Monday, March 28, 2011

Where do the despots of the world hide their money? London!

From the London Evening Standard, a doggedly researched and useful piece (we already linked to it on March 18, but it deserves special treatment) that contains a number of choice candidates for our quotations page, such as:

"Since the Arab revolutions began, my BlackBerry has been ringing off the hook," says London estate agent to the super-rich Trevor Abrahmsohn. 'Every time there is a political uprising in a foreign land, London is always the first port of call,' he continues. 'When the first Iraq war was raging, the Saudi royal family bought ten bolt-holes on The Bishop's Avenue [in Hampstead, also known as Millionaires' Row], just in case Saddam Hussein ended up marching on Riyadh.'

And there's this, which readers of Treasure Islands would be most familiar with:

Abrahmsohn believes London's former role as capital of an empire adds to its pulling power. 'London has connections all over the world because of our colonial past. Foreign elites have a fascination for things like the Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Most potentates, sultans, kings and diplomats have first or second homes here. The wives love the shopping and it is easy logistically for the husbands to do business and make money. It is tax-efficient and politically safe for them to keep their money here.'

Tax-efficient: there is that weasel term again! Tax 'efficient' for the potentates, of course. Not quite so tax-efficient for the citizens of their benighted countries, of course: ordinary folk there effectively have to pay their taxes for them.

The Evening Standard story contains a voice of sanity, near the bottom, however:

"Dr John Chalcraft, who is, ironic-ally, a Middle East expert at the London School of Economics, rejects the realpolitik arguments for dealing with despots such as Gaddafi and Mubarak and believes the British government has a 'moral case to answer'. 'It is not necessarily to our economic advantage to deal with corrupt and despotic regimes.

Indeed. Hat tip: anonymous, somewhere in the Caribbean.

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