The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, wanted to bring the debt merchants into the temple. But it turned out they were already there.
He suggested that the Church of England could set up in business as rivals to payday lending firms. Then it transpired there was no need.
The church commissioners nurture the Church of England’s £5.5 billion-odd of assets. They “manage a well-diversified investment portfolio”.
In pursuit of this divine mission they forked out £75,000 to Wonga—generally seen as a particularly ravenous beast even among its fellow loan sharks.
Last year it was caught charging students interest at over 4,200 percent a year. Still, seventy five grand out of five and a half billion is barely a drop in the font.
Welby’s own slick pre-clerical career in oil included five years with Elf Aquitaine.
Welby has opposed the naming and shaming of high-rolling bankers as “lynch mobbish”. Usury is ok as long as it’s charged at a fair rate of extortion.
The Anglican church’s property portfolio comprises 120,000 acres in rural areas alone.
The church owns large tracts of land in cathedral cities such as Canterbury, Ely, Peterborough and York.
More recently, it has invested in industrial estates in Swindon and Waltham Cross and shopping areas including the Cribbs Causeway Centre in Bristol.
It made about £19 million two years ago selling leases on garage spaces in London.
It holds a 10 percent interest and associated land in the MetroCentre in Gateshead. The church gets about 19 percent a year return on its investments.
Which, while not at Wonga levels, is certainly not to be sniffed at.
Wonga's friends in high places
Wonga charges interest at 4,214 percent a year—and the church isn’t the only place where it has powerful friends
- Jonathan Luff, an advisor to David Cameron, became a lobbyist for Wonga in 2012
- Adrian Beecroft wrote a report for the government saying bosses should be able to sack workers more easily. He is the chairman of Dawn Capital, the owners of Wonga
- Alastair Campbell made noises about payday loans last week. He now works for Portland PR. Portland represent TxT Loan, who offer payday loans with 3,943 percent interest a year
Charles bottles the spirit of a nation
Prince Charles is funding his charities with profits from shipping royal-branded mineral water 6,000 miles to the Middle East.
He has complained about the shipping of “vast quantities of commodities halfway round the world”.
His company export of bottles of Duchy Originals water from a Scottish estate close to Balmoral to luxury supermarkets in the Gulf.
The Duchy Originals company has raked in £10 million in profits over the past three years.
The aristocrat formerly known as Prince George
The last Prince George of Cambridge was Queen Victoria’s first cousin. As Duke of Cambridge, he served briefly in the Crimean War.
He was promoted to commander in chief of the British Army from 1856 to 1895.
This post allowed him to prevent the abolition of proud traditions such as flogging and the buying of ranks by the rich.
Schapps says publish and be damned—when it suits him
Tory chairman Grant Shapps was moaning, “There is now no legal impediment to the publication of the Labour Party’s internal report” over the Falkirk selection scandal. But Shapps’ probing interest doesn’t seem to go too deep.
His own office’s findings over a Nazi-themed stag do attended by Tory MP Aidan Burley has been gathering dust in a filing cabinet for nearly 18 months.
In February 2012, the Tories said the report would be published that month: “It’ll be this month, February, but we can’t say when exactly.”
Tories decamp to safer digs
The Tory party is set to move its headquarters to a new bunker next January. They are leaving Millbank for Matthew Parker Street, behind the QEII Conference Centre in Westminster.
The reason? After the students came to visit in 2010, the cost of insuring Millbank has apparently become somewhat prohibitive.
G4S sneaky care homes bid
Security giant G4S has been rather hush-hush in its planning applications to convert houses into chidren’s care homes.
G4S didn’t use its corporate identity on planning applications under consideration across Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Worcestershire. Instead it used the name of one Simon Herbert, director of G4S children’s services.
Potty Palmer's prehistoric park
Australian iron ore tycoon Clive Palmer’s latest move is prehistoric.
The millionaire, who is already building a replica of the Titanic because he wants “to spend the money I’ve got before I die”, is installing 160 giant dinosaurs at his Coolum resort near Brisbane, Australia.
And for the yacht that has everything...
Troublemaker’s favourite magazine, the almanac of the Monaco Yacht Show, has rounded up some of the more “printable requests” made by seafaring millionaire megalomaniacs.
One client, reveals the chief of the superyacht sellers Burgess, suddenly decided it was essential to install an English garden on deck, complete with a real grass lawn.
The reason? To make the family dog feel at home.