Thursday, 28 May 2009

SILENCE on Jersey buses and from Constable Jackson of TTS

Back in March we at “The Voice” highlighted on this blog the menace of music and radio being broadcast on Connex buses in Jersey.

We had heard of many complaints and how Constable Mike Jackson had supposedly promised to investigate the matter and in particular whether Connex buses were licensed as the law requires with the Performing Rights Society.

Of course Constable Jackson never did get back to the complainant who raised the PRS issue but it has transpired that the buses are not in fact licensed and have been continuing to operate illegally in Jersey and that TTS instructed Connex to sort it out several weeks ago!

The fee for each bus to operate legally is about £60 per annum so the banal sounds of Roger Bara and his chums at BBC Radio Jersey or the drivers own peculiar choice of taped Muzak should have been removed already.

Unless the Connex team propose to deduct the cost of licensing the fleet from their profits or Xmas bonus – then with a bit of luck the infernal nuisance of noise pollution on buses will be removed for ever and hopefully TTS will police the matter with all other PSVs (like Taxis) and public places under their control.

We at “The Voice” would be so saddened if Constable Jackson was prosecuted for failing to ensure that his Department allowed any illegal activities.

With a bit of luck he and our other 52 “so called representatives” might like to devote some time to ensuring that the general public can hear those things that they should hear – like States and Parish meetings – through the provision of efficient sound systems and they might also like to consider whether other means of communicating with the long suffering Jersey paying public are adequate?

Submitted by Thomas Wellard.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Billions lost, many wounded and no antidote!

The $60 Billions collapse of Bernard Madoff’s fraudulent investment business has rattled windows all round the world. Even Jersey’s Woolworths bankruptcy papers reveal £160 millions debt connections with him or his business associate J. Ezra Merkin’s funds (see a previous post on this site dated 8th May) – and both these elderly Jewish lawyers are now in jail and unlikely ever to be released.

Although not much reported on this side of the Atlantic the huge financial failures have encouraged considerable anti-Jewish sentiment and conspiracy theories abound on the NET.
Unfortunately, Madoff and Merkin seem to have exploited their special status and connections within Jewish communities across America to solicit investments into their doomed funds whilst at the same time masquerading as generous philanthropists.

Merkin was involved in 3 particular “feeder” funds that funneled billions into Madoff’s sham enterprise and besides many individuals across the nation being reduced to poverty their activities have also broken or damaged many genuine charitable and non-profit organizations and institutions.

The US Bankruptcy Court filed a dossier of losing investors that ran to 162 pages and included such as the American Jewish Congress (founded in 1918) which might have lost many millions and its New York HQ or Yeshiva University (of which Madoff was a trustee) besides more modest charities like the “Gift of Life” (a bone-marrow charity) or the “Children of Chernobyl” fund etc etc.

The Jewish communities seem to have been particularly vulnerable and their traditional mix of generous philanthropy and fund raising for good causes together with a strong religious motivation and presence rendered them easily exploitable.

In Miami the Palm Beach Country Club was particularly targeted because its membership was largely Jewish and wealthy. But the historic origins of the club in the 1950’s reveal a great deal about the realities of life because it was founded when other clubs would not accept Jewish members. Yet even today, the Everglades, Bath and Tennis Club of Palm Beach are reported as still having “very few” if any Jewish members.

That so many wealthy individuals or organizations might so easily be parted from their money is always surprising and is in no way peculiar to any particular religious or social group. Walter Noel’s Fairfield Greenwich Group – advertised as a conservatively run “alternative fund” - lost $7.5 billions to Madoff.
But the impact of apparent “respectability” over more certain “regulation” seems to be an overwhelming force where investment opportunities – aka profit – are concerned.

Both Madoff and Merkin have reportedly played on their religious affiliations. Merkin is supposed to have appeared as a “Rabbi” on occasions but he was more certainly President of the New York synagogue founded by his father who was an escapee from pre-war Nazi Germany. Thus, it is easy to comprehend how such figures would have appeared as reliable people to do business with - without too many questions asked.

Yet, the Madoff scandal has exposed others, usually as a result of worried clients belatedly posing questions. Although only 2% of the US population is declared as ethnically Jewish it is reckoned that they provide 40 – 50% of the nation’s billionaires so must be a particular and regular target for fraudsters.

