Monday, 20 December 2010

Stockholm bomber: banned extremists recruit near Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly's Luton home

The outlawed Islamist group al-Muhajiroun is openly recruiting near the home of the suicide bomber who blew himself up on a Stockholm street last week, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

Mohammed Quayyum Khan, left, is alleged to recruit terrorists. Stockholm bomber: banned extremists recruit near Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly's Luton home
MI5 and anti-terrorist police are attempting to unravel what transformed the father of three into an extremist.
But moderate Muslims in Luton, where Iraqi-born Taimour Abdulwahab lived for almost 10 years, claim the authorities are to blame for turning a blind eye to the activities of hard-core jihadi sympathisers.
Unimpeded by the police, the group, now calling itself The Reflect Project, is accused of mounting a campaign of intimidation and violence against those who disagree with it.
The group's members are followers of the radical cleric Omar Bakri Muhammad, who is being held in jail in Lebanon on terrorism charges, and are led locally by Ishtiaq Alamgir or Sword of Islam – a former inland revenue accountant.
Earlier this year, Mr Alamgir helped to organise a protest at a homecoming parade in Luton for troops who had served in Afghanistan. The demonstration ended in violence and arrests.
It is illegal to be a member of Bakri's organisation after it was outlawed for glorifying terrorism and for outspoken statements praising the "magnificent" September 11 hijackers.
But Bakri's supporters still regularly set up a stall on the high street near Abdulwahab's family home to try to recruit more young Muslims to their cause.
Last week, gathered around a trestle table after Friday prayers, Mr Alamgir and a dozen other activists handed out anodyne Introduction to Islam leaflets before quickly disappearing when approached by this newspaper.
Carefully written, apparently to avoid breaching anti-terrorism laws, the leaflet's purpose appeared to be to direct prospective recruits to a website containing inflammatory speeches by Bakri and articles against "the terrorist activities of Britain".
Some claim the group was involved with Abdulwahab, whose "will" told his wife and children he had lived for "the last four years with the secret of being mujahid or, as you call it, terrorist".
The group described Abdulwahab, who studied at the town's university, as a "lone wolf" and denied having anything to do with him.
The group, whose members use an ever-changing variety of names, has been holding rallies in community halls where, until his recent arrest, it was addressed by Bakri over an internet link.
Residents in the mainly Muslim Bury Park area claim Abdulwahab attended these meetings and complain that the government ban has not stopped the group or led to any police action against it.
Despite public money from the previous government's anti-radicalisation "Prevent" scheme, which is currently under review by the Coalition, MI5 and the police appear to be getting little help or intelligence from the community. It is claimed much of the cash distributed by Prevent in Luton – reported to be £554,000 since 2008 – has either been squandered on schemes not designed to tackle extremists or is the subject of investigations over financial irregularities.
The Luton Islamic Centre, where Abdulwahab prayed and which forced him out when he attempted to preach about his radical views, admits it did not inform the police.
"We try to work with the extremists, rather than force them underground," a spokesman said yesterday.
Others dismiss the police as powerless. They talk about how an alleged terrorist recruiter, Mohammed Quayyum Khan, known as "Q", moves around the town unimpeded.
Mr Khan has been named in Parliamentary reports and at the Old Bailey and was accused of arranging for the 7/7 plot leader Mohammed Sidique Khan to attend a terrorist training camp. However, he has never been charged with any offence and last week was still working as a minicab driver in Luton, taking children on the "school run" and ferrying hotel guests to the town's busy international airport.
Another local radical is a Pakistani man in his twenties known as Charlie who, it is claimed, has been banned from Britain on national security grounds.
After being recruited in the town, Charlie, who attended a local school and whose family remain in Luton, is now believed to be in Islamabad "driving around in an expensive Land Cruiser with access to lots of money", according to one friend. Others talk darkly of his links to "senior" people in al-Qaeda.
"We fear for our children and the influence these people have on them," said Mohammed Bashir, of the Khadmit welfare centre, whose office is just along the road from where al-Muhajiroun set up its "recruitment centre".
"I have received death threats, threatening phone calls. They have been trying to intimidate me. Threatening violence, threatening to come to my home. They are only a small group, some 20 or 30 people. I even know some of their families. But they won't listen to reason.
"We tell our youngsters not to speak to them, but you cannot watch after your young people all the time. They go to school and to university and it is here that these idiots try to influence them, try to convince them to join them, to spread their hatred."
Qurban Hussain, a local councillor and former Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, has also had death threats and has been physically attacked. "During the last election campaign a group of them surrounded my car. They were banging on the windows, shouting abuse and chanting slogans. They think democracy is un-Islamic.
"All the time they were filming it. They were shouting and screaming at me and filming me inside my car – then they put it on the internet. It was so intimidating. I go to Pakistan regularly to see my family and friends. I wondered whether the video was meant for someone there. A message to them saying: 'Here is an unbeliever – deal with him'."
Mr Hussain said the group also stops people attempting to vote. "They will obstruct you, bully and harass you. Throughout the election I was constantly followed, harassed and chanted at. They try to intimidate you and anyone you come across. They do the same to anyone they disagree with."
He said on another occasion a local al-Muhajiroun activist confronted him on the street and allegedly threatened to kill him. "I know the boy. I know his father. But he threatened to kill me," he said. "I reported it to the police but they didn't pursue it."
He said his campaign offices were also attacked, daubed with paint and his posters pulled down. "Last May, on the day of the election they gathered outside my house. They pushed and shoved me and my supporters. There was a scuffle. I feared there was going to be serious violence. My neighbours came out on the streets. People were threatened on the way to the polling station."
Mr Hussain said he had stopped reporting the incidents to the police. "It's a waste of time. They spend two hours taking your statement and then they do nothing."
The father of one activist spoke to The Sunday Telegraph last week. He did not want to be named, apparently afraid of the reaction of his son and his friends. He said: "He will not listen to me. He is not in my control. He once cared about his education, getting a job, helping his community. Now he is lost."
The community has tried to take the law into its own hands. The mosques have confronted them. There are reports of minor scuffles and the al-Muhajiroun activists are now not welcome to pray at any of the local mosques as a group. They are also banned from preaching or trying to recruit people outside the prayer halls.
Instead they set up a table near to Barclays Bank to hand out their literature, welcoming anyone who shows an interest. They talk about Palestine, detention at Guantánamo Bay, and Iraq and Afghanistan. They show jihadi films and invite people to go to a café for a chat and a soft drink. Some call it "grooming".
"Anyone who disagrees is abused. There is no debating with them. They call me a hypocrite," said Mr Hussain, who will be sworn in at the House of Lords in the next few weeks after being awarded a peerage by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister.
"They are trying to brainwash the young. Fill them with hatred. Something needs to be done to stop them. They are supposedly banned, yet no one is prepared to tackle them, to breach their rights, their freedom of speech."
The Islamic Centre, the Masjid al-Ghurabaa, attended by Abdulwahab until 2007, also claims it has nothing to do with the radicals in Luton. It claims al-Muhajiroun is banned from the mosque and has been since 2000.
Teachings on the mosque's website are radical, many would say extreme. They include a defence of the flogging of a 19-year-old gang-rape victim in Saudi Arabia, and sermons by Abu Usamah at Thahabi, a cleric who has said: "Take that homosexual man and throw him off the mountain."
Yet the mosque condemns Abdulwahab's attack as "against God" and says it too is "sick" of the al-Muhajiroun activists, who it claims are "protected by the police". The mosque has been distributing its own Refuting Extremism pamphlets attacking the followers of radical clerics including Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada, both of whom are held in British jails on terrorism charges.
Farasat Latif, the mosque secretary, said: "These extremists cause us nothing but problems. People associate our mosque with them although we have nothing to do with them. Their activities led to a firebomb attack on our mosque which caused £40,000 of damage.
"We have had physical confrontations with them but the police warn us that we will be arrested if we take the law into our own hands."
Last night a spokesman for Bedfordshire Police said the force was doing all it could to combat extremism. She said it was working with the community "to safeguard individuals (and) build resilience ... against violent extremism and radicalisation". She added: "We continue to undertake work under the national Prevent agenda ... to address any type of extremism."
Police, she said, would "thoroughly investigate complaints received about a small group who give out leaflets in the Luton area and actively gather evidence".
This evidence, she added, was being passed to the Crown Prosecution Service but that "at this time there (had been) no breach of the law or any proscribed order".
She added: "The powers given to the police under the order are very limited. We will continue to constantly monitor the situation and would urge anyone who believes they have witnessed an offence to come forward."
Mr Alamgir refused to answer any questions and failed to return calls left on his mobile telephone.
Last night Anjem Choudary, a former solicitor who founded al-Muhajiroun with Bakri, denied that the group had anything to do with Abdulwahab. He said: "He was a lone wolf. He was nothing to do with my brothers in Luton. We knew nothing about him or his activities."
Regarding the accusations levelled against the group in Luton, he added: "It is not true that we are intimidating Muslims. But we do take action against those involved in elections. We don't think that elections have any part of being a Muslim. These people are self serving. They are involved with the Government and the local councils and we believe it is right to disrupt them."
He said he did not believe that his "brothers" had done anything wrong when they chanted and shouted at election candidates. "They are part of the government," he said. Asked why local mosque elders made similar allegations, he added: "These people are trying to win support from the Government or get money from the local authorities. We oppose this."

