clearly visible. That's why we would like to invite you to join us in August (25-31), to share with us the experience of what is going on at the borders, to discuss the problems, to coordinate our actions, to fight:

AGAINST NEW-IMPERIALISM POLICIES AND WHATEVER CREATE REFUGEES
AGAINST BORDER REGIME AND THE PRACTICES OF CONTROL AND REPRESSION
AGAINST CRIMINALIZATION OF MIGRATION
AGAINST DETENTION CENTRES AND VIOLATION OF MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
AGAINST EXPLOITATION OF MIGRANTS' LABOUR
NO BORDERS
NO ONE IS ILLEGAL
NO IMMIGRANTS' DETENTION
EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL

Coordination of No Border Lesvos 2009
noborder.lesvos.2009 (at) gmail.com

Declassified documents show U.S. Embassy knew that Guatemalan security forces were behind wave of abductions of students and labor leaders

Historical Archives Lead to Arrest of Police Officers in Guatemalan Disappearance

Declassified documents show U.S. Embassy knew that Guatemalan security forces were behind wave of abductions of students and labor leaders

National Security Archive calls for release of military files and investigation into intellectual authors of the 1984 abduction of Fernando García and other disappearances

By Kate Doyle and Jesse Franzblau


Washington, DC, March 17, 2009 –
Following a stunning breakthrough in a 25-year-old case of political terror in Guatemala, the National Security Archive today is posting declassified U.S. documents about the disappearance of Edgar Fernando García, a student leader and trade union activist captured by Guatemalan security forces in 1984.The documents show that García's capture was an organized political abduction orchestrated at the highest levels of the Guatemalan government.

Guatemalan authorities made the first arrest ever in the long-dormant kidnapping case when they detained Héctor Roderico Ramírez Ríos, a senior police officer in Quezaltenango, on March 5th and retired policeman Abraham Lancerio Gómez on March 6th as a result of an investigation into García's abduction by Guatemala's Human Rights Prosecutor (Procurador de Derechos Humanos—PDH). Arrest warrants have been issued for two more suspects, Hugo Rolando Gómez Osorio and Alfonso Guillermo de León Marroquín. The two are former officers with the notorious Special Operations Brigade (BROE) of the National Police, a unit linked to death squad activities during the 1980s by human rights groups.

According to the prosecutor Sergio Morales, the suspects were identified using evidence found in the vast archives of the former National Police. The massive, moldering cache of documents was discovered accidentally by the PDH in 2005, and has since been cleaned, organized and reviewed by dozens of investigators. The National Security Archive provided expert advice in the rescue of the archive and posted photographs and analysis on its Web site. Last week, Morales turned over hundreds of additional records to the Public Ministry containing evidence of state security force involvement in the disappearance of other student leaders between 1978 and 1980. As the Historical Archive of the National Police prepares to issue its first major report on March 24, more evidence of human rights crimes can be expected to be made public.

Government Campaign of Terror

The abduction of Fernando García was part of a government campaign of terror designed to destroy Guatemala's urban and rural social movements during the 1980s. On February 18, 1984, the young student leader was captured on the outskirts of a market near his home in Guatemala City. He was never seen again. Although witnesses pointed to police involvement, the government under then-Chief of State Gen. Oscar Humberto Mejía Víctores always denied any role in his kidnapping. According to the Historical Clarification Commission's report released in 1999, García was one of an estimated 40,000 civilians disappeared by state agents during Guatemala's 36-year civil conflict.

In the wake of García's capture, his wife, Nineth Montenegro – now a member of Congress – launched the Mutual Support Group (Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo—GAM), a new human rights organization that pressed the government for information about missing relatives. Co-founded with other families of the disappeared , GAM took shape in June of 1984, holding demonstrations, meeting with government officials and leading a domestic and international advocacy campaign over the years to find the truth behind the thousands of Guatemala's disappeared. The organization was quickly joined by hundreds more family members of victims of government-sponsored violence, including Mayan Indians affected by a brutal army counterinsurgency campaign that decimated indigenous communities in the country's rural highlands during the early 1980s.

Declassified U.S. records obtained by the National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act indicate that the United States was well-aware of the government campaign to kidnap, torture and kill Guatemalan labor leaders at the time of García's abduction. “Government security services have employed assassination to eliminate persons suspected of involvement with the guerrillas or who are otherwise left-wing in orientation,” wrote the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research four days after García disappeared, pointing in particular to the Army's “notorious presidential intelligence service (archivos)” and the National Police, “who have traditionally considered labor activists to be communists.”

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala considered the wave of state-sponsored kidnappings part of an effort to gather information on “Marxist-Leninist” trade unions. “The government is obviously rounding up people connected with the extreme left-wing labor movement for interrogation,” wrote U.S. Ambassador Frederic Chapin in a cable naming six labor leaders recently captured by security forces, including García. Despite reports that García was already dead, the ambassador was “optimistic” that he and other detainees would be released after questioning.

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