Arthur Nadel, another aged New York trained Jewish lawyer and musician flew away from Sarasota in Florida in March where he ran the Scoop Management hedge fund. He was arrested soon afterwards but the business had debts of $350 millions, which appears modest in comparison with Madoff’s achievement and he too had played the part of philanthropist and was active in the Florida Jewish community.

Lawrence Salander was arrested in New York too at about the same time. He too is Jewish and was a fine art dealer who sold the same items to more than one customer until stopped and his losses were declared at more than $88 millions.
His high value clients included John McEnroe to whom he sold a painting by Gorky called “Pirate II” – which he had also sold elsewhere.

In Minnetonka it was the Evangelical Christians who were especially targeted by Tom Petters and his family until a member of staff blew the whistle when Madoff’s news reached Minnesota. Their so called hedge fund has debts of $3.5 billions and the Polaroid business was among the assets and is a considerable local employer.

Lesser fraudsters Paul Greenwood and Stephen Walsh were also arrested in Manhattan and bailed for £7 millions each in connection with their investment activities.
In a familiar tale they had managed 100’s of millions of dollars for universities and charities and creamed off substantial sums to buy horses and collectibles and other good things of life for their fast-lane style.

James Nicholson the President of Westgate Capital New York Investment Fund was also arrested on allegations of defrauding his clients of yet more hundreds of millions of dollars.

Marcus Schrenker an Indiana pensions fund manager took the extreme measure of trying to fake his death in January 2009 by parachuting from his Piper plane after making a false May-Day call. He surrendered and was arrested and awaits processing by the judiciary and governments of several States. He has already forked out $12 millions for selling a defective aircraft and a couple of $millions as compensation resulting from earlier clients’ actions. The debts are likely to be considerable.

The tall Texan, 58 years old (Sir) Allen Stanford was also eventually arrested and charged with his nefarious activities with the Stanford International Bank and related businesses and losses of over $8 billions are currently claimed.
He too liked to be seen as a great philanthropist – especially through his promotion of cricket among poor Caribbeans and the gullible English cricket authorities – and his empire spanned from Dallas to Antigua and St Croix in the US Virgin Islands. He had been forced out of Montserrat in the 1980’s when the British government made a half hearted attempt to clamp down on ill-regulated, overseas tax havens.

Stanford was also the master at presenting a “reliable” image and the US dossier refers to 50,000 defrauded customers, so his message must have been convincing whereas more certain and official regulation was noticeable by its absence. Now the entire economic futures for many of the small Caribbean islands looks uncertain as a direct result of his failures but the greater mystery is - with all the regulating bodies that are supposed to exist around the world - how could such enormous financial frauds be perpetrated?

The other mystery is where has all the billions of money actually gone?

Arthur Nadel managed to make $20 millions disappear from the books by “wire transfer” to “unknown destinations” shortly before he flew.

Bernard Madoff is alleged to have withdrawn $12 billions in 2008 and $6 billions more in the 3 months prior to his arrest but where it is now seems to be a mystery and his wife is reported to be shopping still at the smartest shops.

But are we sure that none of this money has finished up in Jersey and how shall we know or care if it has? In the meantime, nobody seems to be very curious about the £160 Woolworths millions that have been claimed by GMAC, the fund that Ezra Merkin managed until it ran up debts of billions…….. Perhaps the JFRC or Senator Maclean will comment?

Submitted by Thomas Wellard.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

More Human Rights….

It’s becoming almost impossible to sleep through States meetings these days because of the constant calls for Human Rights compliance.
Just look at our related current blog on VFC
If it’s not phone tapping or search without warrant or abuse of children it’s the general public wanting proper facilities in the public gallery of the States Chamber itself! Where oh where will it end?

Of course it never will.

Once again, have a look at the Vexed Bermoothes blogsite current posting on “Soft Censorship” in the little British paradise of Bermuda….(click on the link on this page)

It will all sound very familiar to anybody who is following our blogging/videoing battles in Jersey and our governmental restrictions and obstructions.

In Bermuda too the government doesn’t much like free expression of opinion or transparency and is trying to muzzle their critical media by withdrawing advertising - and now through denying access to government “spokesmen”.

Yet, what is amazing is that little Bermuda - population 67,000 – actually has in place a written Constitution that is supposed to guarantee Human Rights compliance and it even has a Human Rights Commission ( Deputy Bob Hill tried for one here) and STILL their elected ”representatives” are failing to respect them!!!!!

