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Archive for February 20, 2011

American who sparked diplomatic crisis over Lahore shooting was CIA spy.

Raymond Davis employed by CIA ‘beyond shadow of doubt’
• Former soldier charged with murder over deaths of two men
• Davis accused of shooting one man twice in the back as he fled

guardian.co.uk, Sunday 20 February 2011      Declan Walsh in Lahore and Ewen MacAskill in Washington.

Full Article Here:

Raymond Davis, American man charged over Lahore shootings

Pakistani authorities charged Raymond Davis with murder, but the Obama administration has insisted he is an ‘administrative and technical official’ attached to the US consulate in Lahore and is entitled to diplomatic immunity.                            Photograph: Hamza Ahmed/AP

The American who shot dead two men in Lahore, triggering a diplomatic crisis between Pakistan and the US, is a CIA agent who was on assignment at the time.

Raymond Davis has been the subject of widespread speculation since he opened fire with a semi-automatic Glock pistol on the two men who had pulled up in front of his car at a red light on 25 January.

Pakistani authorities charged him with murder, but the Obama administration has insisted he is an “administrative and technical official” attached to its Lahore consulate and has diplomatic immunity.

Based on interviews in the US and Pakistan, the Guardian can confirm that the 36-year-old former special forces soldier is employed by the CIA. “It’s beyond a shadow of a doubt,” said a senior Pakistani intelligence official. The revelation may complicate American efforts to free Davis, who insists he was acting in self-defence against a pair of suspected robbers, who were both carrying guns.

Pakistani prosecutors accuse the spy of excessive force, saying he fired 10 shots and got out of his car to shoot one man twice in the back as he fled. The man’s body was found 30 feet from his motorbike.

Categories: News of the moment

UK Uncut protesters target Barclays over tax avoidance.

Direct action highlights Barclays’ failure to pay more than 1% corporation tax in 2009.

guardian.co.uk, Saturday 19 February 2011 Article Here:

Protesters have targeted more than 35 branches of Barclays bank, with pickets, poetry readings and even colouring competitions, in another of a series of days of direct action organised by the UK Uncut group.

They were highlighting Barclays’ admission that it paid just £113m in UK corporation tax in 2009 – a year when it rang up a record £11.6bn in profits.

Several branches were closed to the public as protesters staged peaceful sit-ins, impromptu reading groups and creches in dozens of cities and towns across Britain, including Edinburgh, Birmingham, Liverpool and Lewes.

At Tottenham Court Road, one of eight branches of Barclays in London to be targeted, some 40 to 50 people heard comedian Josie Lawrence pledge her support, before a group of people held a two-hour sit-in in the bank.

Supporters of UK Uncut said the plan was not to shut the banks down but to “open them up”, occupy them and transform them into “something people need but will be cut”.

Ruth Griffiths, 36, a UK Uncut supporter, said: “Today we are transforming the banks into schools, leisure centres, and libraries and forests, because it’s society that’s too big to fail, not a broken banking system.”

The group staged “debate” points outside several of the branches and invited passersby to discuss the cuts and the banks. Most of the gathered volunteers said people were angry at Barclays’ chief executive, Bob Diamond, saying publicly that the time for banks to apologise was over.

Barclays has been accused of occupying a “parallel universe” following the disclosure that it paid £113m of corporation tax on its £11.6bn of annual profits – a rate amounting to just 1%. The bank revealed the figure in response to questions posed at a parliamentary select committee by Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who described its low level as “quite staggering”.

It was a view shared by UK Uncut supporters at the branch protests. One said: “We are here because we are tired of companies ripping off the public and using economies of scale and clever accounting laws to get away with not paying taxes.

“We are tired of us paying into the public sector and seeing our public sector decimated while corporations are effectively getting away with theft. It’s legal but immoral.”

Emma Draper, 25, who was outside Piccadilly Circus Barclays, said: “The government is allowing banks such as Barclays to get away with not paying huge percentages of their taxes while at the same time slashing public services.

“The cuts are not necessary, they are a political choice because the government chooses to continue to prop up banks such as Barclays instead of funding public services.”

Explaining the figures, Barclays said it had operations in more than 50 countries and that it had used legitimate tactics to “carry over” losses made at the height of the financial crisis and to offset these deficits against its 2010 tax burden. Its total bill to the UK taxman was £2m – but most of this comprised payroll tax on employees’ wages.

“The corporate tax affairs of an organisation with the global footprint of Barclays are complex, and not reducible to simplistic comparisons,” said a Barclays spokesman.

But Umunna, who sits on the Treasury select committee, said the figure was totally inadequate: “We need to ensure the banks make a fairer contribution to reducing the deficit that they helped to create.”

