ORIGINAL ON REALMEDIA.PRESS

“In my position, as you can imagine, I’ve got a few enemies.” An anonymous tip off has contacted the DWP to suggest that Nicholas Wilson is frauding the benefits office. “They sent a letter calling me in for a compliance interview.”

The irony is that Nicholas Wilson is a whistleblower, who has been trying to expose what would be the largest bank fraud in the history of the UK, totalling over £1bn. This is made up of illegal charges imposed by HFC Bank – previously a subsidiary of HSBC, onto unsuspecting UK customer debts on high street store cards.

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Wilson was head of debt recovery for Weightmans LLP – a national solicitors firm which acted for John Lewis – for over 25 years. However, in 2003 when John Lewis sold their accounts to HFC Bank, Wilson noticed they immediately began adding “collection charges” of 16.4% to customer store cards in arrears. These charges were illegal.

Wilson spoke up, complaining to staff and colleagues and refusing to work on the HFC account. The charges were being applied to customers already in debt and hardship; a fraud by the second biggest bank on the some of the nation’s poorest, and yet for standing against this, Wilson’s boss dubbed him ‘Mr Ethical.’

By 2006, Wilson was finding the toll of his work unbearable and by now the fraud was being carried out on thousands of people. He reported it to the Law Society (Solicitors Regulation Authority) and was immediately sacked by Weightmans.


“I’ve been campaigning ever since. The SRA upheld my complaint, they said it was unlawful but they didn’t take any action and said it only happened in a small number of cases.”

The charges were overseen by 2 solicitor firms – Weightmans and Restons.

“I’ve calculated that in the year of my complaint, 2006, 2 firms between them added£44m of illegal charges in that one year. So, a small number of cases?”

When leaving Weightmans, Wilson helped some customers get their money back, but while the SRA upheld his complaint, he found HFC continued adding the illegal charges to customer cards. He now estimates the fraud to have affected between 500,000 – 600,000 UK customers with charges ranging from £500-£5000.

“The silence of the mainstream media is driving me insane actually. It really is.” Wilson relays the numerous times he has been contacted and worked with news stations, sometimes for months at a time, before the story is pulled at the last minute.

“I get spiked all the time. I get so close and then things are pulled at the last minute… the crux of the problem with me is that if this gets out it will be such a massive scandal. It’s about a billion pound fraud and it involves Dixons, Currys, PC World, B&Q, John Lewis  – all these high street stores, and potentially HSBC could lose it’s licence in America.”

Wilson points to HSBC’s advertising and funding power as a reason for the silence of media.

Earlier this year, veteran journalist Peter Oborne publicly resigned from the Telegraph precisely because the advertising power of the bank was blocking critical reporting about them, particularly during the Swiss tax evasion leaks.

At the BBC, the appointment of Rona Fairhead to the broadcaster’s Trust came as a surprise to even Conservative members in 2014. Fairhead is a Director of HSBC, receiving over £500,000 in annual pay, as well as shares in the bank worth almost the same.

The ‘world’s local bank’ is familiar in government too. In 2010, David Cameron appointed HSBC Executive Chairman Stephen Green to the House of Lords. When news of the Swiss tax evasion leaks came to the fore in 2015, questions arose of Cameron’s knowledge of the scandal. Evidence had been handed to HMRC by French authorities as early as May 2010 – months before Green’s appointment.

Cameron and his colleagues denied knowledge of the scale of the scandal. Meanwhile, Dave Hartnett, Head of Tax at HMRC in 2010, retired two years later and took a role with HSBC on a committee advising the bank on how to ‘maintain the best possible standards’.

2010 was also the the year the Office of Fair Trading gave a new ruling that HFC’s charges on store cards were illegal – finally bringing them to an end, something Cameron would have been made aware of.

The revolving door has been crucial to the continued cover up of these charges. Wilson has taken his complaint to the Financial Conduct Authority who’s Complaints Commissioner Anthony Townsend, was Chief Commissioner of the law society at the time of Wilson’s initial complaint in 2003, where the fraud was downplayed and went on unabated and unpunished.

When Wilson chased the FCA for an answer on the action being taken he received a response which demonstrated the collusion between the regulators and the banks.

