Monday, 27 June 2011

Span text investigation 1

Spam texts: the firms behind the nuisance text messages about 'your accident'

Companies making money out of nuisance text messages to mobile phones are exposed in an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph.

Companies making money out of nuisance text messages to mobile phones are exposed in an investigation by The Sunday Telegraph.
One of the call centres responsible for sending out spam texts 
The unwanted texts, promoting compensation claims for accidents or financial mis-selling, are at the centre of a growing industry estimated to be worth at least £175 million. Almost one in three mobile customers reported that they received at least one of the spam messages last month — a total of 12.75 million nuisance texts.
Our investigation established that those involved in the industry that surrounds them include legal firms, so-called “claims farmers” which gather compensation cases for lawyers, and shadowy communications companies which can be based in India or Eastern Europe.
The “spam” texts, sent from untraceable pay-as-you-go mobile numbers, entice unwitting consumers with promises of thousands of pounds in compensation from “no win, no fee” accident claims and mis-sold financial services.
The deluge of messages, which when sent without the receivers’ consent are classified as “cold calls” and are outlawed, is driven by the commission available from the trade in information on possible claimants.
Last night there were renewed calls for a ban on all so-called referral payments.
One senior lawyer said: “The idea that you can buy and sell access to justice in this way is abhorrent.” The practice is big business, with information passed to law firms that appear to ask few questions about where their new clients have come from.
The firms insist that they follow procedures to avoid using information gained from unsolicited messages and take steps to check that they are being supplied with contact details legitimately.
The Sunday Telegraph responded to a series of unsolicited texts to test how the systems worked.
After providing brief details of an accident, our undercover team’s details were passed to companies including the Accident Advice Helpline, one of the country’s leading claims firms which has television advertisements featuring Esther Rantzen, the former That’s Life presenter.
We were also referred to a firm of solicitors whose senior partners had previously been censured by the Solicitors Regulation Authority for making banned payments to middlemen and ordered to refund the victims of industrial injury who had lost out as a result.
Our investigator told one company that we had been “cold called” but was still put through to a compensation lawyer after being asked: “Did you ever opt into a survey or website?”
Research by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), which wants tougher action on “spam” texts, shows around three per cent of people who receive one respond.
They believe this represents more than 500,000 people who are then contacted by a series of claims middlemen who decide whether they have a case before passing them on to lawyers, receiving fees of up to £500 a time. The research found that 30 per cent of adult mobile phone owners received an unsolicited SMS regarding accident claims, debt management or the mis-selling of personal protection insurance in the last month. Sending such unsolicited messages falls foul of tough new legislation which can see the firms involved prosecuted and fined up to £500,000.
However, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which oversees prosecutions, admits that bringing a successful action is difficult because mobile phone SIM cards used are unregistered and untraceable. Despite fears that such phones could be used by terrorists, pay as you go mobile phone SIMs can still be purchased for cash without proper identification.
Instead of prosecution, the ICO and phone companies, which also claim they are powerless to combat the practice, merely cut off the mobile phone number identified in the messages. The firms behind the texts need only to use a new unregistered SIM card to continue operating.
The lead generator firms sell on details of those who respond to their unsolicited texts. Even if they text “stop” in the belief that this will end the texts, their number can be sold to “lead generators” for around £5. They are then passed on to the claim managers or “claim farmers”, who contact the phone to see if they can produce a claim.
Mike Lordan, chief of operations for the DMA, said: “We’re concerned about the volume of SMS spam that’s being sent to UK mobile phone owners. Our research shows that a large percentage of people are receiving spam, are unsure how to stop it and don’t know who to make a complaint to. Mobile spam is causing distress to many people and seriously damaging the legitimate multi-million pound mobile marketing industry. Regulators have been unwilling or unable to take ownership and tackle this growing problem. It’s vital that they now decide between themselves who will take responsibility before it’s too late. We, the DMA, are ready to offer our expertise.”
Last night a spokesman for the Claims Management Regulator said it was in discussions with the Direct Marketing Association, Ofcom, the media regulator the ICO and the mobile phone companies about “further ways to clamp down on unsolicited texts from claims management firms”.
From India to Liverpool: How the system works
INDIAN NERVE CENTRE: Text messages are sent via computers – thought to be in India – to thousands of mobile phones inviting the recipients to make a compensation claim for an accident or financial mis-selling. They cost 2p to send. The numbers of those who respond are sold for £5 to UK firms.
UK CALL CENTRE: A “claims farmer” phones the mobile sent from India and asks about the 'claim’ and whether they agreed to be called. The British call centre takes down details of the claim and decides if the call is suitable to pass to lawyers, for which they are paid up to £500.
LETTER: Silverbeck Rymer draws up legal papers for our investigator. In normal claims an agent is sent to take a statement, obtain medical records and any other evidence of an accident. If the claim is successful the law firm will receive fees which could stretch to five figures.
LAW FIRM: A British legal firm — in our case Liverpool’s Silverbeck Rymer, run by (above, from left) Robert Fielding, James Rymer and Charles Rymer — contacts the person making the claim. They are paid commission when clients take out insurance to cover costs under no-win no fee arrangements.