Monday, 13 December 2010

Russian 'spy': Foreigners who worked for the MP

Investigations editor Jason Lewis explores the background of the foreign aides hired by the MP at the centre of the spy storm

Ekaterina Zatuliveter, 25, is 'a sharp cookie' said Mr Hancock Photo: EAST2WEST
A Romanian businessman who supplies staff for an airbase linked to the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme and military equipment to his country’s armed forces once worked for the MP at the centre of the Westminster spy scandal.
Calin Huma is one of a number of eastern Europeans who have worked as a researcher for Mike Hancock, whose Russian parliamentary assistant Ekaterina Zatuliveter was arrested last week after a six-month investigation by MI5.
A Sunday Telegraph investigation can reveal that the 25-year-old, who has been served with a deportation order on national security grounds, is one of at least six foreign nationals – several from former Eastern Bloc countries – who have worked for Mr Hancock since he became an MP in 1997.
The first of them was Mr Huma, a Romanian-born politics student, who got an unpaid job with the Liberal Democrat shortly after leaving Southampton University in 1999. Mr Huma worked for Mr Hancock in the Commons and at his constituency office in Portsmouth for two years, and at the same time set up his first business, Anglo-Romanian Consultancy, to try to arrange trade deals between the two nations.
The company never filed accounts and was wound up in 2006, but Mr Huma continued working as an “international trade adviser” and “political consultant”, dividing his time between Britain and Romania.
In November 2004, he and Mr Hancock were photographed in Constanta, Romania, where, according to newspaper reports, the MP was leading a delegation from the Council of Europe and Mr Huma was representing a company supplying computer software for railways.
Mr Huma now runs a series of firms specialising in political advice, representation and lobbying; and in supplying military equipment, nuclear, biological and chemical protection hardware, and the “management of weapon platforms”.
One of his companies sells civilian and military helicopters, and another supplies “technical support and spares for the Romanian navy’s Type 22 frigates”. The ships that were purchased as surplus from the Royal Navy for £116 million in 2003 were later the subject of corruption claims investigated by the Serious Fraud Office in BAE, the UK arms manufacturer at the centre of the deal. BAE admitted two criminal charges and paid £286 million in fines to resolve the investigation but denied bribery and its settlement with the UK and US prosecutors did not include any admission of corrupt payments.
IDS Operations, based in Eastleigh, Hampshire, organises an English course in Romania for staff at the Mihail Koga˘lniceanu Air Base, which is alleged to be one of the sites involved in the CIA’s network of “extraordinary renditions”. The base was alleged to have been used by aircraft identified as belonging to the CIA’s fleet of rendition planes.
And a fax, reportedly intercepted by Swiss intelligence and allegedly sent by a senior Egyptian official, also said the base was used by the US to detain at least 23 Iraqi and Afghan captives. It was said to be one of a number of European secret prisons located in Poland, Ukraine, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bulgaria – known as “black sites” – where prisoners were taken for interrogation.
Companies House reveals little detail about Mr Huma’s businesses. His holding company, INDES Group, shows no income; another firm, HMS Investments, reported a turnover of £158,128 last year, while INDES Limited shows it had made a £168,693 loss. Mr Huma and his wife Claudia, live in a modest house brought for £179,000 in 2003.
Last night, Mr Huma said he remembered fondly his time working for Mr Hancock. He said: “My time was very limited. I was just helping with clerical activities and letters to constituents. After I left university, I was deeply involved in work and lost the connection with Mr Hancock.
“I got my job because I was interested in politics. I applied for work experience. I never got paid. It was a simple process.”
Asked about Mr Hancock’s current researcher’s problems, he said: “I haven’t spoken to him since the general election, so I don’t know how he is taking all of this. I should make it clear that [in my time] I was never in front of any interesting or any sensitive information. I don’t know whether she [Ekaterina Zatuliveter] would have been in that position. I don’t think MPs have direct access to sensitive information. I don’t think as a researcher you would get access to very much.
“There were very precise procedures in the House on how you deal with papers, so I don’t think anyone would be able to get access to such information. I certainly didn’t.”
Asked about his trip to Romania with Mr Hancock in 2004, Mr Huma initially said he could not remember it. But told there was a photograph of the two of them together, he said: “What I can tell you is that, at some point, I was in Romania, and Mr Hancock was [there] working for various European bodies. The circumstances when we have been together were always official.”
Today, he said, his companies specialise in helping UK firms win business in Romania. He also confirmed his role supplying staff to the controversial Mihail Koga˘lniceanu Airport, but said he had no idea if it had been used for CIA flights.
He added that his firm helped train local staff who did “key but low-level” service jobs at the base, but said all “needed to speak English” in order to work there. He said he had heard “no gossip” about its role and added: “What happens inside is nothing to do with me.”
Regarding Mr Hancock, he added: “He was always a beacon of morality in a world which is crazy. I have met him only on very official circumstances surrounded by many people. I wish I would have had the honour to work closer with him.”
Others who have worked for Mr Hancock at the Commons include Bethany Torvell, who worked alongside Ekaterina Zatuliveter earlier this year. She is now a visiting tutor at Goldsmiths College and runs The Phoenix Think Tank, which specialises in defence industry analysis.
Greek-born international relations graduate Marianna Ventouratou worked for the MP until 2003, before going to work for the Centre for Economic Policy in London and at the department of international development at Oxford University.
She is now living in York with her university lecturer husband and two children. Last night she said: “I have a very positive impression of my months at the House of Commons and of Mike Hancock. I was very 'fresh’ in the UK, so I was just getting my head around things. I did find Mike Hancock very open-minded for hiring a foreign intern.”
A Serbian-born researcher Nevena Marjanovic worked for Mr Hancock in 2008 and 2009, again alongside Ms Zatuliveter, followed by Greek graduate Christina Kaiseroglou, who had been a trainee at the European Security and Defence Assembly, and Myriam Chieb-Bouares, who now works at the Carbon Trust encouraging businesses and governments to reduce carbon omissions.
Last week, well-placed sources told The Sunday Telegraph it was feared that Ms Zatuliveter had been acting as a “talent-spotter” for the SRV, Russia’s foreign intelligence service.
It is understood that the MI5 investigation was sparked by a tip-off that the young Russian may have been compiling secret dossiers on British government officials that could be used by the Russians to blackmail them into supplying secrets.
Last night, Mr Hancock again dismissed any suggestion that Ms Zatuliveter had been doing anything wrong. He said: “These suggestions are all news to me. I don’t do Commons receptions and the like. That sort of thing is not my cup of tea at all. I don’t believe for one minute that she has done anything wrong. I only know what she has told me.
“All I know is that she could have gone home any time. They never took her passport away from her. They haven’t even taken her computer off her or her [mobile] telephone. All I understand is what she tells me. She said, 'What should I do?’ I said, 'Have you done anything wrong?’ She said, 'No, I haven’t.’ I said, 'OK, then, you have to see it through the system. The British system is a good one. It is not like yours [in Russia], and people are not treated in this way.’ And she accepted that. But this is the end result.”
He said he had visited her at the Yarl’s Wood detention centre, where she is being held. He said she was bearing up and was not unhappy about where she was being held.
But he added: “Nothing is OK when you have had your freedom denied.”
Asked about his relationship with Mr Huma, he added: “Calin and I have known each other for a long time. I have no connections with his business, I never have, and I’ve never had any money from him in any circumstances whatsoever. I have never done any professional work for him.”

