Archive for August, 2010

BRD: Raus aus Afghanistan – Kriegsdrohungen gegen Iran stoppen – Bundeswehr darf nicht zur Interventionsarmee werden

Dienstag, August 31st, 2010

Pressemitteilung des Bundesausschusses Friedensratschlag zum Antikriegstag 2010

• Friedensbewegung und Gewerkschaften gemeinsam
• Zahlreiche Aktionen im ganzen Land
• Gegen Afghanistan-Krieg und Bundeswehrreform
• Nazi-Aufmarsch verhindern!

Kassel, 30. August – Die politischen Übereinstimmungen zwischen Gewerkschaften und Friedensbewegung waren lange nicht mehr so groß wie in diesem Jahr, stellte der Bundesausschuss Friedensratschlag in einer Erklärung zum Antikriegstag (1. September) fest. Die über 150 Veranstaltungen im ganzen Land sind ein deutlicher Beweis für den wachsenden Protest gegen den Kriegs- und Aufrüstungskurs der Bundesregierung.

Zum traditionellen Antikriegstag am 1. September, dem Jahrestag des Überfalls der deutschen Wehrmacht auf Polen, womit 1939 der Zweite Weltkrieg entfesselt wurde, rufen Gewerkschaften und Friedensgruppen im ganzen Land zu Veranstaltungen und Aktionen auf. Das Spektrum reicht von Informationsveranstaltungen und Podiumsdiskussionen über Mahnwachen und Info-Stände bis zu Kundgebungen. In einem zentralen Aufruf des DGB werden die zentralen Forderungen der Friedensbewegung angesprochen: “Nie wieder Krieg! Nie wieder Faschismus! Keine Auslandseinsätze!”

Im Mittelpunkt zahlreicher Veranstaltungen steht der Afghanistankrieg. Nach Auffassung von Gewerkschaften und Friedensbewegung muss er beendet werden, die Bundeswehr umgehend abgezogen werden, damit ziviler Wiederaufbau eine Chance erhalten. Ein im Sommer gestarteter gemeinsamer Aufruf der großen Friedensorganisationen (“Den Krieg in Afghanistan beenden – zivil helfen”) wird bei den Aktionen zur Unterschrift ausliegen. Die Kriegsgegner wollen damit der breiten Ablehnung des Krieges in der Bevölkerung eine Stimme verleihen.

Viele Friedensgruppen und -organisationen nutzen die Aktivitäten zum Antikriegstag dieses Jahr auch zum Gedenken an das Massaker von Kunduz vor einem Jahr. Am 4. September 2009 waren auf Befehl eines deutschen Offiziers zwei Tanklastzüge in der Nähe von Kunduz bombardiert worden; dabei starben ca. 140 Menschen, darunter mindestens 100 Zivilisten. In einer Erklärung des Friedensratschlags zum Tag des Gedenkens an die Opfer von Kunduz heißt es: “Die Bundeswehr wird durch unverantwortliche Regierungs- und Parlamentsbeschlüsse immer tiefer in die Verbrechen des Afghanistankrieges verstrickt. Auch sie tötet Unschuldige. Sie erhöht die Anzahl ihrer Truppen und verstärkt die Kriegshandlungen.” Am 4. September werden in zahlreichen Städten Mahnwachen zur Erinnerung an das Kunduz-Massaker stattfinden. [Hier geht es zum Kunduz-Aufruf des Friedensratschlags: “Schluss mit dem sinnlosen Sterben in Afghanistan”]

Der Bundesausschuss Friedensratschlag warnt aber auch vor einer weiteren Zuspitzung in dem Konflikt mit dem Iran. Es gibt nach wie vor einflussreiche Kreise im Westen, insbesondere in den USA und Israel, die auch vor einem Krieg gegen Iran nicht zurückschrecken. Solchen Abenteurern gilt es rechtzeitig das Handwerk zu legen. Wer wirklich daran interessiert ist, dass der Iran nicht in den Besitz von Atomwaffen kommt, muss dafür sorgen, dass der Beschluss der New Yorker Überprüfungskonferenz zum Atomwaffensperrvertrag vom Mai 2010 umgesetzt wird: Der Nahe Osten soll zu einer atomwaffenfreien Zone werden. Dazu gehört auch Israel, das sich von seinen vermuteten 250 Atomsprengköpfen verabschieden müsste.

