Mar 01 2013

What the hell is the UK doing in its tax haven of Jersey?

Posted by: Nick Shaxson in: Thoughts

Updated with commentary on commenters underneath (and note that one of the commenters appears to be an imposter claiming to be the blogger Tom Gruchy: I’ve just received a phone call about this.)

This is one in an occasional series on the widespread corruption, impunity and criminality in the Septic Isle, otherwise known as the part-British tax haven of Jersey. (Try here, here or here for some earlier juice, just for example. And who ever is that lady on Jersey’s ten pound note?)

This isn’t completely a tax haven issue, though it’s an issue of political capture which is a feature of tax havenry that I’ve encountered in jurisdiction after jurisdiction.

Jersey Deputies (parliamentarians) Trevor and Shona Pitman have issued a press release entitled “Jersey Corruption:UK government fails constitutional obligations on ‘good governance.’ The preamble introducing it says:

“Our island’s ‘justice’ system has become a tool of oppression rather than arbiter of fairness and protection for all ordinary citizens.  Complaints alleging corruption being brought to a number of politicians can now simply no longer be ignored. The reported abuses are as diverse as the members of the public bringing them to us.”

Then, from the press release itself:

“Our Law Office has become the tool of choice for the clique at the apex of power to try to silence and, if necessary, drive from office or ruin those who dare challenge the established order.”

I remember on my first visit to Jersey coming away telling friends that it was a cross between the English seaside town of Bournemouth and the corrupt, highly repressive west African state of Equatorial Guinea (which I visited several times in my earlier career.) I wasn’t really joking.

The press release describes the illegal suspension of former Police Chief Graham Power; the former health minister Stuart Syvret “currently being silenced by a blatant misuse of the Data Protection Law within ‘top secret’ Royal Court hearings,” and much, much more. Read the whole thing: it’s not that long.

This corruption in Jersey is out of control, and has been for many years. And there’s something else, that I’ve known about for a long time. The islands’ only newspaper, the Jersey Evening Post, is captured by the establishment, and will not publish articles that seriously challenge the establishment fix or the tax haven industry. I should know: I’ve spoken to journalists on the paper who confirm this to me, but they were too afraid for their career to let me quote them, even indirectly, in any detail.

The whole of the Pitmans’ press release needs to be read in full: this is yet another cry for help from what is essentially an oppressed people hidden in plain sight in a pretty little English tourist destination.

Among many other things, I think that organisations dedicated to human rights, corruption and press freedom ought to start monitoring much more closely what’s going on in Jersey. It may be that they can’t believe such stuff could happen somewhere so British. But there is something more fundamental here, as the Pitmans explain in the first paragraph of their press release:

“Two Members of Jersey’s Parliament have today called for the UK government – which has overall responsibility to ensure ‘good governance’ in the Channel Islands – to urgently investigate what they describe as the ‘spiralling evidence of the wide-spread breakdown of law within the island’s justice system.’”

And they are quite right to point to London. The UK’s Ministry of Justice notes:

“The Queen is the Head of State of each Island and the Lieutenant-Governor on each Island is Her Majesty’s personal representative. The Crown is ultimately responsible for their good government, the UK for their defence and international relations.”

That’s clear, (as also explained in Treasure Islands.) The UK has the powers to intervene, yet it chooses not to.

What the hell is the UK doing with this vicious and corrupt little tax haven?

Update: I have lifted out a comment underneath, followed by my response. I think it’s an interesting exchange.

Comment:

The fact is that anybody in Jersey who has been active in left-wing politics despairs of these people. They couldn’t work together to organise a birthday party, let alone a political one. [see the whole comment at the bottom.]

