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Showing posts from November, 2017

In praise of off-shore tax havens

The last few years has seen a spate of "scandals" about the use of off-shore tax havens. The hacking and subsequent leaking of data about who does and does not hold assets in off-shore jurisdictions has become an old perennial in the British press, rather like the "COLD weather happens in winter and QUITE HOT weather happens in summer", whose alarmist capital letter laced headlines are such a lazy part of contemporary "journalism". 

The increasing sophistication of the hackers, whether Russian-inspired or not, has resulted in a steady trickle of information becoming a torrent. After the relatively filleted release of data in the so-called "Panama Papers", the data release of the "Paradise Papers" is even larger.  Of course, just natural curiosity dictates that the off-shore ownership, or even just "ownership", of assets is of general public interest.  Celebrities, from the Royal family to the cast of Mrs Brown's Boys, are …

Putin over reaches himself- but the West must respond.

In espionage the standard of proof is a variable measure. There are very few times that information can be said to be "beyond reasonable doubt". Nuances and circumstances acquire great significance and it requires an analyst with a deep sense of intuition to piece together an accurate narrative from small pieces of partial information. There may be much data, but to find the information it contains is like putting together a shattered mirror, where you do not know whether you have all the pieces. Thus intelligence can be a double-edged sword, and it is dangerous to rely purely on secret intelligence without bringing one's own sceptical biases into the equation.  Spies are much given to using two quotes from Sherlock Holmes: the first dictum is about positive truth: "once you eliminate the impossible, what ever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth". The second is "the curious incident of the dog in the night time" "the dog did noth…

Tory Leadership Vacuum

In Brexit Britain, there seem to be few aspects of human behaviour that do not seem to be in some form of crisis.  The return of the Conservative party to the sleazy days of yore is not exactly a surprise. What is a surprise is that it the rather clumsy Sir Michael Fallon who was forced out, rather than the considerably more predatory Boris Johnson.  The fact is that with sleaze, as with everything else, the Conservatives are engaging in a vicious kin strife.

Fallon had to go because he was loyal to Theresa May. Johnson stays because he isn't. That the odious Andrea Leadsom was the occasion of Sir Michael's fall merely underlines her ambition and her utter absence of any wider loyalties at all. She is, of course not very good, which is why her perfidy was quickly revealed. In fact her aspirations are way beyond her skills. I encountered her at Perpetual, which she "administered" and it was clear that this was a pretty unhappy ship, with good asset managers over ruled …