Defiant Charles and Camilla: we won't be cowed

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have made it clear they will not be cowed by last week's attack by rioters.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have made it clear they will not be cowed by last week's attack by rioters.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall's evening of Royal Variety entertainment was marred when their Rolls-Royce limousine was attacked by a protester  Photo: AP Photo/Matt Dunham
The Sunday Telegraph understands that the royal couple want to carry on with "business as usual". Although they found the assault intimidating, they will not be scaling back their public engagements or abandoning walkabouts.
A royal aide said both the Prince and the Duchess would remain as "visible" as ever during public engagements.
"Their default position is to get out there and get on with the job. It is absolutely business as usual.
"The Prince will leave it up to the security people to make sure that they are secure and the public are secure wherever they go, but they will crack on," the aide said.
The Sunday Telegraph can also report that:
* Sources close to Buckingham Palace hope the violence will see off plans to scale back police protection for members of the Royal family.
* An internal Metropolitan Police report has highlighted the red tape that hinders preparations for public demonstrations.
* Police leaders are calling on the Government to consider making water cannon available for future protests.
Officers yesterday issued photographs of 14 individuals from last Thursday's protests, some of whom were wanted in connection with the attack on the royal convoy in Regent Street.
Royal sources said the couple maintained full confidence in the ability of the police to bring those responsible for the attack to justice.
They also insisted that the couple remained "extremely supportive" of their police protection officers, and blamed the incident on the rioters, and not the police.
The Prince is said to be awaiting the results of an inquiry by Scotland Yard before making any further decisions about his security.
There has been speculation that the Prince may have overruled his security staff concerning the route taken to the Royal Variety Performance, but this newspaper understands that he accepted decisions made by his security team.
Scotland Yard earlier this year suggested cutting millions of pounds from the budget for protecting the Royal family, but last week's attack is likely to be used as leverage by those opposed to the cuts.
A source close to Buckingham Palace said: "We were very concerned about the proposals to cut back on protection. If one good thing comes out of this ghastly incident, let it be that those proposals are dropped."
The Sunday Telegraph can also disclose that police tackling public disorder are facing an unwieldy bureaucracy involving committees of senior officers, community liaison teams and lawyers. An internal report, distributed the day before the protests, exposes how the Metropolitan Police's specialist CO11 Public Order team is mired in red tape.
The document, written by Lynne Owens, an assistant Met commissioner, highlights how at least nine separate commands within the police service have to give their views when planning how to deal with any potential disorder.
Police leaders have urged the authorities to consider making water cannon available for the first time on the British mainland.
One senior source at the Police Federation said the rioting in central London would have come to a much earlier conclusion if protesters had been given a "good soaking".
Julie Spence, a former chief constable, agreed that the use of water cannon should be part of any public order review.
Paul Davies, who heads the Police Federation's operational policing committee, said the measure "would certainly be controversial but it comes back to protecting members of the public and allowing police officers to do their jobs".
Questions remain about why the royal couple were driven to the Royal Variety Performance in a conspicuous, 20ft-long limousine.
A senior security source said: "We may make recommendations for the future that will say 'safety first' and in these situations use a more manoeuvrable, more secure car."
The route taken by the royal convoy was checked by motorcycle outriders for an hour before the Prince and the Duchess left Clarence House, the source said. But once the route had been decided there was a period of "minutes" when the riders returned to Clarence House to collect the convoy, meaning no officers were keeping tabs on developments in Regent Street.
Alan Johnson, the former home secretary, yesterday told BBC Radio 4 he was "amazed" by yesterday's report in The Daily Telegraph that protection officers guarding the royal couple were using radios on a different channel from those dealing with the student riots.
"In my experience they are really meticulous about ensuring that the route ahead is well known and that they avoid these kinds of incidents," he added.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Immigration advisers

Government to review future of immigration advisers

The Government is reviewing the future of thousands of licensed immigration advisers after an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph found that they are poorly-trained, under-regulated and sometimes break the law.

The Government's cap on immigration is being undermined by a surge in foreign workers who are exempt from new visa rules, official figures have shown.
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May walk through Terminal 5 during a visit to UK Border Agency staff at Heathrow Airport Photo: RUEUTERS
This newspaper found that it was straightforward for unqualified applicants to set themselves up as officially-sanctioned advisers, leaving the door open for unscrupulous individuals attempting to cash in on the large number of foreigners coming to Britain.
Once registered, advisers can appear in court for asylum seekers and illegal immigrants, and sometimes be paid from the public purse under the Legal Aid scheme.
In one case an officially-approved adviser has been allowed to continuing practising while facing a police inquiry into his activities. Several others have also been caught acting illegally this year, and at least one has been jailed.
Last night senior Government sources confirmed that Theresa May, the Home Secretary, had ordered a review of the system to ensure those who break the law are barred from practising.
And it is understood that the current regulatory body is to be axed or merged as the Government aims to crack down on those attempting to exploit vulnerable people.
The scheme, set up in 1999 by Jack Straw, then the Labour home secretary, was designed to make immigration advice available for less than the cost of going to a lawyer.
But while solicitors must complete university courses, undergo several years of on-the-job training and face scrutiny by the Law Society, anyone can qualify to be an official immigration adviser by passing a number of internet-based multiple choice exams, a correspondence course teaching the rudiments of immigration law and a Criminal Records Bureau check.
There are now almost 4,000 registered advisers.
Once qualified, their supervision is overseen by a taxpayer-funded quango, the little-known Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC), headed by Suzanne McCarthy.
Despite costing £4.4 million a year to run, it few powers to investigate advisers' activities and cannot suspend them even when they are under police investigation for alleged criminal behaviour.
Earlier this year Muhammed Shakoori, a Manchester-based adviser, was fined for flouting the rules by appearing in court for clients even though he was not qualified to do so.
A licenced adviser in north London was accused by an undercover television reporter this year of offering to arrange a sham marriage for £12,000.
Two years ago Lloyd Msipa, a Zimbabwe-born approved adviser, received a suspended prison sentence after being convicted of charging people hundreds of pounds for advice he was not entitled to provide, while working for a not-for-profit voluntary organisation.
Last year the OISC carried out 542 investigations into complaints of malpractice by advisers, a record for a single year. Among those investigated, 59 were found guilty of wrongdoing and another 161 faced "conciliation".
But, despite the high number of complaints, approved immigration advisers are rarely banned from practising and the OISC said it "could not say" how many it had barred for wrongdoing.
Last week undercover reporters from this newspaper made an appointment with Eustace Okere, whose name appears on the OISC list of approved advisers.
Mr Okere is a "level three" adviser, allowed to represent clients at appeal hearings before an immigration judge. But earlier this year a judge at Nottingham crown court called him a "criminal" for his alleged role in arranging a sham marriage for a client.
His name emerged during the trial of Portuguese-born Jorge Mouchinho and Falana McKenzie, from Trinidad, who were each jailed for 12 months for immigration offences.
The couple were caught after staff at Nottingham Register Office noticed that prior to their wedding they appeared nervous and hesitant, and the groom could not remember his bride's name when asked.
During the trial it was alleged that Mr Okere, a Nigerian-born Dutch national, had arranged the wedding and had charged McKenzie £6,000 to make her application to stay in Britain.
Judge Michael Stokes QC told McKenzie: "You were prepared to pay huge sums of money to this criminal in order to organise this sham marriage".
At the same time, Nottinghamshire police confirmed, Mr Okere, who runs HCI Immigration Services, was arrested and bailed until early next year while police investigate his activities further.
Despite this, last week, Mr Okere, whose CV says he has a BSc in Marketing from Abia University, in Nigeria, and a one-year master's degree in International Human Rights from Birmingham City University, was still trading from large offices in a converted Lloyds Bank branch on the outskirts of Nottingham.
He charged our undercover reporters, one of whom posed as an African woman who had overstayed on a student visa, £100 in cash for a half-hour appointment to discuss how he could help her.
Last night Mr Okere denied that he had ever acted outside the law or helped to arrange a sham marriage.
He said: "I do not want to say anything as this is an on going inquiry. I am still working. The police have no evidence and they have broken their own rules in the way they came to my office.
"They should not come without being accompanied by a barrister or without notifying the OISC. I have never done anything but act within the law for my clients.
"The judge should not have said what he said about me without evidence. It is unfair ... There is no evidence, but this is hanging over me."
Last night a spokesman for the OISC said it was aware of the allegations against Mr Okere.
He said: "We can confirm that the OISC is currently actively considering the continuation of HCI Immigration Consultants' registration as an OISC-regulated firm.
"In connection with this we are in contact with both the Nottinghamshire Police and the UK Borders Agency. The OISC does not have the power in law to suspend an adviser."
He added: "The OISC must act as a proportionate regulator and makes decisions based on evidence. If an adviser appears to be not performing well, we take constructive measures such as additional audits, bringing a Commissioner's complaint against them or retesting competence.
"If more formal regulatory action is necessary, this can take a number of forms depending on the severity of the behaviour ranging from placing conditions on their licence to an application for the adviser to be prohibited from giving immigration advice for a specific period or indefinitely."
Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs committee, said last night that he would question Mrs May this month about the supervision of immigration advisers.
He said: "I will be asking the Home Secretary to ensure that there are appropriate levels of supervision in place when immigration advisers facing allegations of wrongdoing or giving inappropriate advice.
"It is essential, at a time when Legal Aid is being reduced for immigration cases, that people are getting the right sort of advice from properly qualified people."
He added that the committee would also be calling Mrs McCarthy in to give evidence.
A Home Office spokesman last night said the Government was considering merging the OISC with another body, although the details are still being worked out.
He added: "The new Government has made its commitment to cracking down on immigration crime clear. Disreputable immigration advisers prey on the vulnerable, charging large sums for poor advice and false hope.
"It is crucial that we continue to regulate this industry and ensure that those who insist on breaking the rules are barred from practising."