Verteidigungsminister zu Guttenberg hat mit seiner Initiative zu einer radikalen Reform der Bundeswehr nicht nur Beifall und Kritik von den etablierten Parteien sowie vom Bundeswehrverband erhalten. Die Friedensbewegung und der DGB reagieren mit lautstarkem Protest. Beim DGB heißt es: “Wir fordern Regierung und Parteien auf, den Umbau der Bundeswehr zur weltweit aktiven Interventionsarmee zu stoppen und an der Wehrpflicht festzuhalten.” Der Friedensratschlag und mit ihm die überwiegende Zahl bundesweiter, regionaler und lokaler Friedensorganisationen lehnen demgegenüber nicht nur den Umbau der Bundeswehr zur Interventionsarmee ab, sondern weinen der Wehrpflicht keine Träne nach. Sie diente schon bisher lediglich als Rekrutierungsbasis für länger dienende Zeitsoldaten. Sie ist schon lange keine Garantie mehr für die Beibehaltung des “Leitbilds des ‘Staatsbürgers in Uniform'”, wie der DGB formuliert.

Als eine besondere Provokation empfindet es die Friedensbewegung, wenn am 4. September die Alt- und Neonazis in Dortmund zu einem “nationalen Antikriegstag” aufrufen. Dagegen ist breiter demokratischer Widerstand notwendig. Der Friedensratschlag unterstützt die Aktion “Dortmund stellt sich quer” und hofft, dass der braune Aufmarsch verhindert werden kann. Es ist ein abgeschmackter Gipfel der Heuchelei, wenn ausgerechnet die Neonazis, die aus ideologischen Gründen immer den Krieg verherrlicht haben, nun so tun, als hätten sie etwas mit der Antikriegsbewegung gemein. Dieses Täuschungsmanöver darf nicht gelingen.

Für den Bundesausschuss Friedensratschlag:
Peter Strutynski, Kassel

 

(Quelle: Bundesausschuss Friedensratschlag.)

Global: Bodenschutz ist Grundlage menschlicher Sicherheit!

Dienstag, August 31st, 2010

Von Luc Gnacadja, Exekutivsekretär der VN-Konvention zur Bekämpfung der Desertifikation (UN Convention to Combat Desertification / UNCCD)

“In der relativ kurzen Geschichte der Menschheit haben unsere Vorfahren schon allzu oft um Land und Wasser gekämpft. Diese Zeiten kehren nun zurück. Unsere Sicherheit als globale Gemeinschaft hängt davon ab, ob wir unsere Böden erhalten können, denn “enhancing soil anywhere enhances life everywhere”, und garantiert Sicherheit. Ich möchte das zugrundeliegende Konzept der “Bodensicherheit”, also soil security gerne kurz vorstellen. Sicherheit ist ein legitimes Streben von Individuen, Familien, Gemeinden und Nationalstaaten. Mir scheint, dass die Menschheit durch dieses Streben auch gelernt hat zu kooperieren, gemeinsame Vorteile aus den Ressourcen zu ziehen und diese effizient zu nutzen. Der gesellschaftliche Wert der Sicherheit ist verbunden mit Schutz, Gewissheit, Verlässlichkeit, Vertrauen und Zuversicht sowie mit der Berechenbarkeit aller Dinge, auf die wir angewiesen sind.

Während der letzten Jahrzehnte ist die internationale Gemeinschaft zu der Einsicht gelangt, dass die fortschreitende, intensive Zerstörung der Ökosysteme und ihrer Dienstleistungen eine Bedrohung darstellen kann – sowohl für die öffentliche Sicherheit auf nationaler Ebene als auch für die internationale Stabilität.

Im Grunde sind das Einzige, was uns vom Aussterben trennt, lediglich zwischen 18 und 25 Zentimeter Humusschicht. Humus bietet viel mehr als nur Nahrung. Das, was in dieser unersetzlichen und endlichen Ressource lebt und wächst, versorgt uns auch mit Kleidung, hält Luft und Wasser sauber, das Land grün und angenehm, belebend für die menschliche Seele. In dieser Hinsicht ist der Boden ein öffentliches Gut, ein öffentlicher Reichtum. Erst jetzt beginnen wir zu verstehen, wie winzige Lebensformen im Boden die Ertragsfähigkeit und das ganze Gleichgewicht der Umwelt aufrechterhalten.

