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Does transparency kill 99% of despots?

Robert Peston | 16:10 UK time, Sunday, 20 March 2011

There is an argument that is fashionable among the class of do-gooding plutocrats - the George Soroses, Mo Ibrahims and Bonos - that the developed world might not have to be bombing Libya, if only a brighter light had been shone on payments made by multinationals to despotic regimes, and if banks had been less enthusiastic to open offshore personal bank accounts for the relevant despots.

And today there is this statement from one of the campaigning groups in this area, Global Witness:

"The governments that have frozen funds controlled by Gaddafi, Mubarak, Ben Ali and their cronies should name the banks holding their assets...Those banks holding dirty money should be publicly named and then regulators need to devise a new system which stops banks from taking suspect funds in the first place."

Before assessing whether transparency and the bright sunlight of publicity would in fact kill 99% of all known despots, let's see what kind of cash flow we're talking about in the case of Tyranny Incorporated.

For Libya, I am told by a government source that Britain has frozen £12bn associated with the Gaddafi regime. Now the vast bulk of this takes the form of assets controlled by the Libyan Investment Authority and the Central Bank of Libya - or institutions which are perceived to be controlled by Muammar Gaddafi and his family.

The amount of money identified and frozen in bank accounts belonging to named individuals - accounts with titles such as "Mr M Gaddafi" - is relatively small, I am informed. Millions of pounds, rather then tens of millions of pounds.

The point about drawing this distinction between personal bank accounts and the assets of the Libyan central bank, for example, is that it would have been quite hard for a big international bank to tell almost any central bank to take its lucre elsewhere, especially when the previous British government invested a lot of time and effort cosying up to Mr Gaddafi.

But that doesn't mean to say banks should ever have felt comfortable taking substantial personal deposits from Gaddafi or those linked to him.

At a time when money laundering rules make it an administrative nightmare for the likes of you and me to open a bank account that contains even a few bob - and only investment bankers can transfer a few million into their accounts without anyone wondering whether that's a bit fishy - questions are legitimately asked about why household-name western banks should feel comfortable allowing tyrants and their associates to open accounts holding a few million squids.

And if I doubted that this was an issue about which the banks feel a bit vulnerable, those doubts were dispelled when I asked the chairman of a bank what checks were in place to prevent his organisation servicing evil dictators who expropriate their people's money and then re-invest the wonga in Hampstead and Kensington mansions.

It was the colour he turned (a bit redder) and the pause before he answered that gave some of the game away - as did his admission that the bank did what it could not to aid and abet political wrong 'uns, but it was tough

Even so, there is some evidence that British banks (though who knows about others) have been complicit in petty theft rather than grand larceny from the Libyan state.

Here's the main question. If the Libyan people knew what kind of money went into Libyan state coffers from overseas multinationals, and if they could see precisely how much left the country, would they have turfed out the Gaddafi dynasty by now and installed a proper democratic parliamentary system?

If Facebook and Twitter could shout out how much multinational oil companies such as Shell and BP were paying pay the Gaddafi regime for exploration and development rights, would every son and daughter of Libya make jolly certain those funds were being used for their benefit and were not being sequestered by an unelected, unaccountable elite?

Well we should have a real life test before too long. In the US, the Dodd Frank Act will from April force all "extractive" companies - oil, gas and mineral businesses - with a US stock-market listing to reveal precisely what they pay governments for mining and extraction rights. And here in the European Union, there is a good chance that a new directive will impose the same disclosure obligations on their European peers (it has the backing of George Osborne, the British chancellor, among others).

Some mining and oil companies don't like it. For example the chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, Peter Voser, recently complained that the Dodd Frank provision "may even require companies to violate sovereign laws to disclose information that the laws do not allow."

Multinationals' main concern however will be the absence of a level playing field: a Russian or Kazakhstan miner not feel quite the same moral obligation to disclose its financial relationship with a smelly regime as a western company may.

There is also a point to be made about why the disclosures should apply only to extractive industries. Governments award all sorts of valuable licences. So when Vodafone or Telefonica obtain a licence to provide mobile services in country with a dodgy record on human rights (for example), why shouldn't the licence agreement in that case be a public document?

Also, if the argument runs that democracy is more likely to flourish in the Middle East and Africa if the peoples of those regions can see how their mineral wealth is being exploited, why hasn't the US Congress voted to disclose any financial agreement between a multinational - a pharmaceutical company, a bank, a computer manufacturer - and the one-party Chinese state? Why would the establishment of democracy be more important in Africa than in China?