Immigration adviser charges £350 to write a letter

Eustace Okere, an approved immigration adviser, is still practicing despite being under police investigation after a judge in a crown court trial accused him of having arranged a sham marriage for a client.

Eustace Okere, an approved immigration adviser, is still practicing despite being under police investigation after a judge in a crown court trial accused him of having arranged a sham marriage for a client.
The undercover reporter from The Sunday Telegraph paid £100 cash for a half-hour consultation with Eustace Okere 
"Rita", an undercover reporter from The Sunday Telegraph, paid £100 cash for a half-hour consultation with Eustace Okere at his office – a former bank on a parade including an 'Adult Shop', two bookmakers and a Caribbean takeaway on Alfreton Road, a mile from Nottingham city centre.
Posing as an African student with an expired visa, she said she had recently received a letter threatening her with removal from the UK.
Mr Okere told her: "The minute you overstay, you are committing a criminal act. They are going to remove you. Since the election of the new government they have been removing people ... much more than before. This is a serious situation."
Looking for remedies, he asked: "Do you have a child in the UK? A brother, a sister, a husband, any family ties?"
Our reporter said she did not. Mr Okere added: "As soon as she has a child with a British national, the child is British ... It used to be that your mother had to be British, but it has changed now. It is all about parents."
Our reporter asked if it would help if "Rita" had a child. Mr Okere said: 'No, you don't have a child to stay in the country. You stay in the country because you have a child – not the other way round.
"You don't marry because you want to keep somebody in the country. That's against the rules.
"You get married because you love each other, and because you love each other you live in this country. And because you live in this county, you don't want to be separated from your partner. That would be your right to a family life."
So, asked "Rita", would it help if she had a partner from a European country. Mr Okere said: "If you came back to me with a partner then I would ask him certain questions.
"I would ask him if he was exercising Treaty rights, do you live in the UK, where do you live? I would test him like that and then I could advise you in that direction."
He suggested "Rita" purchased an airline ticket home – to show she intended to leave Britain – and then ask the immigration authorities for time to sort out her affairs.
Asked how much he would charge, he said: "Basically if you just wanted that, for us to write a letter, it would be no more than £350. If it's a proper application for any sort of leave ... it is more.
"If you make an application outside of the immigration rules then it would be up to £1,500. It depends on the category."

Islamic website tied to MP's stabbing resurfaces under new name

A radical US-based Islamic website shut down last month after allegedly helping to inspire the stabbing of a Labour MP has resurfaced with a new name.

Islamic website tied to MP's stabbing resurfaces under new name
Roshonara Choudry (L), the British Muslim jailed for life for stabbing Stephen Timms, identified RevolutionMuslim as an inspiration for her actions Photo: PA
Younus Abdullah Muhammad, a founder of both sites, told The Daily Telegraph that was the direct successor to which was closed amid the furore over its role in the attack on Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham.
"IslamPolicy will continue with the work of RevolutionMuslim," Mr Muhammad, a white American convert to Islam, said during an interview in which he called the Sept 11 terror attacks "justified violence".
He continued: "If loving Muslims that fight and die to defend themselves from Western imperialism make the UK and US governments associate me or IslamPolicy with terrorists, then I am honoured to be so associated."
US counter-terrorism officials say that at least a third of the more than 50 domestic terror suspects arrested in America in the last year had ties to RevolutionMuslim, an English-language site aimed at Muslims in the West.
They trace its roots to a network of sites run by the now banned al-Muhajiroun group in Britain. "It is playing an important role in the export to the US of the British disease of home-grown terror by radicalised young Muslims," a US official said.
Aaron Zelin, a US academic who follows pro-jihadi websites, says that the US-based RevolutionMuslim was being increasingly used by British extremists to skirt hate speech and incitement laws in the UK and promote groups with al-Muhajiroun links.
The site, which was hosted on an American Google server, was closed down last month after intense pressure from British and American security officials. But Mr Muhammad has now established IslamPolicy on a blogging site also operated by Google, calling it the new home for the closed site.
He has said that IslamPolicy will focus on ideology and education, but British and American counterterror experts are monitoring it closely for the sort of radical content that was a fixture of its predecessor.
Roshonara Choudry, the British Muslim jailed for life for stabbing Mr Timms, identified RevolutionMuslim and the teachings of Anwar al-Awlaki, the US-born Yemen-based militant preacher, as inspirations for her actions.
There was outrage when the website ran a posting eulogising her and encouraging similar attacks on MPs who, like Mr Timms, had voted in favour of the Iraq war.
Peter Barron, European communications director for Google, said: "We are looking at the new site and will remove content which breaks our guidelines on hate speech and dangerous or illegal content. What we can't do, and which few people would want a private company to do, is check what people want to post online before they do so."
The site's re-emergence as IslamPolicy prompted demands for the new site to be closed by Patrick Mercer, the Conservative MP who was formerly his party's Homeland Security spokesman.
"I am horrified to hear that the people behind the RevolutionMuslim site have started up again," he said. "I am equally surprised that the American authorities have allowed these highly suspicious individuals to operate yet again."

Monday, 29 November 2010

How a Victorian industrialist helped Kate Middleton's parents

Kate Middleton's journey from ordinary middle class girl to future princess has all the elements of a romantic fairytale.