Campaigners have contrasted Barclays, which paid out £2.5bn in salaries and bonuses last year, to the austerity squeezing the broader population. Max Lawson, a spokesman for the Robin Hood Tax Campaign, said: “This is proof that banks live in a parallel universe to the rest of us – paying billions in bonuses and unhampered by the inconvenience of paying tax.”

Barclays bank forced to admit it paid just £113m in corporation tax in 2009.   

guardian.co.uk, Friday 18 February 2011 Jill Treanor

Admission stuns politicians and tax campaigners on the eve of a day of protests planned against high street banks

Article Here:

Barclays Bank has been forced to admit it paid just £113m in UK corporation tax in 2009 – a year when it rang up a record £11.6bn of profits.

The admission stunned politicians and tax campaigners. It was revealed on the eve of a day of protests planned against the high street banks by activists from UK Uncut, a group set up five months ago to oppose government cuts and corporate tax avoidance.

The Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who lobbied Barclays’ chief executive, Bob Diamond, to reveal the tax paid by the bank, described the figure – just 1% of its 2009 profits – as “shocking”.

The current rate of corporation tax in the UK is 28%, although global banks such as Barclays – which has hundreds of overseas subsidiaries, including many in tax havens – do not generate all of their profits in their domestic market.

Max Lawson, of the Robin Hood Tax Campaign, said: “This is proof that banks live in a parallel universe to the rest of us, paying billions in bonuses and unhampered by the inconvenience of paying tax.

“If banks paid their fair share we could avoid the worst of the cuts and help those hit hardest by the financial crisis they did nothing to cause.”

How the Guardian was gagged from revealing Barclays tax secrets

Bank giant failed to suppress details of its allegedly massive tax avoidance schemes

guardian.co.uk, Friday 18 February 2011  Rob Evans

Article Here:

An attempt by Barclays to suppress details of its allegedly massive tax avoidance schemes two years ago ended in farce. The high street bank went to court in the middle of the night to gag the Guardian but was outmanoeuvred by free-spirited souls on the internet.

It showed the legal system struggling to keep documents secret even after they were freely available on the web.

The story emerged in March 2009 when a whistleblower leaked internal Barclays memos to the Liberal Democrat MP Vince Cable.

The memos – passed on to the newspaper – described how a 2007 scheme called Project Knight proposed to save tax by manipulating loans totalling more than $16bn (£9.8bn), through a web of firms in the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg and the United States.

The memos also quoted advice from lawyers on how to blunt any challenges from HM Revenue & Customs. The whistleblower alleged: “It is a commonly held view that no agency in the US or the UK has the resources or the commitment to challenge [Barclays].”

Freshfields, Barclays’ lawyers, toiled into the night to compel the Guardian to remove the documents from the website. Geraldine Proudler, a solicitor acting for the Guardian, was woken by a high court judge telephoning at 2am and asked to justify their publication. At 2.31am, Mr Justice Ouseley, over the phone, ordered that the documents be removed from the website, by which time 127 people had read them.

Later that day, Barclays went to court to argue that the documents should be permanently removed, accusing the Guardian of “vigilante journalism” by publishing the documents to “the entire country” rather than merely to regulators.

The Guardian documents disclosed seven tax avoidance schemes operated by Barclays. Many of them were devised by structured capital markets boss Michael Keeley. They involved more than £20bn of loans typically shuttled between entities in Luxembourg and the Caymans, designed to generate hundreds of millions of pounds of tax reliefs, the proceeds frequently shared with US banks..

Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian’s editor, told the court that the documents “revealed at first hand the processes involved in structuring extremely complex and artificial tax avoidance vehicles; how lawyers and accountants worked together to exploit loopholes in government legislation; and the degree to which they are sanctioned at the highest levels within Barclays”.

At the end of a two-day hearing, Mr Justice Blake ruled that the ban remain, even though the memos were circulating around the web. Anyone could find them within minutes on sites such as WikiLeaks, but he did not accept that all confidentiality had been destroyed.

He also believed that the Guardian was not justified under the Human Rights Act in publishing the unexpurgated documents containing legal advice and other confidential matters.

He specifically ordered the Guardian and other media not to “incite” or even “encourage” their readers to go to other websites to view the documents. Out on the internet, however, members of the public were busy discussing and copying the documents for themselves.

This absurdity was ridiculed a week later by a peer, Matthew Oakeshott, who was then Lib Dem Treasury spokesman. He used parliamentary privilege to tell the public what newspapers could not, when he outlined the case to his fellow peers in the Lords.

It left the Guardian able to report that Oakeshott was advising the public where to find the documents, but still complying with the judge’s instruction to prevent the electronic whereabouts of the Barclays documents becoming widely known.

Categories: News of the moment
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