Langsam, aber sicher zerstört Bodendegradation das fragile Gleichgewicht des Lebens unter der Erde. Das Verschwinden einer einzigen Art kann für dieses komplexe Geflecht bereits fatale Folgen haben. Dennoch verstehen wir die Funktionen des Bodens als kostenlose Dienstleistungen; wir zählen sie zu externen Effekten, die wir gratis aufbrauchen. Aufgrund der Allmacht unserer Art hängt der Zustand des Bodens – und damit auch unser eigener – in großem Maße davon ab, wie gut wir ihn erhalten. Dies ist unsere zentrale Aufgabe. Die Vorkämpfer für diese Nachhaltigkeit leben in denjenigen Regionen, die besonders verwundbar und anfällig für Degradation sind: die Trockengebiete.

Zu den Trockengebieten zählen die ariden und semi-ariden Gebiete sowie die trockenen subhumiden Gegenden der Welt. Natürliche Wüsten sind davon ausgeschlossen. Trockengebiete machen etwa ein Drittel der Landmasse der Erde aus und sind Heimat für etwa ein Drittel der Weltbevölkerung – also mehr als zwei Milliarden Menschen. Die Hälfte dieser Menschen zählt zu den am wenigsten Entwickelten, wenn man den Human Development Index der Vereinten Nationen als Maßstab nimmt.

Trockengebiete gehören außerdem zu den konfliktträchtigsten Regionen der Welt. Im Jahr 2007 traten rund 80 Prozent der größeren bewaffneten Konflikte in solchen verwundbaren trockenen Ökosystemen auf. So vermerkte beispielsweise – und zu Recht – der UN-Generalsekretär: “The Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change.” Die Wüste im nördlichen Sudan hat sich in den vergangenen 40 Jahren um 100 Kilometer Richtung Süden ausgedehnt. Der Niederschlag ging um 16-30 Prozent zurück, Erträge des Grundnahrungsmittels Sorghum sanken um 70 Prozent. Die betroffenen Nomaden des Zaghawa-Stammes mussten auf der Suche nach Wasser und Nahrung für ihre Tiere nach Süden ziehen. Ihr Zusammentreffen mit den sesshaften Bauern der Fur- und Masalit-Stämme endete im Konflikt. Dies ist ein Beispiel für die Auswirkungen unseres Handelns auf den Klimawandel und seine weitreichenden Konsequenzen in fernen Ländern.

An neuem Wert gewinnt die endliche Ressource Land heute auch durch das Phänomen der globalen “Landnahmen”, die aus konkurrierenden Ansprüchen auf Land- und Wasserressourcen entstehen. Die Degradation des Bodens sollte also ein globales Anliegen sein – aber dies ist sie noch nicht!

Der Begriff Desertifikation bezeichnet die Verarmung des Bodens in Trockengebieten. Durch Trockenheit und Desertifikation gehen Jahr für Jahr 12 Millionen Hektar Land verloren. Das entspricht der Fläche meines eigenen Landes, Benins, oder drei Mal der Fläche der Schweiz. Die weltweiten Medien haben es schwer, auf das Problem der Desertifikation aufmerksam zu machen, wenn gleichzeitig zahlreiche andere Krisen und Katastrophen ein ungleich größeres Aufsehen erregen. Vielleicht liegt es auch daran, dass Bodendegradation und Dürre stille und langsame Killer sind. Sie schleichen unbemerkt heran und verleiten uns dazu, ihre Dringlichkeit zu unterschätzen. Desertifikation und Trockenheit sind jedoch auch berechenbar, es sei denn sie gehen einher mit Politikversagen oder dem Zusammenbrechen von Regierungsstrukturen. Sie sollten daher keine Leben fordern. Aber das tun sie! Warum?

Desertifikation und Dürre töten Menschen auch aufgrund von falscher öffentlicher Wahrnehmung und Politikversagen, welche hartnäckig auf allen Ebenen fortbestehen. Desertifikation lässt sich beherrschen und umkehren, wenn der Boden geschützt wird. Mit anderen Worten: Bodensicherheit erreicht man, wenn Anstrengungen zur Bewahrung ihrer Fruchtbarkeit, zur Eindämmung der Degradation und zur Reduzierung der Folgen von Trockenperioden erfolgreich sind. Unsere Sicherheit als Individuen und Gemeinschaften hängt demnach davon ab, ob wir es schaffen, für die Sicherheit der Böden weltweit Sorge zu tragen.

