“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.


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


Real Media

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Flat Earth News

kamsandhu —  March 12, 2015 — Leave a comment

Great article from the BRILLIANT Bella Caledonia about Real Media

By Ranjan Kumaran @FinancialEyes

HSBC are being grilled by Margaret Hodge today at the Public Accounts Select Committee on tax and tax avoidance.

HSBC offshoot HICL, based “offshore” in Guernsey are significant owners of UK hospitals via PFI, with 43 projects under ownership based on 2013 Treasury data.

Margaret Hodge has stated that PFI has been a rip off for the taxpayer.

HICL are still based in Guernsey. Their business model is based on overcharging hospitals and avoiding tax.

The 2011 Treasury Select Committee found that: “Treasury could not tell us if PFI companies had paid tax in the UK on profits and on equity gains, or whether corporation taxes had been collected from PFI” [Richard Brooks – The Great Tax Robbery pg 222].

Two Hospitals, Central Middlesex and Chase Farm have since closed their A&E wards (end of 2013) as a result of unsustainable PFI debts.

In 2011 HICL was sold to its directors in a Management Buy Out.

Ex-HSBC directors continue to profit tax-free from UK Hospitals which have closed their A&E wards due to overcharging and lack of funding resulting from rip off HSBC PFI deals.

Click on the image below to see a list of HICL Hospitals.


Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 13.05.09

See attached 2010 HSBC – HICL prospectus by clicking here and offshore corporate structure diagram

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 12.50.38

1) ‘Humiliation’ greets new Work Capability Assessment provider in first week


Over 30 protests were held across the country against the new provider of Work Capability Assessments (WCA) on Monday 2nd March. American company Maximus replace ATOS but campaigners claim that this is merely a shift from one ‘toxic’ profit seeking company to another, making no difference to the disabled people being assessed. Maximus also has a history of discrimination, incompetance and alleged fraud in the US.

Protests held by activists from Disabled People Against Cuts sought to re-name the company as Maximarse which trended briefly on Twitter during the demonstrations. Embarrassingly for Maximarse, it was revealed that the company had bought the domain http://www.maximarse.com to prevent any spoof websites being created against them.

The purchase was made on 26 January by the company’s senior manager for investor relations and corporate communications. Maximus have yet to comment on the domain purchase or their plans for the site.

Read more about this story here.

2) Jeremy Hunt accused of cover up over damning NHS report

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been accused of a ‘politically motivated’ cover up of a critical report on the NHS, written by Tory peer and ex-M&S boss Stuart Rose. Sarah Wollaston, a GP and Tory MP who now heads up the health select committee has accused Jeremy Hunt of with-holding vital information until after the election. The report is critical of problems with NHS management, which could come as a blow to the Tory election campaign, as the NHS becomes a hot topic. Rose is said to be angry at the report’s stifling, though has not made any comments.

“Wollaston told the Observer that reports which had been commissioned by government and paid for by taxpayers should be made available at the earliest opportunity on matters of such clear public interest. “There is far too much of this going on, with uncomfortable information being withheld,” Wollaston said. “Just as with the Chilcot report into the Iraq war, it is not right that reports paid for out of public money are not made available to the public on such vital issues as soon as possible, particularly ahead of a general election.”

 Read more about this story here.

3) Occupy Democracy protestors given go ahead to challenge Boris over Parliament Square fencing

Occupy Democracy returned to Parliament Square this weekend on a day that coincided with the thousands of Londoners at the Climate March, with the good news that they have been given permission to challenge Mayor of London Boris Johnson over the decision to erect a fence halfway through a 10 day Occupy demonstration, prohibiting peaceful protest from continuing.

Protestors were told that the fencing was required for maintenance of the grass, but the area was quickly extended, forcing the protestors further and further away. Occupy Democracy went to great lengths to ensure there was no littering and an alcohol free zone. There were also never so many protestors to inhibit others being able to join them or dominate the area.

“Rosie Brighouse, Lawyer for Liberty, said:

“The UK has a long, proud history of holding the powerful to account, and the right to protest peacefully is enshrined in law in our Human Rights Act. Unfortunately that can be something of an inconvenience for those in power.

“The Mayor’s flagrant disregard for one of our most fundamental freedoms, on the very doorstep of the palace of power, cannot be allowed to go unchecked – so we’re delighted the courts have seen fit to review his actions.”

Read more about this story here.

4) Boris Johnson’s ‘duplicitous claims’ over vanity project revealed

London’s ‘garden bridge’ project was billed as a free gift for London, but a confidential letter leaked to the Guardian has revealed the public purse is obliged to pay the £3.5m maintenance costs yearly on top of £60m committed funds.

This goes against everything Johnson has publicly promised about the project, which now is causing a strain on transport funds while he sells it as a ‘sponsored gift.’This is also amid growing austerity, poverty and social cleansing in the capital, and while Boris makes attempts to shut down the voice of the public as above.

Read more about this story here.

5) Paul Mobbs arrested during citizens’ arrest of Cabinet

Environmental researcher and consultant Paul Mobbs was arrested under the Terrorism Act last week outside 10 Downing Street while he tried to arrest the Cabinet for Misconduct in Public Office. Watch this brilliant video detailing how Paul Mobbs went through with the action, giving great advice on how to deal with police and law at a time of institutional ignorance to human rights and corruption:



‘Paul has now been released from Charring Cross police station. He has officially reported a crime (misconduct in public office) which the police are now duty bound to investigate and he has provided them with everything they need to investigate the crime. He is now setting off home and should be back in Banbury in a few hours. He is going to celebrate by going for a walk tomorrow.’

 Read more about this story here. 

6) Wannabe Tory leader says it’s ‘impossible’ to raise family on £67k

Millionaire Windsor MP Adam Afriyie became yet another example of out-of-touch MPs after he claimed that it was ‘impossible’ to raise a family on an MP’s salary of £67k.

Afriyie said that MPs salaries and expenses should be scrapped and they should be given an allowance of £225,000 a year to spend however they want, adding that if wages from 1911 kept pace this is the figure MPs would be on. He failed to mention the rate at which the minimum wage would be if it had not been stifled by governments, or the rates of pay for nurses and care workers had they not been kept down by successive governments and environments of austerity and stagnant wages.

Read more about this idiot here.

Real Media: Nafeez Ahmed

kamsandhu —  March 4, 2015 — 3 Comments