Span Text investigation 2

Spam texts: the money trail to the heart of 'no win, no fee'

An investigation by the Sunday Telegraph reveals how companies make money out of 'spam texts'.

The telltale bleep of a mobile phone delivered yet another spam text.
“You have still not claimed the compensation you are due for the accident you had. To claim then pls reply CLAIM. To opt out text STOP.”
It was a message that has become routine to millions of mobile phone users.
But our simple response led The Sunday Telegraph investigation to India and to the heart of Britain’s burgeoning “no win no fee” compensation culture.
At each turn we uncovered money changing hands and laws designed to protect people from irritating interferences in their lives being routinely flouted.
We followed the trail of two similarly worded texts sent from British mobile numbers.
The people behind these spam messages — many of them based as far afield as India and Croatia — use unregistered SIM cards that are discarded after a few hours.
They can pour thousands of messages from the SIMs through computer software that can be operated from anywhere in the world. They cost 2p per message. By responding to each message our phone numbers were passed on to companies in Britain known as “lead generators”.
Experts believe these companies pay £5 to the text senders for each response — the first stage of the money trail.
Our first message resulted in a call from “Andy” who said he worked for “Affiliate Data Finance”, a firm that he said was based in Hampshire but which subsequently proved untraceable. Asked how he had obtained our number, he said: “We go through the files... We just investigate your accident and if they are liable for that and whether you are eligible.
“Basically it is the last chance saloon.”
We presented a false, but routine, compensation claim — a trip on a step outside work resulting in a broken ankle — which meant our call was forwarded to a firm called EM-ME.
EM-ME, registered in Petersfield, Hants, is a “claims farmer” which sends compensation cases to legal firms for them to pursue. It is run by Andy Law, a former advertising executive who describes it as an “ethical” claims management company. The woman in Mr Law’s call centre asked our investigator: “Can I just ask the question of how you were contacted before speaking to me? Did you ever receive a text or a telephone call saying you may be entitled to claim?”
“Yes. Why are you asking that?” replied our investigator.
“Because as a company we don’t actually do that. I just wanted to make that clear. Did you say you had been cold-called?” she said, adding: “Would you say you were cold called?” “I got a text, yes,” replied The Sunday Telegraph.
Undeterred, she said: “Did you ever opt into a survey or a website? Like a lifestyle survey… So you’re happy you’ve made an inquiry and you’ve not got any unexpected telephone calls?”
“Emm, I suppose so, yes,” our investigator replied.
She then said she would pass on our details to “our solicitors”, who pay EM-ME between £300 and £350 for each case.
This weekend Mr Law said that these questions were evidence of his firm’s “three check system” which, he said, was “designed to filter out leads generated by spam texts and cold calls”. Although our investigator was clear that he had received a “spam” text, Mr Law said: “It is in this part of the qualification process that we aim to weed out fraudsters and reject anyone who feels unhappy about the way they were contacted. At no stage does [your investigator] offer dissatisfaction, so we were obliged to pass him through to a legal representative.”
Asked about any due diligence test on firms Mr Law purchased leads from, he said: “I know I am playing with fire. We have only had one other incident like this.” Mr Law said he had so far failed to identify the firm that supplied the lead relating to The Sunday Telegraph case. He added that he did not know who Affiliate Data Finance were.
Meanwhile, the second text we responded to resulted in a call from a far larger business: Accident Advice Helpline.
The £12 million-a-year business runs television advertisements featuring Esther Rantzen, while its joint managing director, Darren Werth, is chairman of the Claims Standards Council, which is campaigning to stop spam text messages. In AAH’s adverts, Ms Rantzen says: “All of my working life I’ve campaigned for people to have access to justice. If you have been injured and someone else is to blame the law says you are entitled to compensation. That’s why I want you to know about the Accident Advice Helpline.” A member of the firm’s call centre told us they had been passed our details by “a company called Tetrus; they do the text marketing. I am calling from a separate company… You know the Accident Advice Helpline from the telly with Esther Rantzen?” Miss Rantzen, who was unavailable for comment, is not accused of wrongdoing.
A further call followed, with another Accident Advice Helpline worker checking details of The Sunday Telegraph’s fictitious personal injury claim and promising to forward it to a solicitor within 14 days.
A spokesman for the firm said: “Our client [Accident Advice Helpline] is extremely conscious of its obligations and responsibilities in relation to marketing activities, particularly in relation to SMS marketing. It would be unlawful for our client, or any other company, to cold call… or make an unsolicited approach” unless someone “opted in” to receiving communications from third parties on some previous date.” To this end the firm carried out “due diligence” and obtained “written confirmation” that the sources of information were “compliant”, the spokesman said. He named “RT Analytics”, a “well established company in Newcastle upon Tyne”, as the source of the lead generated by the text message sent to this paper.
The spokesman added: “However, the difficulty faced by companies in this field… is that whilst due diligence is possible on the companies from whom information is purchased, those companies will in turn purchase information from third parties.”
RT Analytics is run by Chris Imrie, a Newcastle businessman, and is registered at his home in Gosforth.
Mr Imrie was unavailable for comment last night. His profile on the LinkedIn website says he is a “life protection specialist” involved in “lead generation, database building, customer acquisition planning”.
Our investigation into the first text message then made it to the third stage in the money trail, when our call was put through by EM-ME to a solicitors’ firm in Liverpool, Silverbeck Rymer. It represents the tarnished end of the compensation culture. James and Charles Rymer, the senior partners, were disciplined by the Solicitors Regulation Authority for using £117,000 of compensation intended for sick miners to pay referral fees. The SRA found them guilty of three breaches of the Solicitors Code of Practice, including failing to act in the best interests of clients.
The firm wrote to our investigator, saying: “Silverbeck Rymer are specialists in this field, and will do all we can to ensure that your claim is progressed quickly and with the minimum amount of stress.”
If the firm had pursued our “claim” it would have been entitled to a large success fee for gaining our compensation, with the costs recovered from the company it sued on our behalf. It would also have asked us to take out an insurance policy that would have paid its costs had it lost, with a £500 commission from the insurance firm for getting us to sign up.
Yesterday, Rymer’s managing director, Robert Fielding, said the firm had “a clear written policy” that it did not accept claims obtained by cold calling and would investigate any apparent breaches of the policy. He said he had no comment on the previous disciplinary proceedings.

