Socialist Worker

Double takings for the top loan shark

Issue No. 1881

NEXT TIME you hear or read about destitution in Latin America's shanty towns spare a thought for Kenneth Dart.

Dart has won a US court case forcing the Argentinian government to pay back the huge debts the country has accumulated. He loaned $595 million to the Argentinian government. When the economy collapsed the debt had grown to $724.8 million.

This is not the first time he has made millions by loaning money to a country with a weak economy. In 1993 he made $605 million from Brazil. He made similar investments in Ecuador and bought many of Russia's state-owned businesses when it was opened up to the free market. His investments in Russia included a large stake in Yukos, the giant oil company owned by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was recently imprisoned and charged with fraud and tax evasion.

Dart inherited his fortune from his father, and he avoided tax by leaving the US. After considering living permanently on his armoured luxury yacht, he moved to a $5.3 million home on the Cayman Islands. He became a joint citizen of Ireland and Belize. Shortly after he became a citizen of Belize its government opened a consulate in Florida, US. Coincidentally this was in the same town as the headquarters of Dart Container Corp.

Dart was sent to live at the new consulate, where he was given 'special responsibilities in the area of trade and finance'.

A relatively special test

WHEN STEVEN Rose, Hilary Rose and other academics launched a boycott of Israeli academic institutions last year in support of the Palestinians, pro-Israeli figures attacked them.

But now academics within Israel are threatening to call for exactly such a boycott. They are angry that the heads of Israel's universities plan to reintroduce discriminatory tests which exclude Palestinian students.

The tests place emphasis on Israeli history and Hebrew literature. Hassan Jabareen, who directs a legal centre for Palestinians living in Israel, explained, 'When I sat one of these tests at Tel Aviv University I was asked who Einstein was. I said he was the biggest scientist in the world. But they said no, we are speaking of a singer from Tel Aviv.'

The tests were originally removed just over a year ago because it was thought that they discriminated against Jews coming to Israel from elsewhere in the Middle East. But the university heads found it was Palestinians who benefited most when the tests were removed. So now the tests are being reintroduced to preserve discrimination.

It's patently unfair

DRUG COMPANIES are making a fortune from selling overpriced medicines to the NHS.

The NHS's budget for prescription drugs has risen by 46 percent in the last three years. The number of prescriptions has increased by just 22 percent. The new figures released in an NHS report show more money is being diverted from hospitals and into the pockets of multinationals such as GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer. The drug companies can inflate prices because they hold the patents.

Until recently this was the reason why governments in the developing world could not afford to buy cheap AIDS drugs and were banned from producing their own. But evidence is emerging that the drug companies are fixing prices for generic drugs, which are supposed to be cheaper than the patented varieties.

Last month the Serious Fraud Office began an investigation into price fixing of blood-thinning agents and a penicillin-based antibiotic. Six leading drug companies manufacturing generic and unbranded drugs have been accused of cheating the NHS out of up to £300 million.

You can bank on Labour listening

LAST WEEK Socialist Worker ran a special report into the repressive laws that New Labour plans to introduce in its Civil Contingencies Bill.

Readers will be delighted to hear that one measure was dropped from the Queen's Speech at the last minute after intense lobbying. The government had floated the idea that, in the event of a terrorist attack or any other emergency, chancellor Gordon Brown would seize control of the City. Under pressure from that champion of civil liberties, the Bank of England, the government now says such a plan would 'undermine London's competitive advantage in the financial services sector'. It's good to know that New Labour listens.

Raking it in from all points

CATERING company Compass made £654 million over the last year. Its profits have grown by 12 percent as it has won private catering contracts in schools and hospitals.

According to its chief executive, closing school kitchens is a good thing because it means more space for teachers! It's a good thing for Compass, which makes its money by supplying schools with meals prepared offsite. He also added that the 'high level of military activity' benefited his company as Compass got contracts to supply troops in Iraq.

London cops have got the hump

THE Metropolitan Police have submitted a complaint to the London Assembly's transport committee about 'sleeping policemen'.

They are targeting the speed bumps and other speed restrictions that slow traffic in London preventing children and other road users being killed. They have complained that 34 police vehicles have been damaged by speed restrictions in the last three months.

Figure it out - £5.5 billion

Chancellor Gordon Brown admitted to MPs last week that this is the cost so far to British taxpayers of the 'war on terror'. He was expected to announce this week that borrowing will have to rise.

In this week - Snapshots from history - 1973

TORY prime minister Ted Heath announced a three-day week in response to the sudden surge in world oil prices. His attempt to make workers pay for the economic crisis backfired. Miners spearheaded a strike wave that toppled his government three months later.

Who says?

'Swan Baked.'
Sun front page - 4 July, claiming asylum seekers were stealing and eating swans in southern England

'Nobody has been arrested in relation to these offences. We accept that it is not, therefore, possible to conclude yet whether or not the suspects were indeed asylum seekers.'
Sun page 41 - 6 December, makes a sort of apology five months later

'The whole town rejects the occupation, and we work to serve the citizens.'
High ranking US-APPOINTED Iraqi police officer in the town of Samarra where US troops opened fire on civilians

'If you take the warlord out, the whole system of government goes.'
US intelligence official on Afghanistan

'Half the new titles read as if they had come straight from the Socialist Workers Party bookshop. What about the Bush Haters' Handbook or Thieves in High Places? The theme of whole shelves is easy to summarise: George Bush is a lying, cheating, thieving scumbag-and he was never elected president anyway.'
Bruce Anderson, The Independent's pro-war commentator has a shocking time in Washington's mainstream bookshops

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Article information

Inside the System
Sat 13 Dec 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1881
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