Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2799

Tory home secretary Priti Patel was paid cash by US spook’s think tank

Troublemaker looks at the week's news including Priti Patel and the US spooks. Macdonald's and tax, and Prince Andrew's dodgy dealings
Issue 2799
Priti Patel Tory home secretary

Tory Home Secretary Priti Patel Picture: Number 10/Flikr Creative Commons

Home secretary Priti Patel will soon decide whether to extradite Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the US. But she has been a political adviser to—and been funded by—a right-wing lobby group which has attacked Assange in the British media for a decade. The Declassified UK ­website says Patel sat on the Henry Jackson Society’s (HJS) advisory council from around 2013-16. She received funds from the HJS, and was paid £2,500 by the group to visit Washington in March 2013 to attend a “security” ­programme in the US Congress.

Patel also hosted an HJS event in parliament soon after she returned from Washington. After the Supreme Court said last month it was refusing to hear Assange’s appeal of a High Court decision against him, Patel will now decide his fate. He faces life in prison in the US.

The HJS, which does not disclose its funders, has links to the CIA, the intelligence agency behind the prosecution of Assange and which reportedly developed plans to assassinate him.

On the HJS advisory council at the same time as Patel was Lord James Arbuthnot, a former Conservative defence minister. His wife, Lady Emma Arbuthnot, was Westminster Chief Magistrate from 2016-21. For part of her tenure, she was in charge of the Assange case and made two key ­rulings against him in 2018. Lady Arbuthnot ­eventually stepped aside from ruling on the case because of a ­“perception of bias”.

The links between Patel and Lord Arbuthnot go ­further. In 2010, soon after becoming an MP, Patel was appointed one of five ­parliamentary officers of the Conservative Friends of Israel when the group was chaired by Lord Arbuthnot. Patel was forced to resign as secretary of state for international development in November 2017 after it was revealed that she had held more than a dozen undeclared meetings with Israeli ministers while on holiday in the country.

Would you like a tax break with that ? 

McDonald’s claimed £872 million in taxpayer‑funded Covid support while benefiting from a tax avoidance scheme. The firm will dodge hundreds of millions of pounds in tax.

The fast-food giant paid out a record £2.8 billion to shareholders in 2020 as its drive-through restaurants remained open while many others companies were forced to close. Throughout the pandemic McDonald’s benefited from £297 million in furlough payments. It got £143 million through Eat Out to Help Out, £60 million from business rates relief, and £372 million from a VAT cut, research by campaign group War on Want calculated.

McDonald’s did not dispute the figures but said it disagreed with the “inaccurate characterisations used to build a misleading narrative”. War on Want called for an investigation into McDonald’s tax affairs which it estimated will cost the government of £295 million over ten years.

Under a 2016 deal, McDonald’s UK subsidiary paid £2.7 billion for the rights to collect fees in Asia from another McDonald’s company in Singapore—a low tax country. The money was then returned as a dividend which was not taxable in Britain. McDonald’s was also allowed to claim further tax relief by accounting for the depreciation of the Asian rights over time.

In 2015 trade unions and campaigners revealed details of how the company had shifted millions through low tax Luxembourg. The European Commission’s subsequent investigation found that McDonald’s tax arrangements were unfair, but not illegal.

  • Prince Andrew was given £1 million by an alleged fraudster and is now embroiled in a High Court battle over missing money. The abuser Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, his ex-wife, received “suspicious” payments on the orders of Selman Turk, a former Goldman Sachs banker, as part of a £40 million international fraud, it is alleged. The payments included a £750,000 “gift” to the Duke by Nebahat Evyap Isbilen, Turkish millionairess. The first payment came days after Turk had won an award at the Duke’s Dragons Den-style competition. Isbilen has told the High Court she believes the payment was connected to Turk’s appearance at the event.

  • US companies posted record profits in 2021. Corporate pre‑tax profits surged 25 percent year on year to £2.14 trillion, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said last week. That’s the largest annual increase since 1976, according to the Federal Reserve bank. When taxes are factored in, last year’s corporate profit increases were even more remarkable. They soared 37 percent from 2020, more than any other time since the Fed began tracking profits in 1948.

Vampire kangaroo back for the gas

An investment bank known as the “Vampire Kangaroo” has snapped up a vital part of Britain’s gas grid. Sydney-based Macquarie has taken a 60 percent stake in National Grid’s gas transmission and metering business. The network part operates more than 4,000 miles of gas pipes.

It earned its “Vampire Kangaroo” nickname after developing a reputation for buying companies, loading them with debt and sucking out money for shareholders.

Macquarie, which teamed up with Canadian asset manager British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, said it expects completion in the second half of this year. The consortium has an option to acquire the remaining 40 percent of the business.

It is still best known for its ownership of Thames Water from 2006 to 2017.

Macquarie paid out almost £3 billion in dividends while amassing debts of £10 billion and paid almost no corporation tax in Britain.

Slap in the face for workers at Oscars

Scandal at the Oscars? How about crossing a workers’ picket line?   Following the awards show in Los Angeles, rapper Jay‑Z hosted a party at the Chateau Marmont hotel. Workers there have been leading a boycott since February 2021 amid allegations of rampant sexual misconduct, racial discrimination and union busting.

The billionaire refused to move his party to a different venue. Around 75 hotel workers and supporters picketed the Chateau. Celebrity scabs included  Zoë Kravitz, Timothée Chalamet, Michael B. Jordan, Rihanna, Saweetie, Daniel Kaluuya, Tiffany Haddish, Tyler Perry and Kim Kardashian.

  • This year’s Oscar goody bag was the usual six-figure haul of extravagant bullshit.  But it hints that the cost of living crisis is hitting Hollywood. In 2019, plastic surgeon to the stars, Dr Konstantin Vasyukevich, popped a £23,000 voucher for cosmetic procedures into the goody bag. In 2020, it was £19,000. This year? A measly £7,000.

Things they say

‘God made man in his own image. He made man and he made woman’

Tory minister for the 19th century Jacob Rees Mogg explains the subtle government position on being anti-Trans

‘I put away childish things and false bravado and returned a man full in the knowledge of human frailty and suffering’

Prince Andrew takes to his ex-wife’s Instagram to go on about his experiences in the Falklands. The post was deleted soon after partially because he used the titles he has lost

‘Do the British—this ancient warrior nation—still have the bottle for battle?

Tony Parsons is very excited at he prospect of more war but worries we are all too soft to fight the Russians

‘We all make judgements which we have time to reflect, the world has moved on’

Welsh secretary Simon Hart explains that there is no need for resignations for ‘partygate’ because of the war



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