Die Böden in den trockenen Ökosystemen der Welt sind aufgrund von Wasserknappheit die fragilsten und anfälligsten für Degradation. Trockengebiete und die dort lebenden Menschen sind aber nicht nur wehrlose Schuldenträger und eine Bürde in unseren Anstrengungen, globale Nachhaltigkeit zu erreichen. Nein, die Menschen in Trockengebieten sind entscheidende Kräfte des Wandels und des Fortschritts. Dennoch wurden sie in Entwicklungsplänen und Politikmaßnahmen und -prozessen übergangen, trotz reichlicher Belege dafür, dass Trockengebiete fruchtbar werden können, wenn die betroffene Bevölkerung durch entsprechende Rahmenbedingungen, Anreize sowie technologische Innovationen und Investitionen dazu befähigt wird.

Werden diese Menschen einmal mehr im Stich gelassen, nachdem die globale Gemeinschaft die laufenden Klimaverhandlungen zum Abschluss gebracht hat? Die Zeit wird es zeigen! Wie könnte aber eine Agenda des Wandels aussehen und wer wird die Führung übernehmen? Wir benötigen einen entschiedenen Politikwandel, der unsere Art der Wahrnehmung der Trockengebiete einschließt und die Sorgen der dort lebenden Menschen aufgreift, damit umweltbedingte Konflikte vermieden werden.

Wir müssen die Böden als sicherheitsrelevant ansehen, um die Basis unserer Sicherheit richtig zu verstehen.

Böden als sicherheitsrelevant anzusehen heißt, größeres globales politisches Bewusstsein für das Problem der Desertifikation, Landdegradation und Dürre (DLDD) und ihrer gesellschaftlichen Folgen zu schaffen. Es bedeutet, den Kampf gegen DLDD zu einer zentralen internationalen Verpflichtung zu machen und ihrer Bedeutung für den Bereich der Sicherheit angemessen Rechnung zu tragen.

Die Basis unserer Sicherheit richtig zu verstehen beinhaltet sowohl reaktive als auch proaktive kurz-, mittel- und langfristige Strategien für den Umgang mit Desertifikation durch Offenlegen der damit verbundenen vielfältigen gesellschaftlichen, ökologischen und ökonomischen Folgen.

Nie zuvor in der Geschichte der Menschheit war das nachhaltige Management natürlicher Ressourcen von so entscheidender Bedeutung für unser Überleben. Unsere Generation wird die Geschichte der Menschheit entweder auf den Pfad zu einer nachhaltigen Entwicklung oder zur Selbstzerstörung führen. Die gute Nachricht ist, dass wir noch immer den Weg der Nachhaltigkeit wählen können – doch Zeit für Aufschub gibt es nicht mehr.

Diskutieren Sie diesen Beitrag hier.

Dieser Beitrag basiert auf der Rede von Herrn Gnacadja in der Vollversammlung des Third Annual Caux Forum for Human Security am 10. Juli 2010 in Caux in der Schweiz. Die entsprechende Presseerklärung finden Sie unter http://www.unccd.int/publicinfo/docs/lghumansecurity.pdf

Weitere Informationen zum Caux Forum for Human Security finden Sie unter http://www.cauxforum.net

Das UNCCD Issue Paper No. 2 mit dem Titel “Securitizing the Ground, Grounding Security” finden Sie unter http://www.unccd.int/knowledge/docs/dldd_eng.pdf

 

(Quelle: KRIUM.)

Israel: Linke streitet um Boykott-Kampagne

Dienstag, August 31st, 2010

“Blue and White: Where Uri Avnery has it Wrong

By Michael Warschawski

Once again Uri Avnery is using his blog to criticize the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. Under the title “Red and Green,” Avnery comments on the long and interesting program recently broadcast on Israeli Channel 10 on the growing international isolation of Israel.

Avnery, the veteran journalist and activist, repeats his main arguments against “boycott Israel” campaign and the need to focus only on the boycott of settlers and settlement products. I have already reacted to a similar criticism by Avnery, but the well-deserved authority of Uri Avnery within the international solidarity movement requires a debate of what I consider to be his (very few indeed) mistaken views.