You can even make the case that to guard against the propensity of any British government to waste taxpayers' money or reward friends, you would probably want every page of every outsourcing or PFI contract published on the internet.

Here's the thing. There is almost always a public interest in publishing commercial agreements with governments wherever they sit on the spectrum from parliamentary elective democracy to corrupt military junta. But against that public interest comes the national economic interest, which - whether we like it or not - is occasionally served by allowing businesses to operate under a dank fog of partial disclosure.


  • Comment number 1.

    I don't have an example of a transparent despotic regime with which to compare.

  • Comment number 2.

    "But against that public interest comes the national economic interest, which - whether we like it or not - is occasionally served by allowing businesses to operate under a dank fog of partial disclosure."


    Of course. But that is precisely what moral action consists in: sacrificing one's own interest in order to do what's right.

    This applies to a country just as it does to a private individual.

    Yes, disclosures should indeed apply to all industries, not just mining. And yes, the very stringent money-laundering legislation which I have to abide by when operating in the UK should also apply to investment bankers.

  • Comment number 3.

    There is an argument that's fashionable among the class of do-gooding plutocrats - the George Soroses, Mo Ibrahims and Bonos - that the developed world might not have to be bombing Libya, if only a brighter light had been shone on payments made by multinationals to despotic regimes and if banks had been less enthusiastic to open offshore personal bank accounts for the relevant despots.


    'Do gooding Plutocrats'?

    With more transparency on SOFOMT's (some other form of money traders) ... around the time of 'Black Wednesday' ... we might have been able to see where Soross got all that money from to attack the British Pound!

    Some of these SOFOMT's (some other form of money traders) include the likes of Soros and the Gaddafis ... as part of our new internationalised but 'finger in the pie' distant British establishment.

    Our UK establishment has changed in recent years and needs a great deal of transparency to highlight the over-privileged who are improperly leveraging and having access to our tax payer 'bank/SOFOMT' rolled/under-written 'UK private capital'.

    Our UK establishment is now a bunch of no good, non transparent SOFOMT's ... but who are they all and where are they all?

    There is too little transparency, for sure.

  • Comment number 4.

    Who is to say the "Rebels" will be any better . History is littered with such assumptions.

    We should keep out of internal politics , forced regime change is not the answer

  • Comment number 5.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 6.

    Now it makes more sense, get the retaliation in first before BP's involvement in supporting the current Libyan regime comes out - nice one Dave!

    (perhaps Mr Cameron is not so wet behind the ears)

  • Comment number 7.

    So to summarise we have a choice to do the right thing or to make money...

    Hence the expression morally bankrupt I suppose.

  • Comment number 8.

    Few thoughts...

    Is this a precursor to Robert revealing his salary?

    Wikileaks is good. Discuss.

    It's a simple matter of weighing up the odds; on the one hand the benefit/revenue from profits made from any illicit activity versus the risk/cost/implications of being found out. If you think you'll get away with it, you do it. If you know you can't get away with it, you may consider having a go at legitimising/justifying it. If that's not possible then, yes, transparency will put a stop to the despots.

    Anyway, back to business - hands up who loves Marx.

  • Comment number 9.

    Do I get a prize for pre-empting this on your previous blog Robert?

    "357. At 11:09am on 20th Mar 2011, NorthSeaHalibut wrote:
    As an aside, what happens to the £Billions seized from the Gaddafi regime. UK Bonus surely!"

    I thik the UK/US/France are on fairly dangerous ground here for a few reasons

    . Public appetite for another war
    . Gaddafi wins, could they deal with him for oil
    . Rebels win, could they deal with them for oil
    . How much will the Arab League tolerate from the West, already rumblings I hear
    . Moral right to intervene in Libya but not Zimbabwe, Yemen, Bahrain, Ivory Coast etc.
    . Will other protestors see this as a signal of support in say Syria and Saudi
    . Can the UK/US/France turn a blind eye to deaths in other middle east countries while citing this as a reason for intervention in Libya
    . Will the UK public be allowed uninhibited freedom of speech and expression as the situation here deteriorates
    . Will the banks take a pounding from their rapidly crumbling African and Middle Eastern assets.

    Lets be honest we all know why this is happening, otherwise why would France be involved.

    Finally, Michael Ruppert and Gerald Celente both predicted these actions several years ago.

  • Comment number 10.

    If we had free market liberty and respect for life and property, globally, the tyrants would have no foothold.