Spam text message investigation 3

Spam texts: the law on 'nuisance' text messages

Senior figures in the legal profession believe the only way to stamp out the use of cold calling and spam text messaging to generate claims leads is to ban law firms from paying referral fees.

Senior figures in the legal profession believe the only way to stamp out the use of cold calling and spam text messaging to generate claims leads is to ban law firms from paying referral fees.
Since 2004 the number of motoring-related accident claims has almost doubled from 400,000 a year to 790,000 Photo: ALAMY
Until 2004 such fees were illegal and since they were introduced the country has seen, for example, the number of motoring-related accident claims almost double from 400,000 a year to 790,000.
Earlier this year Appeal Court judge Lord Justice Jackson carried out a review of the costs of litigation for the Ministry of Justice. He said referral fees have driven up costs and brought no benefit, and should be banned in personal injury cases and possibly other areas too.
Solicitor John Spencer, whose own firm pays referral fees, backs a total ban on the commission payments. As vice-chairman of the Motor Accident Solicitors’ Society and a senior member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers he takes a more hard-line approach than many colleagues, who only want better enforcement of the rules restricting law firms’ marketing and banning cold calling.
“Banning referral fees would choke off the financial incentive for 'claims farmers’ and the others involved in this sordid business from sending out these unsolicited texts.
“The idea that you can buy and sell access to justice in this way is abhorrent,” he added.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Special Forces Club

Fighting for survival, the gentleman's club for spies and the SAS

Last updated at 21:53 31 March 2007

Hidden in a quiet London side street with no nameplate on the door is one of Britain's most exclusive and shadowy private clubs.

Membership of the Knightsbridge-based Special Forces Club is strictly limited to Britain's current and former military and intelligence elite.

In debt: The Special Forces Club and, inset, Agent 'Madeleine'
But the establishment's usually quietly conspiratorial atmosphere is now charged with bitter unrest as it faces spiralling debts, falling membership and fears for its survival.
Founded by the Second World War resistance organisers, the Special Operations Executive (SOE), in 1946, the club - motto 'Spirit Of Resistance' - is a second home for ageing secret agents, veterans of the SAS, other special forces, and MI5, MI6 and CIA officers.
Located in an unremarkable Victorian terrace in Herbert Crescent, behind Harrods department store, the club's fine dining room and bar are where the conspirators behind the alleged plot to overthrow Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson met to plan the putsch.
It was here, too, that Britain's most important wartime agent 'Garbo' - who helped mislead the Germans about the location of the D-Day landing -came in from the cold, calling in for tea with his British handlers.
Among the portraits lining the stairs is one of the beautiful Madeleine, SOE spy Noor Inayat Khan, who was sent to Dachau concentration camp and shot.
But the club's existence is now threatened by extraordinary claims, including one that its chairman, ex-Royal Marine and Special Boat Service hero Major 'Ram' Seeger's, election was illegal and allegations of fraud.
The membership is divided over whether the club should take on charity status - a move which would curb its debts but disbar the descendants of SOE war heroes and wealthy private security firms.
Last month Major Seeger wrote to 2,500 members revealing losses running at £8,000 a month and an annual deficit of £138,000. He said: 'The club is depleting its reserves, has unsatisfactory working practices and there are strongly held differing views on the best way forward.
'Once it was realised last year that we were not going to break even, it was clear something much more radical had to be done. An independent auditor examined the financial controls and management system and came up with some fairly damning comments.'
Maj Seeger said the club management had to be restructured 'since without sound management the club has no future'. He revealed the club's management committee had been 'divided with no realistic prospect of agreement' which had led to a series of resignations - and that membership was at 'its lowest level', nearly 900 below what was needed to break even.
Maj Seeger was also forced to dismiss claims of theft and fraud involving staff and that his own election had been illegal. He said an internal audit had 'found no evidence of malfeasance'.
He told The Mail on Sunday: 'All these difficulties can be overcome and we are confident the club will continue to flourish.'