Joel Benjamin, a financial researcher,  had attended a HSBC AGM with the intent of following up Wilson’s complaint. After writing to the bank, Benjamin’s response mirrored that of Wilson’s from the FCA:

“The reply [Joel] received from HSBC and the reply I received from the FCA was exactly the same. Two paragraphs, exactly the same wording, exactly the same paragraph, punctuation and everything. So I caught them out. I discovered that they’d colluded.”

The letter revealed that the regulator checked with the bank for the appropriate response rather than investigating and regulating independently. Both were forced to admit the collusion at a grilling by the Public Accounts Committee earlier this year and apologised though no action was sought:

“I’m not interested in an apology. I’m interested in ordering HSBC to repay a billion pounds to half a million people.”

The toll of the campaigning work and the shunning of his story by colleagues, authorities and the media have been at great expense to Wilson’s health and wellbeing. Having given up a comfortable life to expose this crime, he has lost his job, almost lost his house, battled illness and given up his chances of working again. He said on his website “My conclusion is do not blow the whistle in the UK, unless it is life or death.”

Still, Wilson’s evidence and allegations are dangerous. They not only implicate the bank itself, or the many high street stores, but the figures involved in the cover up which spread across solicitors and accountants, regulators, media and the Prime Minister himself.

This is a crime that could reveal the reliance of the bloated financial sector on fraud and criminal activity, which for HSBC alone now ranges from the fixing of trillion dollar markets, funding of terrorism, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, to the administration of illegal and made up surcharges on UK accounts already in debt.

This along with the cover up may finally reveal to the public the ‘rotten architechture’ of the banks and finance centres, as John Pilger described the glimpse of truth we experienced in 2008, before the controlled narrative of austerity took hold and our gaze was shifted by the same organisations who seem to be protecting HSBC now.

You can visit Nicholas Wilson’s site here. 

Look out for the Real Media video report on this case in 2016.

Tomorrow: Stripping Small Business, Boosting Big Banks: How RBS Balanced its Books on SMEs and Got Away With It

Not a Real Farewell….

kamsandhu —  April 16, 2015 — 4 Comments

I’ll keep this short before I start blubbing at the desk.

RealFare is no longer continuing. This is a hard decision (for something that has completely owned my life for two years) but I think the best one. I can no longer give the time needed to put out the standard of content I would like. But that is because I will be working on Real Media.

The first article on RealFare was to challenge the Daily Mail’s infamous ‘Vile Product of Welfare UK’ article. It seems fitting that the Real Media project’s first action was an ‘Anti-Daily Mail’ week. It assures me we are continuing  and making progress – now with the upcoming launch of a news aggregator next week which will provide a source of independent news completely away from the interests that have doctored reality for so long.

Information is important. If it wasn’t, five billionaires would not have an interest in owning 80% of the media we see, hear and ingest. And they wouldn’t block debate on alternatives and protest if the current system wasn’t so liable to crumble under it’s own rotten and corrupt architecture, particularly in the wake of new possibilities and systems already being built by people.

Watching or reading the news now is often a journalistic exercise in totting up spin and lies. Much of the media has become a platform for politicians’ misinformation to go unchallenged and works on behalf of governing forces in maintaining the status quo and limiting aspiration. It is no longer fit for purpose.

We are already building a new system that represents us, that is empowering, humane and refuses to comply with the mass media’s silence on injustice, war and oppression.

The Internet has provided a channel through which we can unshackle our minds. And this is happening everyday through the blogs, sites, campaign groups, information and voices now present. I am proud to be creating something that brings that together.

One of the things I have learned very well over the last two years was summed up perfectly by John Pilger:

“Should journalists represent the people? Yes of course but as Martha Gelhorn famously said; “All journalism should be from the ground up, not from the top down.” It almost never is. And that is something again that has to be taught to young journalists.  These basic things that you do, the most reliable sources of the truth, not all the truth, but of a way of finding the truth are to be found at ground level. That’s my experience as a reporter. And I had to find out that the people who were above ground level, especially up there, were not reliable sources.”

I must say a massive thank you to all the people that I have met, interviewed, written for or helped RealFare. Feel free to continue reading and sharing anything on RealFare – it will remain as a resource. And RealFare will still be active on social media.

See you at Real Media – realmedia.press in one week’s time for the launch….

‘As different as we have been taught to look at each other by colonial society, we’re in the same struggle, and until we realise that, we’ll be fighting for scraps from the table of a system that has kept us subservient instead of self-determined.’