So, the Bermudan Human Rights Commission has complained to the UN that their freedom of expression is being infringed, in spite of it being protected by the Constitution, the European Convention of HRs and the Universal Declaration of HRs.

What is the point you may think? Well take heart because many MPs in the UK are at last being exposed as cheating and devious because just one dedicated female campaigning journalist has forced the release of MPs expenses returns under Freedom of Information laws which are based upon Human Rights requirements and principles.

YES it is possible to defeat these lack lustre “representatives” like our Minister of TTS Constable Mike Jackson (as seen and heard on TV) who clearly thinks that Human Rights are just a tedious burden – and just 3 days after Liberation Day too!!!!!

But we must be vigilant and we must stay awake, especially during States meetings.

Submitted by Thomas Wellard.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Jersey Woolworths £160 Millions International pick’n’mix

The Viscount’s Department made the creditors’ accounts public for the busted Jersey Woolworths store this week – but how many of our so called elected representatives bothered to examine them?
After all, just a few weeks ago many of them were weeping crocodile tears over the fate of the ex-workers and real tears at the prospect of footing the bill (out of public funds, not their own pockets) for unpaid statutory payments in lieu of notice etc.

In fact the Viscount’s papers show that 34 ex-workers have so far shared a modest £123,000 with about 18 cases still to be resolved. So it will hardly break the Jersey economy, even if none of the money is recouped from the final administration in Jersey or the UK – wherever it takes place.

But among the many local business and other creditors (Law Officers fees £17,000, Lawyers fees to date for the ex-workers £10,000 and Jersey income tax for 2008 of £315,000 and GST of £34,000) there is one startling claim for £160 Millions plus in the name of GMAC Commercial Financing ( Brighton, UK branch) through their London Lawyers Linklaters.

Now it might seem puzzling that such a large sum could be owed from this one branch of Woolworths PLC chain of 800 stores that were wound up from November 2008 to early in 2009 even though it was among the most profitable of all when trading.

When administrators Deloittes finally brought the matter before the Jersey Courts seeking “assistance” (because they were outside of the jurisdiction of the English High Court) they were given a mildly smacked hand by the Jersey Bailiff and a belated special tri-partite arrangement was dreamed up ( the Viscount, Minister Alan Maclean for the States and Deloittes) to protect local creditors against assets being removed from the Island. Thus, the final figures have to go back to the Jersey Court for approval before residual monies go back to be put into the central UK pot for distribution there to creditors.

In fact, when Deloittes did bring the matter before the Jersey Court, there was a great reluctance by all parties to discuss financial figures on the pretext that these might be “financially sensitive” but nobody hinted that £160 millions might be involved!

Local assets certainly did not seem to reach anywhere near that figure. There was the lease on the store premises, a warehouse at Rue des Pres, the manager’s house at Gorey (currently for sale at £750,000), shares in F. W. Woolworth (J) Ltd and the “Ladybird” trademark….

Of course, the dynamic Barclay Brothers of Brecqou have already bought the “Ladybird” clothing label to market on-line through their “Shop Direct” brand (the former “Littlewoods” mail order etc) and there was presumably a “tax advantage” for Woolworths UK to have the name parked in Jersey. But who are GMAC and where is the £160 millions coming from? And, more to the point, who has it now?

According to the financial press, in February 2008 GMAC Commercial Financing ( a division of GMAC Financial Services) and Burdale Financial Ltd a member of the Bank of Ireland Group, arranged a 4 years financing facility for Woolworths Group PLC of £385 millions (£350 millions asset based lending plus £35 millions second lien loan).

Yet GMAC is a spin-off from General Motors, the very troubled US motor manufacturing giant and has a very complicated and troubled history of its own that just about sums up the enormous and interlinked financial mess that confronts the world today. And this little tale also indicates the role of not so respectable and vulnerable finance centres like Jersey.

In America GMAC is currently standing in line hoping to receive 11.5 billions dollars of government aid because it is virtually busted. The business was originally called the General Motors Acceptance Corporation a wholly owned division of GM and was involved in “auto financing, mortgage lending, insurance etc “.
In 2006 GMAC Financial Services was sold off by GM (which retained 49%) for 7 billion dollars to Cerebus Capital Management and the investors included Citigroup and Aozora Bank of Japan. By 2008 GMAC had 173 billion dollars of debt and 140 billion of assets, some of which were worthless. The same year it became a bank in order to claim 6 billion dollars in government bailout money.