Charlotte Gray's daughter launches operation to save SAS club

Last updated at 21:47 07 April 2007
The daughter of wartime secret agent 'Charlotte Gray' is fighting a battle of her own ... to save a gentlemen's club for spies.
Yvette Pitt is one of a dozen former intelligence agents and elite soldiers attempting to force out the people who run the secretive Special Forces Club.
The Mail on Sunday revealed last week how the exclusive Knightsbridge club - open only to members of military units like the SAS and officers from MI5 and MI6 - was facing bitter unrest over spiralling debts, falling membership and fears for its survival.
Now a Who's Who of Britain's intelligence elite have arranged a special meeting next week calling for a vote of no confidence in its management committee, treasurer and auditors.
The group includes Mrs Pitt, whose late mother Yvonne Cormeau's heroics with the French Resistance inspired the Cate Blanchett film about women radio operators parachuted into Occupied Europe in the Second World War.

Much-decorated Mme Cormeau, codenamed 'Annette', was dropped into France in August 1943 and arranged 140 arms and supply drops to resistance fighters in the south-west of the country before and after D-Day.
Also involved are Scotland Yard terrorism expert Martin Gillvray, Mark Baillie, an Islamic terrorism expert, and Lindsay Jenkins, a former senior official at the MoD.
Other signatories include Anthony Suttill, who has links to the wartime code-breaking centre at Bletchley Park, Steve Weiss, a Special Operations Executive agent who led wartime resistance operations in Provence, and Judith Hiller, formerly of the British Diplomatic Spouses' Association.
The latest moves come after allegations of fraud and mismanagement over losses of more than £90,000 over the past two years which threaten the club's continued existence.
None of the group behind the emergency meeting would discuss the club's problems.
But one long-standing member who backs the protesters said: "Members are on notice that they will be expelled from the club if they 'go outside' or continue to agitate for more efficient management.
"I don't think you'll find anyone who is willing to talk about this, as that is not the culture of Special Forces.
"Expulsions have happened before and they really don't need any grounds at all under the club rules."
The agenda for the meeting includes discussion of 'extraordinary losses and unexplained disappearance of funds' and 'unauthorised expenditure'.
The club's latest accounts show a further £46,477 loss and the club's investments are now worth just £25,000 - less than it paid for them.
The members are also questioning why the club management spent more than £41,000 on accounting and legal fees, and nearly £12,000 on 'meeting expenses'.
The emergency vote was announced by SFC chairman Major 'Ram' Seeger, in a letter to members which said: "Once again we've ended the year with a deficit and this is much regretted ...
"There was a delay in the signing off of our accounts by the auditors because of allegations by some of our members. However, an independent audit and a second visit by the auditors showed nothing untoward."

Monday, 20 June 2011

MI5 file on the Archbishop of Canterbury

MI5 labelled the Archbishop of Canterbury a subversive over anti-Thatcher campaigns

The Archbishop of Canterbury was a leading member of a left-wing group labelled "subversive" by the security services in a report to Baroness Thatcher.