“Indeed there is no need for a world-wide [BDS] organization [the reportage] says, because all over the place there is a spontaneous surge of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli feeling. Following the “Cast Lead” operation and the flotilla affair, this process has gathered momentum,” summarizes Avnery.

After this summary, Uri’s blog focuses on a criticism of the campaign of boycotting Israel. His main argument is that the campaign doesn’t distinguish between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). For Avnery, while the OPT should be totally freed from Israeli control and domination, the territories west of the “Green Line” are “naturally” Israeli, just as Manchester is Great Britain and Hanover is Germany. There should be no challenge to this reality and, as Uri said once, he will be the first to defend Israel from any such challenge. For Avnery, the colonial nature of the State of Israel is obsolete within 1948.

Confronted with the colonial behavior and continuous dynamics of the state of Israel, more and more people are questioning Avnery’s approach, having difficulties to believe that the colonial behavior of all Israeli governments since 1967 is only a long series of mistakes due to severe blindness. Unlike my friend Uri, I don’t think that our problem is the world-wide “red and green” alliance”, but definitely the “blue and white” nature of Israel and its structural colonialism.

Towards the end of his blog Uri Avnery writes: “all this becomes impossible if there is a call for a boycott of all Israelis [my emphasis, MW)”. This is a mistake, but not an accidental one: the BDS campaign has never been oriented towards individuals, but towards products and institutions. The mistake, however, reflects the basic confusion of Avnery (and others) between the State, its deeds and its population. For Avnery, the state and population are more or less the same; the State is the collective organization of the citizen’s community and attacking the state (and even more so, denying its legitimacy) is synonymous with attacking its population and denying its right to exist as a collective.

In reality, however, the state is an accumulation of its deeds and institutions. State and civil society (its organized population) are two different entities, often antagonist to each other. Israel is a colonial state in its modus operandi, institutions and history, the same way South Africa was an apartheid state and the US, before the civil rights movement, a segregationist one.

Uri Avnery rightly points that the BDS campaign is targeting the colonial/apartheid state of Israel, not only the settlements and their products. BDS is calling for a triple revolution: ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan, ensuring full individual and collective equality in the pre-1967 Israel, and realizing the right of Palestinian refugees to return. Only the fulfillment of these three set of demands can make Israel a civilized state, acceptable in the community of democratic nations; until then, Israel (the real state of Israel, not an ahistorical and abstract concept) will remain a pariah state for all who are coherent in the defence of basic human rights and democracy and should be boycotted, the way apartheid South Africa, Fascist Spain or Greece of the military dictatorship have been boycotted.

As for the Israeli population that both Avnery and I would like to see on the frontline of the struggle for a just peace in this area, modern history has taught us that only the efficiency of the anti-colonial struggle and the growing price – in blood, money, international isolation and internal degeneration – to be paid for ongoing colonialism will ultimately make the change. Until then, we will remain a tiny minority of visionaries, adding our important voices – important, because they are coming from within the belly of the beast – to the growing international demand for justice for the Palestinian people.

Contrary to Uri Avnery’s claim, the solidarity movement with Palestine should not “support the Israeli activists”, but the other way round: the Israeli activists should provide their support to the world-wide campaign aiming at isolating the Israeli apartheid State, for the sake of the rights of the Palestinian people as well as for the sake of a viable future for our grandchildren.”

(Quelle: Alternative Information Center.)

Chile: Mapuche im Hungerstreik – Kampagne für politische Gefangene

Sonntag, August 29th, 2010

Protest in solidarity with Mapuche people

Mapuche: Campaign In Support Of Political Prisoners

A campaign declaring solidarity with 33 detained Mapuche hunger strikers has attracted substantial local and international attention to the Mapuche struggle.

Press release issued by the Mapuche Solidarity Collective – Unceded Coast Salish Territory:

In a declaration of solidarity with 33 detained Mapuche hunger strikers whose current medical status is of grave concern, the Mapuche Solidarity Collective – Unceded Coast Salish Territory has joined the International Campaign in Support of Mapuche Political Prisoners and, we are inviting community activist from the Vancouver and surrounding areas of the Lower Mainland and all those concerned with the rights of indigenous people , to attend a demonstration in front of the Chilean Consulate (located at 1185 West Georgia St., Suite 1610 – Vancouver, BC) to formally declare our opposition to the Chilean government’s continued application of Pinochet-era anti-terrorism legislation against Mapuche democratic protest. The event, which will involve the presentation of a letter to the Chilean Consul in Vancouver, will take place on Thursday, September the 2nd at 12:00 (Noon).

The demonstration will denounce the deteriorating health of the political prisoners, some of whom have been on hunger strike since July 12th, 2010. Originally, the Mapuche protest broke out in response to the refusal of the Chilean authorities to recognize both the human rights of the detainees and the essentially political nature of their indictment and detention. Although news coverage of the action has been severely curtailed by a government ‘blackout’, the hunger strike has already inspired Mapuche communities in cities across Chile to take to the streets to declare their support.

There has also been a growing interest in the international campaign which has undoubtedly been encouraged by the open criticism of the Chilean authorities by international bodies. The widespread and inappropriate use of anti-terrorist law 18.314 has therefore been highlighted by both the Ethical Committee against Torture and the UN Human Rights Council.

In this sense, the neat demarcation which could be drawn between the Pinochet regime and its civilian successors is misleading, precisely because, under this law – which was first enacted by the dictatorship – defendants are subject to dual trial by military tribunals and civilian courts – for this reason, amongst others, the distinction between ‘military’ and ‘civilian’ rule is nowhere as clear as it should be, a conclusion which is further reinforced by a petition addressed to Sebastián Piñera, the current President of Chile, demanding that the ‘use of militarized violence against communities, young people and the elderly must stop’.

The Mapuche struggle – of which the prisoners’ strike is only the most recent manifestation – is the latest chapter in a story which began with the campaign of genocide which was launched against the indigenous population in 1863-1883 (in the form of the Araucanian Pacification). The Mapuche have since struggled against the results of a ‘settlement’ which was imposed upon them by force.

We call upon both the Chilean government and the international community to instead work towards a settlement founded upon respect for basic and fundamental rights, whether human, political or cultural. For this reason we call upon the Chilean government to:

* Repeal the anti-terrorism law.
* End the institutionalized violence.
* Ensure guarantees of due process for Mapuche political prisoners who are currently incarcerated.
* Repeal the method of ‘double simultaneous trial’ before a military tribunal and civilian court.
* Implement political and territorial rights of autonomy and self-determination.

The Mapuche are an indigenous nation which straddles Southern/Central Chile and Argentina. Their population is estimated at two million. They are the only indigenous nation from South America whose sovereignty and autonomy were formally recognized during the Spanish conquest of the continent. To this day, the Mapuche continue to struggle against the repression of their legitimate cultural and territorial rights by the Argentinean and Chilean authorities.

Mapuche Solidarity Collective – Unceded Coast Salish Territory

(Quelle: rabble.ca.)

Global: WikiLeaks, die Banken und “das scheue Reh”

Donnerstag, August 26th, 2010

Banks, blood and chocolate

By Khadija Sharife

Pambazuka News, Issue 494


Rudolf Elmer, whistleblower and former CEO of Swiss bank Julius Baer’s Cayman Island operations, reveals the secrets of the murky world of offshore banking to Khadija Sharife. ‘Mauritius is in many ways the Switzerland of Africa,’ says Elmer, but there is another African nation vying to be the ‘golden’ financial gateway: Ghana.

At one point during our conversation, the phone goes dead. Much later, Rudolf Elmer, one of the world's most infamous whistleblowers and the former chief executive officer of private Swiss bank Julius Baer's Cayman Islands operations, would rattle off to me a list of possible intelligence services that might have been involved.

In Elmer's native land – Switzerland – blowing the whistle on banking secrecy is a crime. Elmer was imprisoned, his family harassed by private detectives, his daughter stalked at school by men who waited in parking lots, and his wife almost driven off a highway.[1]

‘They offered her chocolate with one hand, and terrorised her with the other,’ he tells me. ‘My wife was followed. My secretary, scared to go to the post office. They put on so much pressure. And, as I discovered, the police, the media – they are all part of the systemic corruption,’ he said. ‘It is just like the mafia, only it’s respectable.’

Through Elmer’s attorney, Swiss bank Julius Baer allegedly offered to pay Elmer over a series of instalments (‘to silence me,’ Elmer says) after he was sacked in 2003 for attempting to change the system from within by demanding that clients cease their tax evasion activities. Julius Baer maintained he was acting out of revenge. Later, to protect his family, and after considering and canning suicide (‘these are the things you think about seriously when your life is falling apart, but it would not be good for my daughter, she needed me,’) Elmer publicly blew the whistle via Wikileaks.org, among other foreign sources of media. Elmer disclosed the names of accounts of companies, hedge funds, trusts and more than 1,300 individuals with whom he dealt between 1997-2002.

’As a compliance officer,’ he explained, ‘you’re on the frontline, you’re sitting on a barrel of powder and you’re not really sure when it’s going to go off.’ Because he revealed the inner workings of Julius Baer, Elmer has justification to be fearful. He knows, and was told, of some accountants and bankers in Panama, the Cayman Islands and other regions, who have mysteriously disappeared, were threatened or worse, such as Swiss banker Frederick Bise, who was killed and burnt in his car.’

‘The dirty boys, they’re not sitting in the Caymans where people don’t really get a great deal of information. They are “onshore” at the financial institutions, the accounting firms like KPMG, the banks.’ Julius Baer is not the only bank that Elmer has blown the whistle on. Between 2006-2008, Elmer set up the offshore business of one of Africa’s most important financial entities – Standard Bank – transferring 1,400 trusts and hundreds of companies to Mauritius in order to administer and prepare the accounts and services of these entities. ‘I was trained up for Mauritius in Jersey and the Isle of Man before being sent there,’ he stated. ‘There is a lot of British influence: The major banks like Barclays and HSBC have built up major operations and multi-storey buildings in Cyber City south of Port Louis (the capital.) Six years ago there were only five – today, I estimate about 40.’

‘Standard Bank Africa has an offshore group in Jersey which controls the Isle of Man and Mauritius [operations],’ Elmer continues. ‘In this offshore group only offshore business is performed. There were African, UK, Russian and other clients holding offshore entities as well as private accounts,’ he said. ‘Each large bank has offshore units… I call this ‘prostitution’ due to the fact that they do the kind of business which ordinary banks cannot perform. They have created a specific register accounting for the Politically Exposed People (PEP) who hold accounts. It is really strange that such well-known individuals have offshore accounts, for various reasons, including secrecy services which the Bank provides.’

Elmer explains in detail how PEPs are protected. Typical of the ‘notices’ remitted to the bank by clients instructing the bank on how to communicate with them include such statements as: ‘Very sensitive information, do not contact him. One fax line only. No correspondence to be sent to address directly. Do not send any doc by post without prior consent. When contacted, please mention the password ”xxxxxx”. Do not send anything through ”xxxxxxxx”. A password must be obtained from ”Name Surname” if he calls prior to any discussion. Do not contact ”Name Surname” via email unless you speak to him first. No correspondence to the principal beneficiary,’ etc.[2]

Some examples of the bank’s monthly PEPs disclosed for the month of October 2007 include a former political heavyweight in the Russian government; deputy chairman of Russia’s Policy and Tax Commission and family members; the current prime minister of a major economy and CEO of a major corporate chain; the latter’s special assistant; multiple members of the Gulf royal families; and other politically connected persons.[3] Reading through the assessments, it is clear that beyond the usual legal and financial services provided by the bank to PEPs, the secrecy vehicle – more than any form of tax evasion – was paramount.

Take a certain Jordanian-American described as a ‘long-time friend and business partner of Mr Ahmed Chalabi, member of the US-Iraqi Council with close ties to the Pentagon.’ This particular PEP, founder of several corporations in the information, finance, technology and private security sector, in the words of the document, ‘won lucrative Iraqi reconstruction contracts in exchange for kickbacks to Chalabi… The [company] employs members of Chalabi’s private militia for guarding oil. Chalabi’s nephew serves as the firm’s Counsel.’

The same PEP, the document goes on to reveal, ‘has ties to several companies backed or owned by Winston Partner,’ the private investment firm of Marvin Bush, brother of former US president George W Bush. The PEP’s company was incorporated in the secrecy jurisdiction of the British Virgin Islands, with operating headquarters in Dubai and branches in London and other major hubs, and lists ