Investigation into new gobal law enforcement group
Sponsored by a tobacco company and packed with the cream of western law enforcement agencies and corporations. Jim Carey investigates the first meeting of a formidable new organisation aiming to increase corporate involvement in international law and order.
Endorsed by a Labour prime minister, chaired by an ex-Lib Dem leader, and sponsored by a corporation whose deputy chairman is a leading Tory MP. The first meeting of the Global Forum for Law Enforcement and National Security was undoubtedly a complicit affair. For a gold ticket price of £2,743.62 per head, a formidable array of western intelligence and law enforcement agencies, government departments, private detectives and corporate security personnel, consummated a powerful new cabal in Edinburgh at the end of June. Mingling for a string of dinners, lectures, meetings and quiet words around the grounds were senior officials from the likes of the FBI, Interpol, NATO, National Criminal Intelligence Service, Shell, BP Amoco, Serco and Lockheed Martin.
The Global Forum for Law Enforcement and National Security (LENS) was launched under the presidency of Mikhail Gorbachev in October 2000. Its self-stated purpose is to bring "influential leaders, senior officials, business executives and acclaimed academics" together "to forge a way ahead - an agenda for action - on the difficult issues affecting law enforcement and national security in the 21st century".
The potent mix of big business and government agencies coalescing for the four day LENS Global Forum in June received little media coverage but their agenda was of massive global importance.
If any SQUALL readers were puzzled to read Sir Paddy Ashdown's recent public endorsements of the 'son of star wars' US National Missile Defence System (NMD) they will not be surprised to learn Ashdown's new found zealotry coincides with his appointment as Chairman of the LENS Global Forum. Having opposed the Star Wars' plan when Ronald Reagan first championed the scheme, Ashdown is now a full advocate. He was no doubt thanked by the Lockheed Martin executives who attended the Edinburgh conference.
Lockheed Martin are the US based aeronautics and missile corporation which built and help maintain the UK's Trident nuclear missile collection. Their Missiles and Space (LMMS) subsidiary will be one of the major beneficiaries should George W Bush ride roughshod over international concern and press ahead with NMD. Lockheed have been sub-contracted to produce several key elements of NMD by the project's principal contractor, Boeing. As the headline in the LMMS magazine, New Horizons, trumpets: "NMD business poised for growth".
THE LENS GLOBAL FORUM PROVIDED AMPLE EVIDENCE TO INFLAME CONCERNS, NOT LEAST IN ITS INTIMATE ASSOCIATION WITH THE WORLD'S SECOND LARGEST TOBACCO CORPORATION.
Interviewed just after the press launch of the LENS Global Forum, Sir Paddy Ashdown (soon to be appointed to the House of Lords) was revealing about the inclusion of corporations in the formulation of future security strategies: "We have to start thinking quite radically. In the past you've ensured security through the institutions of the nation state but if power has migrated beyond the nation state....we have to think about new ways of doing that."
In his pre-conference statement to prospective delegates, Ashdown confirmed: "We must also strive to bring public and private institutions together to help in generating ideas and providing solutions to the many security challenges we face internationally."
A letter of endorsement to the Global Forum from Tony Blair was also unequivocal in its support for increased corporate involvement in security strategies: "We are facing new and growing threats which are challenging not only our national ways of life but also the greater international order.....Creating strategies requires not only international and inter-agency collaboration but also greater public-private co-operation."
The political accountability of such corporate involvement in international law and order is one of the key concerns shadowing such big business/government cabals. The LENS Global Forum conference in Edinburgh provided ample evidence to inflame such concerns, not least in its intimate association with the world's second largest tobacco corporation.
"TRUST KEN TO BE FLOGGING CIGARETTES TO THE THIRD WORLD DURING THE QUEEN'S SPEECH." - TORY MP Ian Bogle, chairman of the British Medical Association, described himself as "shocked and dismayed" when Tony Blair decided to drop the Tobacco Advertising and Sponsorship Bill from the recent Queen's speech. What expletives might we then find to describe the full endorsement and participation of the UK government in a conference heavily sponsored by British American Tobacco?
In return for their undisclosed financial sponsorship of the LENS Global Forum, British American Tobacco secured its logo on all Forum literature. They also purchased the right to address the reception party, occupy a booth in the reception hall and facilitate a closed session in a private room during the conference period.
Furthermore, BAT's legal director, Neil Withington, was invited to lecture the conference alongside the likes of Lord Robertson, director general of NATO, and Judge William Webster, former director of both the FBI and the CIA.
Stretching credulity still further, BAT's Head of Security, David Burrill, was also one of a ten man LENS advisory board responsible for steering the forum's agenda. Among his colleagues on the board were John Abbott, director general of the UK's National Criminal Intelligence Service, and Raymond Kendall, Secretary General of Interpol. No doubt British American Tobacco officials were present in a meeting entitled: 'Smuggling - The Contraband Issue' which took place on the first day of the conference On October 30 last year, BAT's offices in London were raided by Department of Trade and Industry officers following a House of Commons Select Committee recommendation that the corporation should be investigated for possible involvement in tobacco smuggling.
A mass of documents, archived at BAT's depository in Surrey and finally disclosed during tobacco court actions in the US, provided evidence to suggest the corporation may have been actively involved in smuggling their own-brand cigarettes. There are several outstanding court cases over BAT's involvement in smuggling in the US and Latin America. In Europe, evidence suggests cigarette smuggling was carried out as a strategic effort to force European governments to temper cigarette tax. Tobacco corporations constantly argue that high taxes provide incentives to smuggling and therefore should not be levied. The premise being that the more smuggling takes place the greater the revenue loss to government and so the greater the force of the tobacco corporation's argument.