Rowan Williams
L- Rowan Williams then Bishop of Monmouth supporting the miners Merthry Tydfil South Wales Nov 1992 R- Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 2003 Photo: ALAMY/PA
When he launched a stinging attack on the Coalition government over policies "for which no one voted", the Archbishop of Canterbury put himself squarely in the centre of a political storm.
Critics accused him of political bias, claiming it was a throwback to the days when his predecessors regularly clashed with past Conservative administrations.
But perhaps they should not be too surprised, as it can be revealed that the Archbishop has a long-standing left-wing political past.
The young Rowan Williams was once labelled 'a subversive' by a senior MI5 officer over his involvement with a group of Marxist, Trotskyite and socialist campaigners.
Last week Dr Williams, who describes himself as a "lapsed" Labour party member held private talks with Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition, in the wake of his New Statemsman article which attacked the coalition.
The future head of the Church of England first came to the attention of the Security Service when he helped found a left-wing Christian group during his student days at Oxford University.
He wrote the original manifesto for the Jubilee Group, claiming capitalism was in its death-throes and 'threatens to inflict even greater violence on manking than it has done before'.
Rubbing shoulders with left-wing politicians such as Tony Benn and the late Eric Heffer, he wrote: 'We must make our stand with the oppressed'.
The Jubilee Group was identified as a "problem" neo-Marxist organisation in confidential intelligence documents drawn up by MI5 officer Charles Elwell.
He warned of "the problem of Christian left wing groups" and named the Jubilee Group as "the best known and probably most influential".
Mr Elwell, who died in 2008, spent much of his career investigating left of centre politicians, charity workers and trade unionists, first in MI5's now defunct counter-subversion F branch and then privately for the shadowy Institute for the Study of Conflict, which was allegedly part funded by the CIA and MI6.
He delivered his warning warned about Dr Williams' group in 1989 in the privately-funded British Briefing, a newsletter circulated to a secret list of politicians, including Baroness Thatcher, and selected journalists.
Shortly after its analysis of Dr Williams' group was published, the Prime Minister said the Jubilee Group was "the most subversive group within the religious community in England" and one newspaper referred to it as "a bunch of neo-Marxist trendy clerics."
The group helped oversee a series of campaigns against the introduction of the poll tax, the violent trade union dispute over Rupert Murdoch's decision to move his newspapers to Wapping and the US nuclear base at Greenham Common.
The group also condemned Baroness Thatcher's views on immigration. When she said she feared Britain would be "swamped by people of a different culture", the Jubilee Group accused the Tories of "racism and creeping fascism", adding: "It is a phenomenon which is far more dangerous than that of the National Front".
Dr Williams was a leading member of the radical Jubilee Group's executive committee during the 1970s and 1980s alongside Mr Heffer, Mr Benn and Communist priest Rev Alan Ecclestone.
The archbishop, an Oxford graduate, was ordained a priest in 1977 but spent almost all of his clerical career until he was consecrated a bishop in 1991 as a lecturer at Cambridge and Oxford universities.
In 1974, he had co-written a manifesto for the group with his friend John Saward, now a Catholic priest, in the Horse and Jockey pub on Woodstock Road, Oxford. They claimed: "We are "subversive contemplatives". We are not shallow activists."
Their manifesto railed against "the ruthless pursuit of private gain" and the "idolatry of profit" adding: "We cannot...feign neutrality, or remain uncritical, in the face of a society based upon the ruthless pursuit of private gain and unlimited consumption."
It concluded: "We do not run away from history. We know what the present crisis of capitalism demands of us...we are in the death-throes of late capitalism, which threatens to inflict even greater violence on mankind than it has done before, we must make our stand with the oppressed, with the movement for liberation throughout the world."
According Rev Dr Ken Leech, the group's founder member, the manifesto was never formally adopted. He said: "It reflected our thinking at the time, but the view was it was too much of a rant. It was a fascinating document, but rather triumphalist, and we rejected it."
He added: "At the time we had never heard of Rowan Williams. He was introduced to us by John Saward. But he became very involved, regularly attended meetings, running our literature committee, giving lectures and writing pamphlets."
Together they edited a series of essays "Catholic and Radical" for the group, and the Rev Dr Leech is still in regular touch with the Archbishop who hosted a 70th birthday party for him at Lambeth Palace last year.
He added: "I would not want to commit Rowan to the language of 1974...but it does really show the heart of the theological focus of the man and this has not changed."
The group's actions were planned in a Notting Hill flat in west London where the young Dr Williams would turn up early to learn traditional pasta-making skills from Margaret Ronchetti, who hosted the meetings.
From the flat and also at the Hoop and Grapes pub in Aldgate, in the City of London, the Jubilee Group bitterly attacked Margaret Thatcher's government over the Falklands War, her policy towards the trade unions and nuclear weapons.
It campaigned against the controversial poll tax.
"We must fight this evil tax" the group's May 1989 newsletter said.
During this period Dr Williams was arrested for "singing Psalms" at a CND demonstration outside RAF Lakenheath, a nuclear weapons base in Suffolk, and questioned Baroness Thatcher's references to her religious convictions to back her political views.
In a speech at Edinburgh University in 1989 he talked of "the alarming religiosity of Ronald Reagan (then US President) and Margaret Thatcher."
Detals of confidential briefing from Mr Elwell, nicknamed the 'MI5's Witchfinder General', were uncovered by a Canadian PhD student researching Rowan williams and the Church's left-wing traditions.
Mr Elwell was himself a controversial figure, best known for exposing the 'Portland spy ring', which identified a Royal Navy traitor passing secrets to the Soviets.
A note in each issue of the British Briefing asked readers 'to refrain from mentioning it, or its existence, or from direct quotation'. Its contents were believed to have been approved at a high level in the Security Service.
The briefings were seen as a "dirty tricks" campaign against the so-called "enemy within". Patricia Hewitt and Harriet Harman, both later Labour cabinet ministers, were also targetted when they were general secretary and legal officer of the National Council for Civil Liberties (now Liberty) in the 1970s.
The Briefings were also funded by David Hart, an adviser to Baroness Thatcher and to National Coal Board boss Ian MacGregor during the miners' strike in 1984. Hart, who died earlier this year, founded the Committee for a Free Britain, a right wing pressure group.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Polish Children dumped in state orphanages by parents looking for work in the UK