    The only difference between the UK and Libya is that we elect our tyrants.

  • Comment number 11.

    All despotic regimes are advised by the big and not so big investment banks. They advise on how to raise funds and how to improve credit ratings. While ratings agencies may offer a facade of independence, we all understand that they set the political agenda which Investment banks are expected to peddle along with their supposed economic advice. We should look to Milton Friedman’s Chicago Boys club to establish the paradigms which ratings agencies operate in and therewith debunk the myth of independence.

    Ratings agencies are anti big government and welfare. A good example is the downgrading of Egypt in anticipation of higher social spending. In this respect suppression of general affluence and therewith economic freedom, is a fundamental function of Investment banks and ratings agencies.

    The elephant in the room is not the bank administering over investments of despots but those advising them on economic policy.

  • Comment number 12.

    We should be very careful with this man... he spent an hour the other week taLking about the banking system... BUT he did NOT explain that it will destroy the world financial system, IT IS HOW MONEY IS CREATED - HE FAILED

  • Comment number 13.

    The problem is getting all the developed countries, especially one with lots of mountains, cheese and chocolate, to play ball.

  • Comment number 14.

    Will transparency kill 99% of depots

    That depends on your definition of transparency and despot.

    Is the Saudi monarchy a despot or not?

    All mainstream countries have laws relating to money laundering but surely the whole point of a despot (maybe tyrant is a better phrase) is that, at least under the laws of their country what they are doing is entirely legal even if it involves wholesale plundering of countrys cash.

    That being the case then banks have no reason to refuse to accept legal deposits. The only way around this would be to have a list of those despots who are OK and those who are not - but who would maintain that list in a fair and impartial way.

    As for the American Dodd Frank act it is yet another example of American politicians either not having the intelligence or just not caring, that other countries have their own laws and that they may be different to US laws.

  • Comment number 15.

    National economic interest is obviously important at the extreme. But the presumption should be towards democratic interest - this is much more likely, I think, to secure prosperity in the long term. And, of course, it matters quite a bit to those who are subject to despots, and also us UK citizens who want to preserve and extend our rights too.

    Transparency concerning financial arrangements is key to a healthy democracy, and could help individuals abroad hold their own governments/firms to account too.

  • Comment number 16.

    re #9
    And as far as the UK is concerned we may have, effectively, sentenced ourselves to war in another country in the near future. If the desire for free(r) governance spreads to Pakistan and is repressed by military force, it will be virtually impossible now for us to avoid intervention.

    You are right, we are on (very) dangerous ground.

  • Comment number 17.

    I'm shocked.

    What's wrong with asking anyone to account for their actions after the fact?

    What's wrong with forcing banks to declare what dirty money they are holding and then letting us, their other (more important) customers, act as we see fit on this information?

    We really do need much much more disclosure from banks.

    After all it is "our" monetary system (that ultimately "we" are guaranteeing) that they are playing with.

  • Comment number 18.

    Gadaffi is an enigma: banks and other global companies have (since 2003) dealt with him as if he was a corporation in his own right. The 12 billion sized seems on the small side to me by an order of a few magnitudes.

    Military and economic “targets” to him are the same thing; Gadaffi see’s himself as a socialist/nationalist if such a thing exists and is a shrewd politician almost without equal and has financed the PLO and the IRA amongst others, he is also a trained military man, a rare combination today in any field to have survived so long.

    In direct contrast to the above he runs his country ruthlessly with absolute, authoritarian control. But then again so do many other domains on the world map.

    If you’ve got the odd billion going spare would you invest it in a Nigerian Company currently sending out emails to the effect that you’ve just won 50 billion on a lottery? No you’d give it to a US or UK or Swiss bank guaranteeing anonymity…. All the dirty money from the entire planet is there.

    “Shining a light on this” for some banks, could lead to all sorts of liquidity problems.

    Don’t turn over an old oil barrel unless you’re prepared to deal with what crawls out from underneath!

  • Comment number 19.

    Robert, what kind of a poor article is this that you don't mention the Libyan sovereign wealth fund, which is how in fact most of the (billions of) Libyan money is invested in other countries and is effectively controlled by the Gadaffi family?

    e.g. one of the biggest shareholders in Pearson owner of the Financial Times.

    what about Mubaraks and Ben Alis money?

    How come Universities can get hauled over the coals (rightly imo) for dealing with these regimes, when BP no less was doing business with Gadhaffi with the blessing of the UK government and Tony Blair? (we won't mention any ex libyan prisoners relased from Scottish prisons)

    another question while we are on the topic- what incentive have the high street banks got to weed out the hundreds of millions of pounds of drug money being laundered through the system?