The Poverty of Philosophy – Immortal Technique

 

indyrikki

On Monday 23rd March, an occupy protest began in the shadow of the Shard building, outside Rupert Murdoch’s News International HQ in London Bridge Street.

The protest focuses on the power that Murdoch and four other right-wing extremist media billionaires have over public opinion in the run up to the May general election.

Each day of occupation concentrated on different themes, such as environment, democracy, poverty, health and NHS, and human rights.

Saturday promised a mock trial of Rupert Murdoch, and a larger rally leading to a non-violent direct action (NVDA).

Although the rain mostly held off, weather was characterised by howling winds, whipped up by the tall buildings. But the show went on.

28th march 2015 #occupymurdoch activists at the Sun HQ near the Shard

The trial of Murdoch was of course part comedy, with a bumbling Boris included as a witness for the defence, along with a smarmy Cameron, but prosecution witnesses included a moving statement from an ex-Wapping…

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Daily Wail

wantedmurdoch_web


By ANN NARKEH


Occupy The Media Billionaires is an autonomous working group of Occupy Democracy , itself a working group of Occupy London , the principle UK hub of the international Occupy movement.

OS GODFATHER 30-1-15Occupy The Media Billionaires also spawned The Occupied Sun, (and your somewhat unimaginatively named, barely pseudonymous Editor in Chief, ANN NARKEH).

The Occupied Sun rampaged through January, producing a front page every day.

From March 23rd -29th, the group will be occupying Rupert Murdoch’s headquarters, @the mini shard London.

#OccupyRupertMurdoch

Murdoch is the prime example of how the UK’s media has corrupted our democratic structures.

As long as the press is controlled by billionaires like Murdoch, we can’t even begin to have a sensible conversation about democracy.

Join the facebook event page here, to keep up to date with the latest developments.

Join Occupy The Media Billionaires working group here, to get involved with the plotting and…

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Real Media

Ensure you are watching in HD. Headphones or speakers recommended.

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I dedicate this to and implore readers to read Medialens’ work. Their work and research has inspired and informed much of this article and they are doing a vital job in correcting the media.

Today is the 12th Anniversary of the Iraq War. If we, as a people, are to stop such an awful catastrophe from happening again we need to confront the ugly face of what has happened and the complicity of our media and leaders in the millions of deaths that have followed.

I was on a train when I heard a television employee say to his friend, in defence of UKIP, ‘You should have conditions to come here. I mean look at Iraq, it’s the shithole of the world and I bet you have conditions to get in there.’

It’s not surprising that many view places such as Iraq as ‘shitholes’ of their own making. This is a testament to the attitude we are encouraged to feel by our media. We (and when I say we I mean the UK and the US) are the ‘world leaders’ the ‘forward thinking, democratic’ societies, while these poor brown f***s can’t manage to create a society like ours. They are other, beneath us, medieval, barbaric while we are the saviours bringing liberty to them with our missiles.

Rich&Powerful

The wake of the 7/7 bombings seemed to confound this. These people were barbaric. They did not care how many and who they killed, whereas we were in war for humanitarean intent. No one stopped to highlight the fact that while this was the first suicide bomber attack ever seen in Britain, there had also never been any suicide bombings in Iraq prior to the invasion in March 2003.

So well has the propaganda around this unjustified war worked, that most of us, sponges to the skewed perceptions presented by the media, have no understanding of the context of Iraq. We still fail to understand the torture ‘we’ have been inflicting upon Iraq for many years.

It was in John Pilger’s ‘Tell Me No Lies’ collection of journalistic work that I first learned, years back, that we had been bombing Iraq every week since 1990. Yet, since, no mention has ever been made in any newscast of this, before, during or in the aftermath of the war that ‘began’ 12 years ago.

While the Lewinsky affair became the jovial act most linked to Bill Clinton’s presidency, granted prime time coverage and the subject which usurped interviews, little was said of the Iraqi families massacred by economic sanctions imposed by Clinton.

“On May 12, 1996, television’s “Sixty Minutes” interviewed Madeleine Albright (then U.S. ambassador to the UN, now Secretary of State). Leslie Stahl asked Albright, “We have heard half a million children have died [from economic sanctions in Iraq]. That’s more children than died in Hiroshima. Is the price worth it?”

Albright replied, “I think this is a very hard choice. But the price, we think, is worth it.”