Polish children dumped by parents heading for Britain

By Jason Lewis in Wroclaw

Published 29 July 2006

Children at an orphanage in Wroclaw, southern Poland 

Hundreds of children, some younger than two, are being abandoned in Poland by parents chasing dreams of a new life in Britain, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
The terrible legacy of the mass migration encouraged by Tony Blair's open door to job-seekers from former Eastern bloc states joining the European Union can be disclosed for the first time today.
A Mail on Sunday investigation can reveal that parents are dumping children in Poland's state-run orphanages before heading to London.
Even more tragically, some youngsters have killed themselves after being left with elderly relatives - while others have turned to drugs and crime when they were abandoned by their migrant mothers and fathers.
An estimated 600,000 Eastern Europeans have come to Britain since EU enlargement in 2004 - 300,000 of them from Poland.
And while other established EU countries, including Germany and France, imposed strict quotas on how many they would allow to work, Mr Blair decided to give these new citizens unrestricted access to Britain's labour market - encouraging thousands of poor and unskilled Poles to take a chance on a new life in the UK.
Little Ania Siebielec is one of those suffering the consequences of that decision. This sad little girl - two last month - was abandoned at a Polish orphanage because she stood in the way of her mother Sylwia's dreams of a new start in Britain.

 Ania (right) was left in Poland by her mother Sylwia (left)