    Lot easier for them to make an oridnary client transferring a £100 go though the money laundering hoops than hit the big cartels and oligarchs.

  • Comment number 20.

    and Robert, what about, for instance, the likes of Barclays doing business with countries which are under sanctions i.e breaking the law. Does that count?

    "The bank agreed to pay $298m to US authorities to settle investigations relating to payments that the bank facilitated to countries facing government sanctions, including Cuba, Libya, Iran, Sudan and Burma."

  • Comment number 21.

    The Chairman of a British bank getting embarrassed? come off it. The collective chairman of British Banks to quote Dave "are all in it togther" They don't particularly give a monkeys about where the money comes from as long as there is a percentage profit in it for them. I really will have to pull you up about Osborne supporting any international legally binding document to effectively prevent the wealthy manipulating the market. Osborne may be stupid biut he knows which side his bread is buttered. He needs the cash because besides unemployment rising with the associated costs of unemployment benefits and cashflow going south due to reduced spending, he will need to find the cost of our foray into Libya which does not come cheap. Together with the US we managed to fire 110 very expensive missiles at Libyan installations. The initial capital cost has already been paid, but the longer this military extravagaza goes on, he's going to be faced with the cost of replacement. That is of course, that we still have aircraft or ships left and they haven't been scrapped as part of another crazy scheme of slash and burn.

  • Comment number 22.

    We are not so transparent in the 'democratic west' at times...perhaps most times.

    The rubric to, and substance of your article Mr Peston should be : Do despots kill 99% of transparency !

  • Comment number 23.

    Methinks Mr Pestons wife has eloped with a banker

  • Comment number 24.

    Todays rebel, tomorrows leader.
    This does prove that governments and banks do not really care where trade comes from, even better if they buy arms and ammunition.
    We can all have a moral outlook after the event ..... In recent years look at the Victorians view of the world

  • Comment number 25.

    Flagrant Violations of financial ethics and reality? Get over it.

    Sarah Palin is the oil industries’ new mascot. Banks are next. She is an economic/political buzz saw circumnavigating the globe. She would destabilize the value of a calorie given the chance.

    What I did not know is India held a Dunning-Kruger Effect convention where she was a keynote speaker. I had loftier ideals of the people of India before I heard about this.

    Is England next in the tour? Any chances there are a few invitations for the Royal wedding left over for red-necked Alaskans?

    One thing is for sure and that is the woman will not shut up. The world does not need self assigned policy makers making the rounds. Does any other country have this problem yet? Ann Coulter of FOX has people believing that radiation is good for you. I already tested the question in public.

    Rumor has it (but it is a good one) that the countries in turmoil went over the edge with people running into the streets like their hair was on fire because Kadaffy (as other Arab leaders) was quoting from Palin’s two books and was looking into broadcasting her TeeVee show nonstop. Vive La Résistance!

    Please, please, England, take the high road.

  • Comment number 26.

    Didn't we arm him in the first place. I also have to ask the question. Why have we gone into Libya and not other African countries. I suspect it is about controlling the oil, rather than steeling it.

  • Comment number 27.

    Capitalism: Its all about the money, it doesn't care if it involves working with dictators, it doesn't have morals. Gadaffi was 'allowed' to stay in power because he did deals with big business to give access to oil. Now we have a moral dilemma. What if he stops killing his own people in return for staying in power? Its all going to get very messy and is already hypocritical. Meanwhile elsewhere in the world of capitalism, I see that BT are going to put their charges up by 10%. Its not as if they didn't make a decent profit last year, and as they own the network (dictatorship), other providers will have to swallow the costs or more likely pass it on. Great, fleased once again.

  • Comment number 28.

    Surely it is the job of government to decide who is or is not fit to have a bank account. If banks can pick and choose who their customers are then would that not lead to you whingeing that customers were being unfairly excluded, as many Americans once were. Indeed the US government passed laws that prevented just such discrimination against certain poorer communities wanting bank loans. And look where that got us.

  • Comment number 29.

    It is difficult enough to get public bodies to provide details of contracts payments confined to UK. Commercial in confidence is the standard excuse and on top are the payoffs by public bodies of ex-employees. Transparency starts at home.

  • Comment number 30.


    It is ony a simple calculation for immoral, evil, greedy scumbags who if the rest of us can prove they are doing this will get lynched.

  • Comment number 31.

