Saturday, 29 May 2010

Is WOOLworths being pulled over our eyes?

When Woolworths PLC UK went bust around Xmas 2008 all the 800 stores throughout the British Isles (England, Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and the IOM) soon closed their doors and many thousands of staff became instantly unemployed. Thousands of businesses and all the relevant governments too became creditors.

Strangely, now that the dust of the initial shock of losing an old retailing friend has settled – we hear very little about what has happened since.

Is it all sorted? Is everybody now happy? Was anybody hurt in the collapse? What happened next?

In Jersey there was an initial fuss about the employees and the States were persuaded to pick up the financial tab for locals who might lose out because of the lack of a proper statutory redundancy scheme.
What of other local creditors (e.g. Jersey Income Tax for 2008 £315,000, GST £34,000, Treasury & Resources £123,000, Social Security £23,000 plus many private businesses, lawyers fees etc and the mysterious GMAC £160,218,543.12 – yes 160 millions)?

Eventually (in December 2009), proposals for an Insolvency Payments Scheme were published and legislation will belatedly be put in place. The Isle of Man had already adopted a scheme based upon a previous Jersey proposal, so employees in that island had some compensation underwritten by the Manx government. In Guernsey on the other hand, there was no such scheme and no fuss. Employees in that island seem to have just walked quietly away from any rights or monies that might have been claimed.

Of course, in all the islands there was virtually no Trades Union interest because there were hardly any members of unions employed. The position was different in the UK and battles continue there.

So what happened to islands’ creditors and any assets of the business arising “off shore”? To whom do the assets belong?

We at the Voice have been trying to focus attention on these matters from the very beginning around Xmas 2008 but the fog of obscurity has not lifted and we have pleaded with our “elected representatives” to investigate with very little result.

On 8 September 2009 Deputy Tadier asked the most relevant Minister, “Squeaky Clean” Maclean ;

“Can the Minister confirm if the administration of Woolworths Jersey is yet completed, whether there is likely to be any cost to the Jersey taxpayer arising from this, if the entire residue of local assets has or will be returned to the UK for distribution to creditors and whether he is satisfied that Jersey creditors are not receiving any unfair advantage over those in the UK?”

The answer was waffle, waffle, waffle - as we expect from Senator Maclean - but behind the question is a very big and potentially costly concern because financial assets of hundreds of £millions were registered with the Jersey Viscount for the winding-up process and there is some very fishy business going on here.

The deal that was cooked up by our “elected representatives” to pacify the former Woolworths employees and the public clamour might have seemed very desirable and necessary at the time.
But, Deloittes, the UK appointed Administrators were only dragged reluctantly into the Jersey Royal Court to apply for local authority to act, after we at the Voice complained.
We thought that Jersey had its own set of laws and constitution and that they are supposed to be the very basis of the whole Finance Industry and our unique way of life……..

At that Court hearing Senator Maclean was appointed as the elected Jersey public part of a tripartite arrangement intended to protect the interests of all those involved. The other two are The Jersey Viscount and Deloittes.

Of course, in Jersey, we are all now interested parties since our government undertook to interfere in the process and to underwrite the employee’s financial interests. We are all financially liable if the underwriting deal goes pear-shaped like the financing of an incinerator or the suspension of a senior consultant.

Unfortunately, neither the Viscount nor Deloittes are answerable to the public of Jersey like Maclean is supposed to be. But all three are answerable to the Royal Court and they are supposed to report back there with details of any deals that are cooked-up. Why is it taking so long?

In the meantime we really should be concerned about this matter because it is liable to become a major scandal.

We asked Deputy Higgins to initiate a Scrutiny Panel into the whole sorry business and he seemed keen at first but after a chat with the Viscount appears to have been persuaded otherwise.

We have undertaken extensive research and published many blogs on this subject but it is just like punching into thin air. Nobody wants to respond with answers.

From our enquiries, the money trail leads to Madoff and Merkin the multi-billion fraudsters now locked away for ever in the USA, the more or less busted General Motors Corp and the Barclay Brothers of Sark fame and their “Shop Direct” retailing business.

WE cannot believe that a business like Woolworths UK did not take full advantage of its presence in Finance Centres such as Jersey, Guernsey and the IOM to mitigate all liabilities and obligations throughout its British and world-wide operations. Our previous postings can be found on;
voiceforchildren Here and here and voiceforjersey here and here also on voiceforprotest here and here

We urge you to refresh your mind by reading these now. This matter has very profound implications for business relationships between Jersey and other jurisdictions and many other concerns too. You will not read about it in the JEP or on Channel TV.

Submitted by Thomas Wellard.

1 comment:

Ian Evans said...

Hi Tom

Really enjoyed the interview with Maurice mate.