Kate Middleton's journey from ordinary middle class girl to future princess has all the elements of a romantic fairytale.
Kate's great great grandfather, Francis Martineau Lupton built a huge fortune which he left to his family when he died in 1921 Photo: PA
But Ms Middleton's rise to the ranks of the aristocracy would not have been possible without the hard-headed foresight of a Victorian industrialist and philanthropist.
Ms Middleton's great great grandfather holds the key to how the daughter of an airline pilot and a flight attendant managed to attend one of the most expensive independent schools in the country, with fees of £29,000 a year.
An old fashioned, careful, entrepreneur he determined that his children, and his children's children, should have the best education money can buy and set up a family trust worth millions of pounds to pay for it.
Kate's parents now live in a £1 million house in Berkshire are said to have made a small fortune in recent years from the family's mail order business selling children's party supplies.
But it is these family trusts, set up around 100 years ago, which are thought to have enabled the future Princess to attend Marlborough College which led on to St Andrews University where she met Prince William.
At their inception the trusts controlled a Victorian property empire in and around Leeds and benefited from income from a large numbers of rented houses, textile and engineering factories and a fashionable new "arcade" style shopping centre - one of the first outside London.
From the outset the trustees looking after its administration were instructed to pay its beneficiaries the profits and also to fund their children's education.
The current value of these trusts is unknown, although new details are expected to be revealed when the estate of Kate's late grandfather, Peter Middleton, is probated.
However, what is known, is that when the trusts were established the intention was to invest the money from the property empire wisely to ensure it long outlasted the man who created it.
The trust was set up by Kate Middleton's great great grandfather, Francis Martineau Lupton, a wealthy Yorkshire mill owner, who built a huge fortune which he left to his family when he died in 1921.
Francis Lupton had been a city councillor and an alderman in Leeds at the beginning of the 20th Century, and was the first chairman of the city's unhealthy areas committee which was responsible for clearing away the city's slums.
He was a member of the breakaway Liberal Unionists, who were opposed to Home Rule for Ireland proposed by the Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone, and joined the ranks of the Conservative Party in 1895.
With his three brothers, who between them also helped found Leeds University and expand the city's General Infirmary hospital, he ran the family's successful textile manufacturing business William Lupton & Company, which had been built up by their father.
Francis Lupton lived in a grand Victorian mansion, which still stands on Elmete Lane, in the Roundhay area of the city.
A history of Leeds records that the Lupton family had for generations been associated with "the commercial, municipal, educational and religious life" of the city.
And his 1921 will, obtained by the Sunday Telegraph, shows his personal estate was worth £70,538 - equivalent to about £1.5 million today.
However, crucially, apparently to avoid death duties, it also shows that the vast bulk of his fortune - including his share in the family business - had already been transferred to a family trust which is still apparently paying an undisclosed income to his descendents today.
Mr Lupton ordered his trustees to invest this large fortune wisely and to "accumulate the residue of the said income in the way of compound interest by investing the same and the resulting income thereof to the intent that such accumulations shall be added to the principal".
The will does not list all the property he had put into trust but reveals it will benefit from the income from "real or leasehold properties" which his trustees should "generally manage...according to their absolute discretion".
And it also controlled an unspecified investment portfolio which the trustees are asked to maintain by investing further "in any of the modes of investment authorised by law for trust money or on a real or personal property".
The trust, the will discloses, also controlled his quarter share in family business, William Lupton and Company, and a stake in another firm, the New Briggate Arcade Company.
The company had been formed in the late 19th Century to build a new shopping centre in Leeds city centre - The Grand Arcade.
Still standing today, but now overshadowed by the city's modern shopping malls and department stores, when it opened in 1898, The Grand Arcade was at the heart of the city's most fashionable commercial district.
Taking its name from the nearby Grand Theatre, it was designed by local architects Smith and Tweddle, and featured two two-storey parallel rows of shops, joined by a shorter row under a glass roof.
In 1920, one avenue of shops was closed and trasnformed into a cinema. A covenant, registered at the time by Mr Lupton's firm, and still on the property register, "henceforth" prohibited the "carry on" of "any noisy noxious or offensive trade" in the property.
Centrepiece of the design of the Grand Arcade is a clock which features a dial mounted between two knights in armour who strike the quarter hour.
On the hour a door opens and five figures mounted on a revolving stage emerge. There is a British Grenadier Guardsman, a Scotsman, an Irishman, a Canadian, and an Indian. As the stage rotates they disappear into a door on the right hand side of the clock, and a cockerel, above the dial, nods its head, flaps its wings and crows.
The New Briggate Arcade Company finally sold its stake in the arcade in 1938 to the owners of the cinema.
This fortune was inherited by Mr Luton's two daughters, one of whom, Olive, is Kate Middleton's great grandmother, although control of the estate was passed to several more distant male relatives.
Francis Lupton had had three sons, who he had groomed to take over the family business. At least two of boys attended Rugby School and Trinty College Cambridge. But both died in the carnage of the First World War.
The roll of honour at Rugby School records how Captain Maurice Lupton, of the West Yorkshire Regiment, was "Killed in Action by a sniper bullet in the trenches at Lille on 19 June 1915".
It also shows how Major Francis Ashford Lupton, also of the West Yorkshire Regiment, who was already a partner in the family firm, was "killed in action at Miraumont on the night of 19 February 1917 when he went out with one man on reconnaissance and did not return". His body was later found and buried in the nearby military cemetery.
His third son, Lionel, died in the battle of the Somme in July 1916.
Francis Lupton's will left "the sum of one hundred pounds as a mark of my affection" to Maj. Lupton's wife and daughter, but noted that they were "otherwise well provided for".
When Olive Middleton died in 1936 her will shows that the family fortune was still intact. It shows she left a personal estate of £52,031 - worth around £2 million today according to the National Archives' "old money currency converter" which takes account of historical inflation.
But it also discloses that by 1936 there were three separate family trusts in operation controlling the bulk of her and her family's fortune.
The will repeats many of the orders left by her father asking her trustees to invest the money wisely and again makes provision to pay for her ancestors' children's education.
In addition it also set up an additional annuity of £200 a year - worth around £7,400 today for her husband, Richard Noel Middleton, and three children, who included Peter Middleton, Kate Middleton's grandfather.
Again the will does not discuss her specific investments, but suggests they included "railway and other company shares" held in the trust.
However, it does disclose that her father's 1921 trust fund had been used to buy two large houses "Fieldhead and "Linden" in the Roundhay area of Leeds, one of the city's more affluent suburbs.
The will leaves "Fieldhead", her marital home, for "the use of my husband" who also received a bequest for "all the motor cars and motor accessories and all the garden stock and effects."
Now with his death, Peter Middleton's share of what is left of the family fortune will pass to his son Michael, Kate's father. Michael Middleton had previously also shared in a £363,232 legacy from his mother Valerie, who left him £100,000 in cash when she died in 2006.
What became of the family business is unclear. Richard Middleton, who died in 1951, had help to run it, but modern day Companies House shows no record of its existence.
The grand houses in Leeds are long since sold and The Grand Arcade's glory days are a faded memory. However, whatever remains in the trust's coffers today, its lasting legacy would seem to be Princess Catherine, future Queen.

Prince on a mission to save World Cup bid

As a search and rescue pilot, Prince William is used to tough assignments, but on Tuesday he flies into Zurich charged with the nearest thing to Mission Impossible: rescuing England’s World Cup bid.

World Cup 2018: FA's television hell for England bid: El Clasico followed by BBC Panorama drama - Prince William and David Beckham
Lionhearted: England need Prince William and David Beckham to pull out all the stops for England's 2018 World Cup bid Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The Prince’s charisma, combined with the political clout of David Cameron and star quality of David Beckham, is the bid team's final throw of the dice ahead of Thursday’s vote to decide who will host the 2018 tournament.
England’s bid is considered third favourite, behind Russia and the joint bid from Spain and Portugal. Only the joint bid from Holland and Belgium is more of an outsider.
Prince William, president of the Football Association, will lead a charm offensive, in the plush meeting rooms of the Bar Au Lac hotel, where Fifa’s 22-man executive committee will be staying.
"He’s really looking forward to meeting these people and telling them why England would be such a fantastic place to host the World Cup," said a spokesman for the Prince.
Mr Cameron will spend two days pressing England’s case, breaking off only to take Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday morning. Beckham, flying in from Australia, where he has been on tour with LA Galaxy, will be joined by past England footballers including Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker.
The vote takes place amid widespread allegations of Fifa corruption, which culminated in the suspension of two senior officials who were covertly filmed asking for money in exchange for their votes.
A BBC Panorama investigation, to be broadcast tomorrow night, will raise new questions over the probity of football’s governing body. Fifa does not take kindly to criticism and England’s bid team unsuccessfully lobbied the BBC to pull the programme.
A senior Swiss prosecutor has told The Sunday Telegraph that Fifa officials had paid £3.5 million in compensation after admitting taking payments from a marketing company.
The compensation was paid to the Swiss authorities earlier this year in return for them abandoning an investigation into the officials’ alleged role in the collapse of ISL, the marketing company that sold the television rights for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. A secret deal banned the court from revealing the identities of the Fifa officials involved.
The Swiss-based company went bankrupt in 2001 amid allegations of bribery to sports officials to secure contracts, leaving debts of more than £200 million. Swiss prosecutors said £11.5 million was paid to people involved in the negotiation of rights contracts connected to World Cups and the Olympic Games.
The company’s former executives denied charges of fraud, embezzlement, fraudulent bankruptcy, damaging creditors and falsification of documents, for which each defendant faced up to four and a half years in prison. In 2004, Fifa dropped a criminal complaint, saying it would try to recover £80 million it was owed by ISL through civil proceedings.
However, authorities in the Swiss canton of Zug, headed by magistrate Thomas Hildbrand, launched their own criminal investigation into the agency. A 228-page indictment in 2008 named at least two Fifa executive members.
The case led to bitter clashes between Fifa president Sepp Blatter and other senior officials. At the time a Fifa spokesman admitted: "It was a major crisis. Ninety-two per cent of all revenue that Fifa generates comes from the television rights and the marketing rights for the World Cup."
Last week, Mr Hildbrand issued a statement to The Sunday Telegraph, saying that the case was now closed.
The statement read: "In 2000, Fifa benefited from commissions paid by the ISL group. The individual officials who received the payments did not pass the funds on to Fifa and used the assets for their own purposes.
"Fifa also omitted, for its part, from claiming its entitlement to the net assets of the accused. It was damaged to this extent."
None of the defendants was charged with bribery because it was not an offence under Swiss law at the time. All denied criminal responsibility. They claimed the payments were legitimate business expenses, but agreed to pay restitution amounting to £3.5 million and legal costs.
In June this year, Blatter was cleared of any wrongdoing by the prosecutor in Zug. Fifa considers the case to be closed, but it is expected to be a central feature of tomorrow’s Panorama investigation.
Questions about the bribery allegations were put to Mr Blatter in advance of the programme. It is understood that Mr Blatter, who last night was refusing to be interviewed, was asked whether he took bribes from ISL.
The programme will also draw on an undercover newspaper sting earlier this year that led to the suspension of two Fifa executive committee members, Nigeria’s Amos Adamu and Tahiti’s Reynald Temarii. They were suspended after allegations that they asked for money for projects in return for World Cup votes. Fifa officials called the undercover sting "unethical".
Allegations of favours in return for votes are nothing new, as are claims of horse trading among countries bidding to stage the 2018 World Cup and those trying to host it in 2022. Collusion is against the rules. David Dein, the former Arsenal vice-chairman who is the international president of the English bid, said: "What happens behind the scenes, if people are doing deals with each other, how can you influence that, how can you stop that from going on?"
The 2018 World Cup will go to one of the European bidders – England, Netherlands-Belgium, Russia or Spain-Portugal – while the 2022 event is the subject of bids from Australia, Japan, Qatar, South Korea and the United States.The votes are decided by the Fifa executive committee representing all the different global football confederations. Voting takes place round by round until one bid gains a clear majority. Current predictions suggest the Spanish-Portuguese has eight first-round votes in the bag, with the Russians confident of getting seven and England perhaps picking up four.
The Dutch-Belgian bid, likely to attract only three votes, is expected to be eliminated, leaving England chasing its votes to stay in the running. "You’re in the hands of 22 individuals and one’s got to hope we’ve given them enough ammunition to vote for us," said Mr Dein. England’s bid scored highly with Fifa’s technical inspectors, but the relationships between the bidding nations and individual Fifa executive members are often more important.
Whatever the outcome of the World Cup vote, the game’s governing body is facing calls for a clean-up from candidates such as Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, the son of the late King Hussein of Jordan, who is standing for Fifa on an anti-corruption ticket.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Paul and Rachel Chandler: British mercenaries hired to take on the Somali pirates

The Government is in secret talks to send taxpayer-funded British mercenaries to war torn Somalia to confront the pirates attacking commercial shipping and behind the kidnapping of Paul and Rachel Chandler.

armed Somali pirates: Taxpayer-funded British mercenaries hired to take on the Somali pirates who captured the Chandlers
The controversial plan will see the ex-special forces team sent to train Somali nationals to take on the pirates along the country's lawless coastline Photo: AFP/GETTY
A Sunday Telegraph investigation can reveal that senior Foreign Office officials have held detailed discussions with a British security firm employing former members of the Special Boat Service (SBS) about setting up and running the operation.
The controversial plan – indirectly funded with aid money from British taxpayers – will see the ex-special forces team sent to train Somali nationals to take on the pirates along the country's lawless coastline.
The revelation comes days after the release of the Chandlers, from Tunbridge Wells, who were held hostage by Somali pirates for more than a year after being captured on their yacht while on a retirement sailing holiday.
Acting as "mentors" the ex-SBS men will be allowed to accompany the new crews on patrols going into action in armed encounters with the gangs.
The plan is particularly sensitive because previous attempts to train Somali military recruits have seen them swap sides and join the pirates or Islamic insurgents, taking their weapons and equipment with them.
Operating in fast boats capable of outrunning the pirates' converted fishing vessels, the plan is to retake the coastline and prevent the pirates from putting to sea or returning to shore with kidnap victims.
The operation is seen as essential to protect shipping navigating off the Horn of Africa. Ships currently rely on protection from international naval vessels – including Royal Navy frigates – which are spread too thinly.
Piracy has become so commonplace that conveys of ships are asking for naval escorts through the area while some shipping firms are hiring armed guards to protect their vessels, crews and cargo.
So far this year there have been 164 piracy incidents, with 37 vessels hijacked, around 700 seafarers taken hostage and 12 people killed or injured.
The decision to call in ex-special forces soldiers earning up to £1,500-a-day is highly controversial.
The Foreign Office involvement with 'soldiers of fortune' is reminiscent of the Sandline Affair which saw the department accused of sanctioning the activities of a private military company, Sandline International, breaking an arms embargo to ship weapons to Sierra Leone.
The Foreign Office is leading the way on the plan through its chairmanship of the United Nations Working Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.
Working group number one, which is overseeing 'military and operation co-ordination', is headed by Chris Holtby, the FCO's Deputy Head of Security Policy.
An internal UN document prepared by Mr Holtby says: "Crimes such as human trafficking are happening with impunity ... security is the key issue."
It adds: "If the authorities ... are not yet able to stop kidnappings, it may be possible to send trainers".
The report, obtained by The Sunday Telegraph, outlines the overall plan to get better "intelligence against pirate bases ashore" and to be "prepared to take action against them".
It says any enforcement has to be done in accordance with international law.
Disagreements between the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG) and the authorities in Puntland, the region further north along the coast, have delayed the proposal for a "Somali Coast Guard unit equipped with 8 fast patrol craft and 96 personnel and coastal observation teams".
This would be supplemented with a 130-strong battalion of marines for "reconnaissance, surveillance and offensive action".
They are arguing about where the boat crews should come from. The fear is that training local men and handing out equipment, if the crews were not vetted properly, might "exacerbate the existing problem" if those men then joined the pirates.
The Puntland authorities, who are not internationally recognised, want to control the Coast Guard and send their own men to man the patrols and have objected to "the TFG selecting a commercial partner to work with to establish a Coastguard".
But Mr Holtby's report adds: "ensuring accountability" would be "a major requirement for attracting donor support" and that the "consultants", who presented details on plans for a pilot coastguard scheme with the Somali TFG Defence Minister,"recognised the need for due legal process".
An earlier, privately funded, attempt to train a coast guard unit in the region using ex-SAS trainers failed when the money from international donors ran out.
This was followed by three serving Coast Guard members being arrested and jailed after hijacking a Thai fishing trawler that they were supposed to be escorting and demanding a £500,000 ransom. The men claimed their wages had not been paid.
Now Mr Holtby has been involved in discussions with British 'business risk consultants' Drum Cussac, which already supplies armed security teams to shipping companies, to train the new Somali coastguard.
Last night the firm refused to comment, but it is understood it has been hired by the TFG with the international community agreeing to foot the bill.
The money will come from $25 million the US Government have promised to the antipiracy project.
Britain, which has so far not committed "specifically counter-piracy" money, will also contribute from "overlaying of benefits from counter-terrorism, counter-trafficking, migration, development/rule of law" funds.
Drum Cussac, which describes itself as 'the market leader in antipiracy and maritime security', is headed by former Scots Guards officer Jeremy Stampa Orwin.
Mr Stampa Orwin's previous firm Lifeguard shared offices with Sandline and, according to a Parliamentary report, until 1998, had "from time to time" co-operated "with but is otherwise operationally separate".
Drum Cussac says it can 'supply a full range of armed services for the protection of vessels in transit through high risk waters and for static operations or survey work in areas of high threat'.
'Our armed option', it says, 'has been designed to provide fully legitimate, properly licensed and trained teams to deploy on board vessels. Our teams are experienced UK nationals and are equipped with new and modern weapons systems.'
Senior Whitehall sources confirmed Foreign Office officials had met with the security firm involved but insisted it was at the request of the Somali Government. The meetings, the source said, were in line with the strict Government rules on dealing with such firms.
However it was acknowledged that donor cash, including British taxpayers money, would "indirectly" pay for their operation.
Abdallah Boss Ahmed, until recently the Somali defence minister, confirmed he had approved the plan.
He said: "The concept ... involves the contracting of specialist private companies to train, equip and mentor vetted Somali recruits to operate effectively and with respect for ... Human rights in retaking control of (the) ... Somali coast and associated territorial waters."


Millionaire owner of Dubai’s "Little Britain" attacks jail term over bounced cheques.

A British property tycoon, famous for buying a £43 million man-made island in the shape of Great Britain off the coast of Dubai, has branded the Gulf state “backward and unjust” after it jailed him for seven years over a series of bounced cheques.

Safi Qureshi on the island of 'Little Britain'
Safi Qureshi on the island of 'Little Britain' which he bought in 2009 
Safi Qurashi, from Balham, south London, appealed to David Cameron to intervene, claiming he had been wrongly convicted after hearings lasting just a minute each.
Two years ago Mr Qurashi, 41, was featured in Britain’s Got Talent judge Piers Morgan’s ITV programme on how Britons were cashing on the Dubai property boom and becoming overnight millionaires.
But, in a letter from jail, he reveals how, since his arrest, his business collapsed and the strain of the ordeal caused his pregnant wife to lose their baby and his mother to suffer a near-fatal heart attack.
The letter, handed to the Sunday Telegraph by his family, says he was mistreated by the Dubai police, who, he claims, handcuffed him to a chair for eight hours, denied him access to lawyers, and that he was convicted without any chance to put his side of the story. He also claims the Foreign Office have refused to help.
“I could not believe what I was going through,” he wrote. “I kept on thinking this is a modern country, it has laws, it depends on foreign citizens and investment, surely its legal system cannot be this backward and unjust?”
One of 200 Britons jailed in the United Arab Emirates, where the Queen is due to visit later this month, he added: “David Cameron has the power to enforce change. How can we as a nation entertain a regime that allows our citizens to invest money and then (be) jailed?”
He wrote: “We went from having five staff to almost 100 within two years. We started to enjoy the better aspects of life. We sent our kids to the best school in Dubai and we could enjoy amazing holidays. Our business turnover was £600 million.”
His company specialised in beach front properties sought after by stars like David and Victoria Beckham and Rod Stewart, who reportedly invested in the Gulf State as it was transformed into a playground for the rich and famous.
The firm survived the country’s property crash which saw newly built luxury apartment blocks and hotels left empty. But last January, without warning, Mr Qurashi and his business partner were arrested by plain clothes police.
“They told me I was being arrested for bouncing a cheque. They said not to worry, in two hours we would be let go.
“I was held for eight hours in a cell. No phone calls. No lawyer. Then I was kept handcuffed to a chair for another eight hours.
“We were asked two questions: our names and whether we signed the cheques. As I answered yes, we were sent to Port Rashid jail, built to house 80 prisoners, (but with) over 200 people inside.”
“It was shocking. At night it resembled a refugee camp. For our first few days we slept on a concrete floor, taking it in turns to sleep.”
After two days they were met by the prosecutor who said they were being charged over three bounced cheques, made out for millions of pounds.
But Mr Qurashi claims the cheques were handed over as security in a series of property deals and should never have been cashed as the deals had been completed.
The prosecutor said they would face a hearing in two weeks. “Just like that, two weeks in jail,” Mr Qurashi wrote.
“After six days our lawyer arrived. We had been in the same clothes for a week, with no place to wash, no soap or shampoo.”
“The lawyer, who we had hired, omitted to tell us that he was the defence lawyer in a (unconnected) civil case we had filed in 2009. His offer was simple: drop all charges...and I will help you.
“Suddenly the Dubai I knew, trustworthy, clean, crime free, non corrupt, all disappeared.”
Meanwhile Mr Qureshi’s wife, Huma, was struggling, looking after their young children, Sara, 12, Maaria, nine, Yousuf, four, dealing with lawyers and trying to keep the business afloat.
“My wife who was pregnant at the time of my arrest suffered a miscarriage. That was a particularly difficult thing. Trying to suppress the anger and frustration was difficult and the environment in which we were in was not easy.
“We hired a new lawyer who had two five minute with us. He said “this is not England, we do things our way”.
“There were two hearings – each one a minute long and I was sentenced. The judge had not read any of our evidence. I was assumed guilty even before I attended court.”
After his conviction he was transferred to the country’s main jail. Conditions are better, but the other inmates include murderers, rapists and drug dealers.
He has now been in jail for nine months and is allowed to see his wife each week “through a glass window, over a dodgy intercom system”.
His final appeal was dismissed last month. “My children have been told and they cried for days. They wrote me great letters of encouragement, although it is very hard to read them through all the tears that would flow.”
He added: “Dubai boasts that it has a very fast judicial process. That’s right. In a one hour court session a judge hears between 30-40 cases - only 90 seconds per case. Guilty or not guilty. This is the legal system of modern Dubai.”
Last night Mr Qureshi’s family said they had asked for help from the Foreign Office but were told they could not intervene.
His brother Farhan Qurashi said: “They say a lawyer in Dubai has to say due process has not been followed. But no lawyer in Dubai is willing to put their name to that.
“In the meantime my brother rots in jail and his family suffer. This is a terrible miscarriage of justice.”

Safi Qurashi's open letter from Dubai jail cell

Two years ago I shot to fame as the man who bought "Little Britain" in UAE. This is my story of how my Dubai dream became a nightmare.

Safi, right, receiving an award for 'Trusted Real Estate Partner' from
Sheikh Manea Bin Hasher Al Maktoum
Safi, right, receiving an award for 'Trusted Real Estate Partner' from Sheikh Manea Bin Hasher Al Maktoum 
Dubai's property boom had just begun, when I set up a property business, Premier Real Estate Bureau LLC.
We employed five staff and business went so well that within two years we were employing 100. Our name was trusted and our reputation was excellent. We won a business award from Sheikh Manea Al Maktoum - the first in Dubai. All the hard work paid off. We sent our kids to the best school in Dubai and had amazing holidays with our families.
We specialised in beach front properties so when the island of Great Britain became available we snapped it up. We knew that the market was overheated and that a crash was inevitable, so we planned for that. When the Dubai markets did crash in 2009 we were still in a strong position and our business turnover was $1billion.
My life took a dramatic turn on Friday 15th January 2010, when two plain clothed officers arrested me for bouncing a cheque and took me to CID headquarters. I was held for eight hours in a cell, handcuffed like a criminal. No phone calls. No lawyer. Then I was transferred to Jebel Ali police station.
There I was kept handcuffed to a chair for another 8 hours. No-one spoke English. I was asked two questions: my name and whether I signed two cheques. When I answered yes, I was sent to Port Rashid jail at 4am. The prison was built to house 80 prisoners; there were over 200 people inside. There were only four showers and three toilets. People were sleeping on the floor and in the kitchen. At night it resembled a refugee camp. For the first few days I slept on a concrete floor. I had no access to lawyer or phones. When I saw the prosecutor he asked about a cheque to a Russian investor. I told him everything and asked about bail. He said no bail was allowed and he would see me two weeks after he spoke to the Russian.
Just like that, two weeks in jail. Finally, on the fifth day, I was allowed to make a five minute call to my wife. She arrived next day with a solicitor who said don't worry, you will get bail in two or three days. These days were the most difficult. I was in the same clothes for a week, with no place to wash, no soap or shampoo. For a month I slept on the bare floor.
Then the second shock. My solicitor turned out to be the defence lawyer in a (civil) case I had filed earlier against a friend of his. His offer to me was simple: drop all charges against my friend and I will help you. My lawyer and the prosecutor were college buddies and good friends. Suddenly the Dubai I knew - trustworthy, clean, crime free, non-corrupt - vanished.
Then my wife suffered a miscarriage. That was a particularly difficult thing. Nights were lonely. Trying to suppress the anger and frustration was difficult. However, human nature and the sheer will to deal with problems makes you discover qualities you sometimes think you never had. I got a new lawyer who spent five minutes with me. When I said surely he needed input from me, he responded "this is not England, we do things our way". I didn't understand then, what he meant, but now I do. There were two hearings – each one a minute long. Two questions were asked and I was sentenced: a seven year jail term. I realized that the judge had neither read nor reviewed any of the evidence. He did not establish whether I actually broke the law. A cheque bounced. Nothing else was considered. I kept on thinking this is a modern country, it has laws, it depends on foreign citizens and investment, surely its legal system cannot be so backward? Surely they are not this unjust?
I was three months in Port Rashid jail. By the time I left, more than 300 prisoners were being held in that tiny place. I was allowed three phone calls a week each lasting only three minutes. I had to, in these nine minutes, manage my business and my legal affairs, speak to my wife and worry about the wellbeing of her and my children. I had not spoken to my children for three months. The hardest thing was telling my mum, my brothers and my sister where I was.
My wife visited every week but I couldn't bear my mum and children seeing me there. Sometimes you have to put the biggest stone on your heart and carry on with life. This is what I did. I spent my 41st birthday, my wife's 40th, my son's fourth birthday and my 20th wedding anniversary in jail. My children cried for days. They wrote me great letters of encouragement, although some days it was very hard to read them through all the tears that would flow.
But my kids' faces remained strong in my eyes; what are they doing? How are they coping? How will they survive? On April 1 I was moved to the central prison - with murderers, rapists, armed robbers and drug dealers. These are not the people I belong with, I kept on thinking. But at least I had a place to sleep and it was clean. There were only six to a room and we had to share a bathroom. But it was better than sharing with 350.
I hated the indignity of court: being handcuffed and strip-searched. All of your respect and dignity trodden over. Seeing your family in the court room, paraded in front of a full court room in prison uniform. The court of appeal was no better. Dubai boasts that it has a very fast judicial process. That's right. In a one hour court session a judge hears 30-40 cases. The same judge will hear a murder case, drug case, fraud, theft, drink and cheque case all in one hour and decide the outcome of each in only 90 seconds.
There are lots of British and foreign nationals whose businesses and families are struggling. People should see it's dark side beneath the glitz and glamour. I was surrounded by businessmen whose dreams of Dubai were turned into a nightmare as they had been labeled criminals.
My mum is my biggest worry. She is an old lady and suffered a heart attack in the Summer. I had to close my company and people lost their jobs. What took 6 years to build was destroyed in less than 6 months. You feel like screaming, shouting, crying – why will no one listen to me? Where is the British Government? There are over two hundred Brits in jail, most in the same situation. They all came to Dubai to start a new life, 99 percent never had any criminal record. Dubai has branded them criminals. Why is our government allowing this farce to happen?
I hope and pray that someone out there hears our pleas. We are not criminals. All we want is justice.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Did police cutbacks allow extremists to hijack student demonstrations?

The head of the police squad tackling domestic extremism was forced to quit days before anarchist students smashed their way into the Tory Party headquarters, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

Did police cutbacks allow extremists to hijack student demonstrations?
Critics last night called for an investigation into the cuts amid fears that they may have contributed to the Metropolitan Police's handling of Wednesday's demonstrations 
Supt Steve Pearl was told to retire as his unit – which investigates violent political activists across Britain – began making multi-million-pound savings as part of government cutbacks in the police.
The unit’s commander, The National Coordinator for Domestic Extremism also retired and has been replaced by his more junior – and less well paid – deputy.
Supt Pearl told The Sunday Telegraph that his departure and that of other senior staff “can’t fail to have had an impact” on the police intelligence gathering operation against extremists.
Critics last night called for an urgent investigation into the cuts amid fears that they may have contributed to the Metropolitan Police’s disastrous handling of Wednesday’s demonstrations.
Intelligence for such protests would normally be provided by the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU), which provides “tactical advice and guidance” on how to deal with any potential disorder.
NETCU’s database contains the names of around 2,000 protesters, including photographs taken at demonstrations and full background details, despite many individuals having no criminal record.
It built up the files after taking over MI5’s covert role watching groups such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, trade union activists and Left-wing journalists six years ago.
It also targets animal rights, environmentalism, antiglobalisation or anti-GM crop campaigners and “crime and public disorder linked to extreme Left or Right-wing political campaigns”.
But in the run up to last week’s events NETCU began a major internal reorganisation which will lead to it being merged with two other units tackling domestic extremists, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit and the Confidential Intelligence Unit.
As part of that reorganisation, both the head of NETCU, Supt Pearl, and his boss, National Coordinator, ACC Anton Setchell, have retired in the last two weeks.
Supt Pearl, who helped set up NETCU, said his departure had been forced upon him.
“I would rather have stayed. But I was told my contract was not being renewed.
“It is part of the public service cuts. The three domestic extremism units are being merged. I was told that duplicate posts are being done away with and the merger meant there would be no job for me.”
He added: “I have no idea what the unit’s role was in the run up to the student protests. I was not involved. Normally NETCU would liaise with the local force and offer assistance.
“Intelligence is not an exact science and sometimes it is wrong. But when you lose experienced officers like myself and ACC Setchell it can’t fail to have had an impact
“Between us we have had some 60 years in the police force – ten years on domestic extremism. Ideally, you would not lose all that experience in one go.”
Last night former ACC Setchell confirmed that he too had stepped down. He said: “I’ve retired. It has been planned for some time.
“NETCU is not being shut down but it is facing cutbacks in line with the rest of the public service.”
He added: “I don’t know what information NETCU passed to the Met before these demonstrations. It was not our operation and I was not involved, so I don’t think it is appropriate to comment.”
An internal Metropolitan Police inquiry is investigating why the force were so ill-prepared for the violent scenes at Millbank, near Westminster, which marred the student demonstration against massive increases in university tuition fees.
The central question is why there was apparently no intelligence that anarchists were planning to hijack the event despite evidence that they had been boasting about their plans on the internet.
Patrick Mercer, a former Conservative Homeland Security spokesman, said: “It seems apparent that the Government’s cut backs in policing are already having a negative effect on intelligence gathering. This must be looked at very carefully and with great urgency. Prevention is better than cure.”
Vernon Coaker, the shadow policing minister, said: “We’ve seen again this week that keeping public order requires not only policing at the front line but good intelligence gathering too. We are very concerned that this vital work could be undermined by deep and swift cuts being demanded by the Home Office. This is not the time to be losing some of our most experienced people, but the scale and pace of the government’s cuts are putting the police in an impossible position.”
Last night a spokesman from the office of the National Coordinator for Domestic Extremism confirmed the departures from NETCU. He said that ACC Setchell’s deputy, Detective Chief Supt Adrian Tudway, a former Metropolitan Police officer, had been appointed as the new National Coordinator of Domestic Extremism.
Det Supt Tudway said: “My team and I are keen to maintain the services and support for police forces but are reviewing current unit practices and spending in preparation for budget cuts which are taking place across the public sector.”
A Home Office spokesman confirmed that the policing of domestic extremism was also being re-examined in the light of criticism of the handing of the G20 protests in London.
The threat of violence and criminal damage were used by police as a reason to detain, or “kettle”, protesters during the April 2009 demonstrations.
A bystander, newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson, died shortly after being pushed to the ground by a police officer and two protesters were later awarded thousands of pounds in compensation after the police admitted they had been treated unlawfully.
The Home Office spokesman said: “The Government is working with the police to look at the governance and accountability of domestic extremism policing units in line with the recommendations (of the report into the official policing of the protests).”