Clinton’s Worst Crimes, Ornery.org

In December 1998, UN weapons inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq, in anticipation of a US military attack i.e. they were withdrawn to save their lives as the US dropped illegal bombs.

While much of the media reported this withdrawal in 1998, the excellent FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) article ‘What a Difference Four Years Makes’ shows the change in angle of reporting on this withdrawal four years later.

The article details 10 publications where in 1998 it was reported that UN inspectors were withdrawn, often explaining that this was ahead of US strikes, and then in 2002 the same publications alter the account of the 1998 incident to say that Iraq had refused to co-operate and ‘kicked out’ inspectors.

“Butler ordered his inspectors to evacuate Baghdad, in anticipation of a military attack, on Tuesday night–at a time when most members of the Security Council had yet to receive his report.”

Washington Post, 12/18/98

“Since 1998, when U.N. inspectors were expelled, Iraq has almost certainly been working to build more chemical and biological weapons.”

Washington Post editorial, 8/4/02

What a Difference Four Years Makes’,FAIR

 

Iraq had co-operated well with UNSCOM – the UN inspectors, but to provide some reason for conflict, with the blame firmly laid with Iraq, reporting changed to fit a new agenda that would lead us to war.

Meanwhile, Bill Clinton was faced with impeachment (a formal process in which an official is accused of unlawful activity)….for his Monika Lewinsky affair:

“William J. Clinton was impeached by the Houses on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in relationship to his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Clinton was eventually acquitted by the Senate.”

http://www.usgovinfo.com

 

In the run up to this impeachment vote, Clinton bombed Iraq heavily, awaiting a confrontation or agitation from Iraq that would create the case for war. Of course his actions were barely reported on, and fawning interviews following his time in office were largely focused on the affair.

Similarly, the Iraq war saw the almost unanimous support of our press, whether the right wing press, the ‘liberal’ papers or the ‘impartial’ BBC:

“The non-partisan, Bonn-based research institute Media Tenor found that the BBC gave just 2 per cent of its Iraq coverage to anti-war voices. Another study by Cardiff University concluded that the BBC had “displayed the most pro-war agenda of any [British] broadcaster”.

Bias and the BBC, Mehdi Hasan

It has done well to triumph the causes of a wholly unjustified war, and hide the devastation. This smokescreen continues:

“In 2013, a poll showed that 59% of Britons thought that less than 10,000 Iraqis had died from the invasion that begun in 2003By 2013, it is estimated this figure was actually half a million.”

The Success of Inequality

 

Arming the world

We sell arms to the world. We arm many of the conflicts that we see reported on the news. Al Qaeda and ISIS have been funded and armed by us recently and in the past. When one of our ‘greatest’ exports is arms, we will always find ourselves in bed with the terrorists we fear. And war will always loom over us.

The public are not unaware. When some 2 million people marched in 2003, a poll showed that 75% of us felt the invasion of Iraq would make us a target for terrorism, and felt more at risk following the invasion.

David Cameron travels almost everywhere with an arms trader. In 2011, Cameron went on a Middle East tour promoting ‘democracy’ with his ammunition toolbox by his side. Many accused Cameron of using the trip to sell arms. The PM said he had a right to do so.

No such right exists, apparently, to help those in need. While austerity is bringing destitution to homes around Britain, our arms trade is taking it overseas. While there is no money to help our sick and disabled, there is plenty for war, arms and defence. We are in the wrong business, and have been for a long time.

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This is what CAAT (Campaign Against the Arms Trade) wants to highlight at this weekend’s national gathering in London, under the banner Arms to Renewables. 

“Join us on 21 March to engage in inspiring and exciting discussions! CAAT’s new campaign “Arms to Renewables” seeks to redirect the vastly disproportionate political and financial support the arms trade enjoys towards renewable energy instead. Our vision is that true security will only be achieved if we tackle inequality and climate change and end profit from conflict and human rights abuses. We are excited about the opportunity to bring together campaigners on human rights, social justice and environmental justice. The National Gathering is a chance to do just that – to learn, make links and plot action against the arms trade and for a better future!”

What could make more sense? Divesting money from an industry devoted to destroying life, to one that is devoted to ensuring it can continue.

 

Find out more about the event on 21st March here. 

By Kam Sandhu @KamBass

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Flat Earth News

kamsandhu —  March 12, 2015 — Leave a comment

Great article from the BRILLIANT Bella Caledonia about Real Media