The other reason for corporate involvement in smuggling suggested by the disclosed documents, is as a strategy to project certain brands into world markets which are commercially closed to the tobacco companies.
Vietnam is just such a market having banned the import of foreign cigarettes into their country in order to maximise sales of their own home-made brands.
As Deputy Chairman and director of British American Tobacco, Tory MP Kenneth Clarke was initially unavailable to comment on either this year's Queen's speech, or on the Conservative Party leadership race. He was in fact in Vietnam lending his weight to efforts to get the Vietnamese government to allow BAT to open a $40 million cigarette-making factory in the country. "Trust Ken to be flogging cigarettes to the third world during the queen's speech," one anonymous Tory source was quoted at the time.
Initially Clarke denied that his corporation had any involvement in smuggling, telling a House of Commons Select Committee in Feb 2000: "There is no evidence I have ever seen that BAT is a participant in this smuggling. We seek to minimise it and avoid it."
But a carefully worded acknowledgement was hinted by Clarke when he was challenged with material disclosed in BAT documents. Once again blaming high tobacco taxes for the proliferation of tobacco smuggling, he said: "Where governments are not prepared to address the underlying causes of the problem...we act, completely within the law, on the basis that our brands will be available alongside those of our competitors in the smuggled as well as the legitimate market." Indeed, the most prevalently smuggled cigarettes into Vietnam are BAT's State Express 555 brand.
"IN MY VIEW THE TOBACCO COMPANIES WERE CLEARLY PUTTING THEIR COMMERCIAL INTEREST ABOVE WHATEVER MORAL DUTY THEY HAVE TO OUR SOCIETY."
- CHINESE JUDGE
One of the extraordinarily audacious facets to the LENS Global Forum was the duplicitous involvement of the UK government in a conference so heavily associated with BAT at a time when the corporation is still supposedly under investigation for fraud. The list of government departments participating in the conference included the Home Office, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, and the Ministry of Defence.
Martin Broughton, BAT's chairman already sits on the Financial Reporting Council, a treasury committee designed to foster good accountancy and financial reporting practices in business. And, although currently stood down whilst the DTI investigation is completed, Broughton is also chairman of the UK-China Forum, a government backed trade-fostering committee.
Remarkably Broughton's position on the UK-China Forum was unaffected when BAT's Export Director for Hong Kong, Jerry Lui was convicted in June 1998 for his involvement in cigarette smuggling into China. The smuggling operation involved association with criminal gangs including the triads.
BAT claim Lui was just a rogue operator but the judge in the case, Mr Justice Wally Yeung Chun-Keung was overt in his summing up: "The evidence seems to suggest that at all material times BAT was in fact aware that this large quantity of cigarettes, worth billions and billions of dollars, would ultimately end up, through smuggling, in the China market.....In my view the tobacco companies were clearly putting their commercial interest above whatever moral duty they have to our society."
Further doubt on the likely vigour of the Department of Trade and Industry's investigation into BAT is cast by the DTI's own relationship with the corporation.
The DTI proved themselves willing global tobacconists to the developing world when Competition and Consumer Affairs Minister, Dr Kim Howells led a trade delegation, including BAT executives to Bangladesh in late 1998. Furthermore Patricia Hewitt's pronounced intention to bring in more "private sector expertise" in her new position Secretary of State at the DTI, has led to the secondment of BAT official, Mark Jennings, into the DTI team. Jennings now advises the DTI's Trade Partnership department on UK trade links to Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey. Is it just co-incidence that BAT subsequently announced its first incursion into the massively lucrative Turkish cigarette market at the end of June?
"CHANGES IN SOCIETAL GROUPS AND SOCIAL INTERACTIONS BASED ON POPULARISMS RATHER THAN ESTABLISHED POLITICS WILL BE CONSIDERED IN TERMS OF THREATS TO ORDER AND STABILITY."
- LENS FORUM LITERATURE
The mesh of connections present at the LENS Global Forum even extends to the organisers of the event. Spearhead PGI are the same company responsible for presenting the massive Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi) arms trade show in London this September. A Spearhead-organised DSEi arms fair, held at Chertsey in Surrey in 1999, caused controversy when Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) exposed the sale of anti-personnel mines at the fair in direct contravention of the UK's Land Mines Act. As a result of CAAT's exposures, HM Customs and Excise claim to have carried out an investigation into the Romanian state-owned mine manufacturer RomTechnica who advertised the mines. However, without explanation, no further action was taken. No doubt the Romanian Ministry of Defence and HM Customs and Excise officials reminisced on the subject in Edinburgh. Both attended the LENS Global Forum Conference.
September's DSEi arms fair at London Docklands, will be attracting a significant number of anti-arms trade campaigners in an action planned for several months. No doubt Spearhead's managing director, Susan Crouch - already flushed after receiving an MBE from Tony Blair for "services to export" in the recent Queen's birthday honour's list - will be heartened yet further by the fact that dealing with political activists was also a well discussed issue on the LENS Global Forum agenda. In a series of meetings termed 'Dangers and Drivers', the LENS forum asserted that "Changes in societal groups and social interactions based on popularisms rather than established politics will be considered in terms of threats to order and stability."
With full endorsement from government and big business, the LENS Global Forum meeting in June gave a unique and disturbing insight into the mainstream agenda for global policing: full scale corporate involvement in international security strategies, and an audacious disregard for the nature and indiscretions of the corporations involved. As for those who conscientiously object to this agenda, they will be "considered in terms of threats to order and stability" and, no doubt, be treated as such.