While the other children at Orphanage Number One in the city of Wroclaw in southern Poland laughed and played in the sunshine yesterday morning, Ania sat withdrawn.
"Two months ago Ania's mother turned up here," said Jolanta Dutkiewicz, the orphanage's director. "She showed us a one-way bus ticket for London and said she wanted us to take Ania.
"She gave us no choice. She said the girl's father was in prison and there was no one else. She said if we did not take her, she would simply leave her at the bus station. She brought the little girl into our office, handed us a few clothes and then simply left. She said she would call when she was settled, but we have heard nothing.
"We have no address for her, nothing. It was like the girl was an inconvenience standing in the way of her getting a better life. There was no thought about what it might do to the little girl."
But Ania is not alone. Her story is being repeated across Poland. No one is yet prepared to put a figure on how many children have been abandoned as their parents seek their fortunes abroad.
Polish politicians are more concerned with stemming the flow of key workers leaving their nation than with the youngsters they leave behind.
But last week The Mail on Sunday found at least a dozen deserted children in a handful of orphanages we contacted.
Add to this at least two cases of children committing suicide after being left at home by parents who found work in Britain and it seems a widespread tragedy is unfolding.
Earlier this year in Wroclaw, the 14-year-old daughter of a professional woman who had gone to work in London as a highly-paid City PA killed herself.
The girl was being looked after by her 17-year-old sister. But after becoming depressed when work pressure prevented her mother returning home, she jumped from an electricity pylon.
Some of the children left behind are abused or become involved in drugs. "They get into trouble with the police, the courts intervene and they end up in an institution," said Richard Zielinski, chairman of the Polish Crisis Centre for Mothers and Children.
"No one yet knows how many kids are affected, but there are hundreds already. It is not yet an avalanche, but more and more children are being abandoned by their parents because of fairytale stories about the riches to be earned in Britain and other Western countries.
"Many mothers I have come across hear fantasies of how much money they can earn simply cleaning houses in Britain.
"These are not highly educated Poles who can and do find good jobs in the EU. These people have very little. They are often living on state handouts here. They are desperate to get a better life but they know they can do nothing with their children in tow."
Beata Rostocka, a social services manager in Wroclaw, said she despairs of this harrowing trend. "We often get phone calls from mothers and fathers saying they are going to the UK or Ireland to work and asking if we can provide for their children's safe-keeping," she said. "It leaves me aghast."
But it is not only ill-educated and unskilled workers who are guilty of abandoning their children in order to seek a new life.
The official said that earlier this year a trained nurse asked to drop off her 18-month-old daughter and two-year-old son at an orphanage so she could take up a contract in Ireland for a few months.
"The mother didn't seem to realise how terrible this was," she said. "Orphanages are not warehouses."
In the city of Katowice, orphanage director Halina Kurasz tells haunting and similar stories. "I've seen several cases, mostly in the past six months," she said. "There is one mother who left six children so she could separate rubbish in Germany. The youngest child is four, the oldest is 16.
"Sometimes she comes back and takes the older children off to Germany for a bit. But it's only the older ones. If she took all six children, that employer wouldn't want to hear from her.
"This year two other mothers left children to go off to Italy. One of them left her daughter promising she would come back and get her soon. But she phoned at Christmas to say she wasn't coming after all.
"The girl was terribly upset. We looked for her father but when we found him, the girl didn't want anything to do with him. Another mother went away and never even phoned. She left three children. One of them was only a toddler.
"These are mostly young mothers without any support from family or anyone. By the time they bring the children to us they are at their wits' end. They are ashamed to admit to their poverty."
She added: "I think this is only the beginning of the phenomenon. For years the men have been going off from Poland to work in other countries. But now it's the women."
Waldemar Wieczorek, head of social services in Darlowo in north-west Poland, said: "This is a new, very serious problem. It is against the law for people to just dump their children in this way.
"But we would never refuse the children help. We try to find another family who might look after them for a few months."
Adas Solek was a bright, studious 14-year-old. Earlier this year he killed himself while staying at his grandmother's home near Krakow.
His businessman father and his mother had both given English lessons to local children. A few months before the tragedy they decided to make a new life for their family in Britain - intending to bring Adas and their three other children over later.
Athletic and popular at school, Adas was found hanging from a mountaineering rope that belonged to his father. A note to his parents, written in English and given to his best friend the day before, read: "I tried to warn you, but everyone ignored me. I tried to say it loud and clear."
His friends said Adas had wanted his parents to come home and was fearful of the changes they intended to make to the family's lives.
Local child-care professionals say the impact on the children is likely to be severe and long-term. "You cannot just toss your children into an orphanage," said Warsaw-based psychologist Katarzyna Korpolewska.
'They feel abandoned'
"Even if you do have 'genuine' grounds, it still comes as a severe shock to them. They do not understand they will be left behind for just a short period of time; they think they have been abandoned for ever. The child will invariably never recover from the experience."
In the majority of the cases the absconding parents will not find it easy to recover their children. They will find themselves before a family court and may have relinquished guardianship for ever.
Back at Orphanage Number One, Ania sits forlornly on a swing surrounded by the laughter of other happy, playing children.
The local authorities have applied to have her made a ward of court. Her mother will be stripped of all parental rights and the process of putting her up for adoption will begin.
Last night The Mail on Sunday tracked down her paternal grandparents, Aniela and Ryszard Siebielec, to a tiny flat in a village 20 miles from Wroclaw. They share the two-bedroom home with their older son, his wife and two daughters.
Aniela Siebielec is horrified by what her daughter-in-law has done. "Sylwia never told us what she was doing," she said.
"She told us she was going to stay with her brothers in London. One of her brothers, Robert, who washes dishes in a bar, told her she could make a lot of money. He told her to come over.
"Sylwia assured us Ania was being looked after by a friend. We cannot believe she would be so heartless and take her to an orphanage. I am in my 60s, I have a heart condition, I could not look after Ania. But I cannot believe a mother could feel so little for her child that she could do this.
"We have had no contact with Sylwia since she left. It was only by chance that we found out what had happened to little Ania. Since her mother has so little feeling for her, perhaps this is for the best. Perhaps she will be found a new family and get a better life."
Last night the authorities confirmed they intend to put Ania up for adoption. Director Dutkiewicz said: "Her mother has given up all rights to her daughter. Most normal people could not even contemplate abandoning their children."
The Mail on Sunday traced Robert Siebielec to his lodgings in West London, where he confirmed he had housed his sister after her arrival. Now, however, he has reported her missing to police in Acton.
He said: "She always told me she intended to go back to fetch Ania. She said she had no prospects in Poland. Now she has disappeared and I am very worried about her."
At the orphanage, Ms Dutkiewicz said: "We are trying to give Ania all the love and affection we can.
"She doesn't smile, she can barely speak. She does not really play with the other children. Ania doesn't ask for her mother. She is a very frightened and confused little girl.
"Once the courts have done their job, we will try to find her a new family. We will try to find her love and someone to cherish and protect her. It is what she deserves."

'I dumped my two-year-old for £3 an hour'

By Martin Delgado
Published 13 August 2006

The Mail on Sunday has located the Polish mother who abandoned her two-year-old daughter at an orphanage to make a new life for herself in Britain. Two weeks ago we revealed the plight of little Ania Siebielec, who was dumped by mother Sylwia at a state-run orphanage in Wroclaw.
Yet in the three months she has been here, the 32-year-old dressmaker has been reduced to part-time cleaning jobs at £3 an hour. Sylwia, who lives in a £60-a-week rented room in Brentford, West London, said: 'I wanted to come to London because my brothers are here and they said I'd be able to find a job.
'My husband Leszek is in prison (he is serving four years for robbery) but he refused to sign the document allowing me to take Ania out of Poland. So I went to the children's home and the director said she would take Ania as there was no alternative.'
Jan Mokrzycki, chairman of the Federation Of Poles In Great Britain, said: 'I am shocked that any mother could treat her child in this reprehensible way.'