Cerebus had appointed J. Ezra Merkin as non-executive Chairman of GMAC in 2006 and he was a friend and business colleague of Bernard Madoff.
Aozora Bank reported losses of 137 million dollars to fraudster Madoff this year and Merkin was removed from GMAC by order of the US government as part of an attempted deal to save the business because it is so interlinked with GM.

GMAC still advertises itself as a world-wide and “trusted source of capital for middle-market businesses” and “cross border lending solutions and asset based lending applicable in leveraged buyouts ” and the £160 millions is just peanuts in the global context.

However, Bank of Ireland too is a troubled business and it is widely reported to be now needing an injection of 7 billion euros of Irish state bailout following losses incurred on “property loans” and the IMF estimates that with AIB the injection could total 24 billions……

And so it goes on. This is the expensive world in which little Jersey has become involved in and if just one such collapse should result in liability for the public of Jersey, the result could be financial ruin for the Island.

Furthermore, fundamental, constitutional questions remain about the £160 millions and all the other sums that are currently frozen in Jersey. Where does this money rightly belong? After all, creditors in the UK must have a legitimate claim on any Jersey assets because Woolworths PLC was a UK business and according to Accountancy Age, unsecured creditors in the UK are likely to receive nothing whereas “the 6 main lending banks (including GMAC and Bank of Ireland) will receive the £335 millions owed to them.”

So by what authority has the Jersey Royal Court given preference to Jersey creditors over those in the UK and just what has happened in Guernsey and the Isle of Man? Have their courts made similar orders to protect their own creditors and are similar millions of “debt loans” salted away there too and shall UK creditors have first or second claim on any assets of this failed UK business?

The examples of the busted “Icelandic banks” in both Guernsey and the Isle of Man would seem to suggest that such complicated failures could become commonplace in the future. Are we sure that our system of regulation and supervision is up to the job?

The £1.5 millions compensation to be paid out soon to investors in failed “Alternate Insurance Services Ltd” because of the inadequacies of the JFSC in 2006 is likely to be seen as small beer in the years ahead.
Perhaps we should all contact our so called “elected representatives” just as soon as the liberation flag-waving stops?

Submitted by Thomas Wellard.

Monday, 4 May 2009

JERSEY’s own MEP in a Liberated Europe

Glynn Ford MEP is just one of the seven South West of England and Gibraltar MEPs.
There are 3 Conservatives, 1 Liberal, 2 UKIP and Labour Party man Ford who are all elected as members of the “Gibraltar Group” to represent the 28,000 residents of the “Rock” at Strasbourg and Brussels. The South West constituency runs from Gloucestershire to Cornwall and the Scillies and Gibraltar.

This year the EU Elections take place on June 4th and in accordance with further enlargement under the Lisbon Treaty when Bulgaria and Romania become members, the South West and Gibraltar group will be reduced to 6 MEPs although the UK overall will gain another seat.

Glynn Ford says that Gibraltar residents should elect their very own MEP - which seems an unlikely proposal with such a small population - but they could certainly give it a try.
By way of comparison, Luxembourg, population 480,000 elects 6 MEPs (about 80,000 people for each).

Jersey, with a population of 90,000 and Guernsey and the Isle of Man with about 70,000 each would seem to be just the right sort of size to be brought within the EU electoral system and it would be logical for Gibraltar to join in with such a grouping because of so many shared interests. Say 3 MEPs for the Channel Islands, the IOM and the Rock?

Electioneering has now commenced in Gibraltar and all the UK parties are sending over top brass to meet with the resident population and soliciting votes – besides learning about local problems and peculiarities.

Of course, the people of Jersey can struggle on with the ever deteriorating system of government with its lack of competence and pretence to be an “international” player. But, the reality is that Jersey just simply does not produce enough political talent to be an independent territory or to be able to support the necessary self governing administration in a rapidly changing world.

For the people of Jersey the post-war party is, in any case, nearly over. Liberation Day on May 9th is a marker for the passing of opportunities. The rest of Europe is slowly throwing off the various burdens of the 2nd World War and economic cooperation will be a guiding principal in the future reconstruction. Tax Havens must die just as surely as war veterans and their nostalgic memories and antagonisms.

So, why not scrap the men in their funny colonial hats and put their Governors’ premises, resources and staff to better use in the service of islanders and make Liberation Day truly an annual celebration of the break with the inglorious Imperial past?

Submitted by Thomas Wellard.