My response:

I do hear you. But I think there’s a deep issue at play here. It reminds me of the many years I spent in and reporting on oil-rich Angola, where the only people who ever dared stand up and seriously challenge the powers that be were always, but always heavily discredited, smeared, and not without their own weaknesses and foibles. The authorities know exactly what those weaknesses are, and play them for all they’re worth, and they aggressively play the divide-and-rule game so that any potential alliances fall into disorganisation. All alliances that could potentially threaten the regime are neutered through multiple strategies: personal pressures, economic pressures (particularly ‘you will never work in this government or in this industry’ again), sexual traps, overt repression, family pressures, and more – very often but not always with the help of (the heavily oil-financed) security services. They really thought hard about all the myriad subtle levers that were available to them. Dissidents ended up being seen as jealous whiners who hadn’t been able to get hold of a piece of the pie and were criticising the powers that be for a mix of jealousy and other personal reasons. (John Christensen anyone?) And these criticisms were usually wrong, but easy to sell to a listless public, especially when the media’s in your pocket (as e.g. the BBC in Jersey is.) In other words, the focus was not on the message, but on the messenger – even though it’s the former, not the latter, who are important. Eventually these critical voices are put beyond the pale, in the eyes of society, the media and so on. They had a saying: your destiny as a persistent critic is to become “bêbado o bufo” – a drunkard, or a spy (on your civil society colleagues.) I saw the bêbado process happen to two friends of mine. These were personal tragedies.

Anyway, that was oil-rich Angola, and I wrote a book about it.

A world away from Jersey. But does any of this sound familiar?

13 comments so far

Jersey Resident 3st March, 2013 12.58 pm

Thank you Nick for giving this more publicity than the entire Channel Islands MSM network combined.

A bit of truth 3nd March, 2013 10.49 pm

Is it any coincidence that this press release appeared at the same time that these same politicians were due to appear in debtors court last Wednesday because of their precarious financial position bought about by their failed libel action against the very same paper they constantly criticise, and, should they be declared bankrupt, would see them excluded fom their government positions ?

Nick Shaxson 3th March, 2013 12.57 pm

See my comment above.

[…] fire that sends up more smoke clouds of other forms of corruption such as financial corruption (see this link at Nicholas Shaxson’s “Treasure Islands” blog for example), and the same people […]

Ian Evans 3th March, 2013 12.51 pm

Hi Nick, it might be worth letting you know that your comments from Tom Gruchy are actually from a Jersey Government troll called Jon Sharrock Haworth. Tom Gruchy is actually a staunch supporter of reform as you are probably aware. Take a look at my blog and see how Haworth operates, search my blog for Jon Haworth, the guy is completely gone in the head 🙂

mike dun 3th March, 2013 10.51 am

Hi Nick and anybody else.
I normally publish the Tom Gruchy blog (www.tomgruchy.blogspot.com) but have no idea who this Tom Gruchy commmenting here is.
Presumably somebody is having a bit of perverse fun but it seems to be a particulat tactic employed by certain right wingers with nothing better to do.
I don’t own the non de plume of Tom Gruchy who was a hero of 18th century Jersey political life but if anybody has any constructive suggestions about what to with this jerk, please let me know.

Sam 3rd March, 2013 3.00 am

There needs to be some serious research into what exactly IS going on and what is behind the Jersey tax havens / guns / drugs / laundering / what?!

I cant believe that questions such as these seem to be dismissed or rarely broadcast by mainstream media and therefore seemly never on the f**king agenda !

Jon Haworth 2th February, 2014 3.17 am

Do you mind taking reference to my name off these comments please? The alleged Tom Gruchy comments on here have nothing to do with me and you have no right allowing my name with such wild allegations to be left on here. Thank you.

Nicholas Shaxson 2th February, 2014 10.00 am

thanks. I think they’re all gone now. let me know if there are any others.

Jon Haworth 4th April, 2014 7.38 am

Dear Nick, do you remind taking this lie off your blog please?


Ian Evans

3th March, 2013

12.51 pm

Hi Nick, it might be worth letting you know that your comments from Tom Gruchy are actually from a Jersey Government troll called Jon Sharrock Haworth. Tom Gruchy is actually a staunch supporter of reform as you are probably aware. Take a look at my blog and see how Haworth operates, search my blog for Jon Haworth, the guy is completely gone in the head :)”

[…] the most British of all tax havens, and the most important single haven to Britain. Here’s an excerpt from a plea made by politicians in Jersey, not so long ago: ““Our island’s ‘justice’ […]

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