    Yet again we find that what is ethical or moral comes second best to what makes money.

    You are right to contrast the troubles caused to British citizens who want to open accounts with those who wish to launder money. Who ever really thought that asking for a passport would stop the real criminals? It is another example of bureaucracy taking the role of common sense and is mirrored in the way that the FSA destroyed the sector of independent advisers by adding and adding layer after layer of bureaucracy and at the same time absolving themselves of the need to really think about what was happening to the bigger financial world. Regulate the small man out of business while the big business makes more money.

    What we see time and time again is the use of paper instead of grey matter. And another convenient thing, paper doesn't have a conscience.

  • Comment number 32.

    Is this dummy, Credit Control Account where the investors' are all seeking a High Court Injunction for Rights of Entry over a factious and disputed market territory?

  • Comment number 33.

    If we don't know which of our loathsome bankers has been assisting those despots, then we only assume that the general banking industry is rotten to the core. Which is not exactly a surprise, is it?

    Look, if you have a barrel of rotten apples, you pitch them over the side. And that's exactly what is to be done to the greedy bankers who got us in this mess in the first place.

    Over the side with them, and no regrets - good riddance to bad rubbish, as we say up here.

  • Comment number 34.

    Perhaps Mr Gaddafi would respond, what’s the difference between me and you M.P.’s expenses scandal?

    He may also remind us of:

    1997 Bernie Ecclestone million pound donation. F1 sponsored by tobacco manufacturers.
    1998 Peter Mandelson, resigns after failing to disclose £373,000 loan.
    2000 David Blunkett fails to declare income from rent on his Wimbledon home
    2000 John Prescott fails to disclose benefit of Union owned flat
    2000 Gordon Brown faces Inquiry over flat purchased from Maxwell ruins
    2001 Henry McLeish (Labour) failed to refund income received from constituency office 2001 Hindujahs receive passports after Labour donation
    2001 Buyer of Millennium Dome Robert Bourne accused over donation to Labour
    2001 Keith Vaz, Peter Mandelson and the Hinduja brothers.
    2002 44 constituency Labour parties in Scotland fail to register re: donations from unions. Failure to do so is a criminal offence
    2002 Labour MP Alan Meale in trouble over deportation case linked to donation
    2002 Labour accuse Paddington crash victim Pam Warren of being a Tory stooge
    2002 Stephen Byers resigns from government after various scandals
    2002 Jo Moore resigns over ‘burying bad news’ email
    2002 Labour spin doctors trash reputation of Rose Addis
    2002 Enron accused of buying access to Labour after donation
    2003 Margaret Hodge forced to resign over libelling Demetrious Panton
    2003 The apparent suicide of Dr David Kelly and the "sexed up" "September Dossier",
    2004 Revealed that 70% of Scottish quango appointees have links to the Labour party
    2004 Willie Haughey, who has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Labour party, appointed to the post of chairman of Scottish Enterprise Glasgow.
    2004 Lord Drayson’s company wins non competitive tender contract after £50,000 donation to Labour
    2005 Blunkett resigns over links to DNA firm
    2005 Stephen Byers apologies for lieing over Railtrack
    2005 Labour MSP Ken MacIntosh resigns over non declaration of financial interests
    2005 Birmingham Labour Party accused over post voting irregularities
    2005 Revealed that Jack McConnell met with Labour donor Willie Haughey to discuss compensation on a land deal where the M74 would pass through Haughey's property. Initial compensation of £7.4 million rose to £16.5 million
    2006 Tessa Jowell, Labour cabinet minister, embroiled in a scandal about a property remortgage allegedly arranged to enable her husband to realise £350,000 from an off-shore hedge fund, money he allegedly received as a gift following testimony he had provided for Silvio Berlusconi in the 1990s.
    2006 Charles Clarke & the failed deportations
    2006 John Prescott's Affair(s)
    2006 Defeated Labour MP Calum MacDonald gets publicly paid job as Forestry Commissioner
    2006 Prescott pays no Council tax
    2006 Margaret Beckett’s Royal Flights
    2006 Cash for peerages

    And last but by no means least:

    2009 Details of covertly recorded discussions with 4 Labour Party peers in which their ability to influence legislation and the consultancy fees that they charge (including retainer payments of up to £120,000) were published by The Sunday Times.

    2010 Stephen Byers, Geoff Hoon & Patricia Hewitt secretly filmed offering to influence
    Government Policy.

  • Comment number 35.

    For those assuming oil is the only issue I would suggest that is too narrow a view.