Monday, 6 June 2011

Liberal Democrats face new probe over conman's £2.4m donation

The Liberal Democrats could be forced to hand back a controversial £2.4 million political donation received from a convicted conman after a secret new investigation into the case by the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

Michael Brown who was a donor to the Liberal Democrat Party and who was later imprisoned. Photo: Paul Grover
The powerful watchdog is carrying out a behind closed doors inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the cash payments to the party.
Later this month the Ombudsman - which has far reaching powers to investigate public bodies - is due to decide whether to force the Electoral Commission, which oversees donations to political parties, to re-examine the legality of the massive gifts from a firm run by the fraudster.
The move would be a major blow for the cash-strapped Lib Dems who would then face the prospect of surrendering the money to the Treasury - leaving a huge hole in the Party's already precarious finances.
The Ombudsman has been re-examining the case involving 5th Avenue Partners Ltd whose founder, the flamboyant conman Michael Brown, was convicted of stealing millions of pounds.
Brown, whose £2.6 million private jet flew the then-Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy around Britain during the 2005 general election, remains on the run after jumping bail.unless the companies are actually "carrying on business".
Following his conviction in 2008, detectives said Brown's 5th Avenue Partners was "just a sham...(which) didn't trade in anything".
But the Electoral Commission previously ruled that the Lib Dems had done nothing wrong as they had accepted the cash "in good faith" and it was a legitimate donation because the British-registered firm had substantial bank balances.
Despite Mr Brown owning and running the firm, the Commission said: “There is no credible evidence that any of the donations came from Michael Brown’s own money rather than one of the companies."
However, The Sunday Telegraph has learned, that following a complaint from an anonymouse member of the public the Parliamentary Ombudsman Ann Abraham has been examining whether the Commission's decision was wrong.
Officials from the Ombudsman's office have been considering a complaint of "maladministration against the Electoral Commission in relation to the way it investigated the case".
The officials are understood to have concluded that the Electoral Commission should be forced to re-opening the inquiry but the final decision rests with the Ombudsman herself.
She must weight up the serious nature of the case, the strength of the evidence and, crucially, whether it is in the public interest to force the Electoral Commission to act against the Lib Dems given, that if it were to order the Party to refund the cash, it might have far reaching financial implications which would threaten its stability and its position in the Coalition Government.
She is due to decide on the case by the end of the month.
Last night a spokeswoman for the Parliamentary Ombudsman's office said it did not comment on its investigations.
The political donations from 5th Avenue Partners Ltd formed part of a lavish facade erected by the Glasgow-born fraudster Brown who fooled rich investors into trusting him and parting with their cash.
After his conviction Sergeant Nigel Howard, of City of London Police’s Economic Crime Department, said the donation was “part and parcel of the offence.”
Brown was found guilty in his absence of theft, furnishing false information and perverting justice. He is still on the run.
Brown had a £2.6 million private jet, a £49,000-a-year flat in a prestigious part of London, a Range Rover with personalised number plates and a yacht.
He spent £7,000 on fine stationery from Smythson of Bond Street and £327,000 on an entertainment system for his villa on Majorca. He donated £100,000 to upgrade the library at his gentlemen’s club in Belgravia.
The political donation was another status symbol, according to prosecutors, because it made him seem important and well connected.
By the 2005 general election, the Lib Dems found themselves reliant on a benefactor whose head company was in Zug, in Switzerland.
The Lib Dem hierarchy persisted in defending Brown even after it was disclosed that he had a police record in America, where he was wanted for jumping probation.
Following the 2008 case, Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader and now Deputy Prime Minister, said: “We took that money in good faith, everyone recognises.
“It has been recognised that we did all the due diligence checks we could have done, totally unaware of the crimes of which Michael Brown has now been indicted. Beyond that, I can’t comment.”
Although Brown claimed to have gone to Gordonstoun and St Andrews, he went to a local school and did a City and Guilds in catering at Glasgow College of Food Technology.
He boasted that he was the son of a lord, that he made regular visits to Buckingham Palace to see the Duke of York and was an experienced bond dealer. In fact, he failed his maths O level and was not good at paperwork, the trial heard.
Brown was accused of conning Martin Edwards, the former Manchester United chairman, out of £8 million by posing as an experienced international bond trader.
As his lies unravelled, Brown sent e-mails claiming that he was dying of cancer. In reality, he was preparing to flee. He took the surname Campbell-Brown and stopped shaving before he disappeared in June 2008.