    With Gadaffi / Libya / North Africa there are other issues...

    1) Gadaffi alleged sponsorship of terrorism, for those of us who grew up seeing on the news the atrocities committed by the IRA, there will be a number of people in the security agencies with long memories who know more about Gadaffis sponsorship.

    2) Lockerbie, linked to the above

    3) The potential for fundamentalisation of North Africa, should there be political instability in the region it is not just the West who have interests. A power vacuum could let in all sorts of different interested parties.

    I personally am immensely uncomfortable with the way that the UK in particular decided to start dealing with Gadaffi again. I bet Tony Blair cringes when he sees the photographs of himself canoodling with Gadaffi.

    In terms of transparency, in this global economy, all that would happen is that money would flow elsewhere or be wrapped up in more layers of camouflage so that people would not be able to see it.

    Should the wealth of countries be more transparent, then would this only cause people within those countries to covet the wealth and this then be the overriding factor for them wanting to control that country rather than political development / or demanding that resources be spent in a responsible way?

    It is easy for us in the West to criticise how others spend / invest, but who is to say that Gadaffi for example has not invested the funds wisely in Libya in schemes to improve the everyday lives of his people? Is the fact that there is money in the bank not a good thing, as unlike the UK for example he has spent within his means rather than going massively into debt?

  • Comment number 36.

    One thing is for sure and that is the woman will not shut up. The world does not need self assigned policy makers making the rounds. Does any other country have this problem yet? Ann Coulter of FOX has people believing that radiation is good for you. I already tested the question in public.
    Well, technically speaking, some (one, more?) people will have tumours that they never knew they had and which may have never caused them a problem, killed off by their exposure to radiation. And perhaps there may be someone who would have had an existing (fatal) tumour diagnosed too late at some point in the future, also killed off by the exposure to radiation, and hence enjoy a longer life before succumbing to something else. But I think most people would prefer a more carefully controlled dose if, and when, required as advised by physicians. Heinz Wolff and others were very interesting on this subject on R4's Broadcasting House, Sunday 9am. Not all News & Contemporary affairs programmes get it wrong although BH cut it far too short.

    But this leads neatly to some unfinished business with Writingsonthewall. He dared to challenge my challenge to the 'majority of scientists thinking on climate change' which he, apparently, accepts completely and without question. {Not very WotW-like, that!}

    I have lurking in the back of my brain the fact that back in the twentieth century (pre-WWII) it was once thought by a majority of scientists that radiation was indeed good for you. This became fashionable. Even to the extent that radio-active material was handed around at radiation parties. They also enjoyed the pretty 'shine in the dark' colours that could be seen. For a year or two that was, until people started to get burns from handling material that was too active and/or for too long. And others started to get sick and die.

    Whereupon there was a bit of a rethink. {To be fair, nuclear science was in its relatively early stages.}

    The 'majority of scientists' then changed their minds.

  • Comment number 37.

    You can even make the case that to guard against the propensity of any British government to waste taxpayers' money or reward friends, you would probably want every page of every outsourcing or PFI contract published on the internet.

    Perhaps that wouldn't be a bad thing........afterall if they have nothing to hide they have nothing to fear.

  • Comment number 38.

    From my understanding, there are numerous rules, laws etc around the handling of money from dubious sources. Thoses dubious sources are defined by the government of the day and are therefore subjecty to change. So to suddenly wonder about what happened in Libya in the past, when it was deemed ok to trade there, is again dubious reporting.

    Likewise, anyone opening a bank account and transferring large amounts of money is subject to the same rules, so the jibe about investment bankers seems like a personal vendetta against them. They can show a clear audit trail as to where the money came from and so the law allows the transfer

    But I acknowledge that it will give a great opportunity for some to come on here and blame it on the banks/big companies again. Ho hum

  • Comment number 39.

    36. Up2snuff wrote:
    "I have lurking in the back of my brain the fact that back in the twentieth century (pre-WWII) it was once thought by a majority of scientists that radiation was indeed good for you."

    I'll never forget the late sixties physics lesson when the radioactive sample was taken from it's secure box and put under the Geiger counter to emit about 1 pulse a second.

    Mr Ritchie asked if anyone had a luminous watch, to which my best friend who I'd sat next to all through my school life responded.

    Said watch was offered up to the Geiger counter and it went off the scale.

    "I hope you don't put that watch under your pillow" was the response from Mr Ritchie.

    Last time I heard the owner was still alive and I think I am...just!


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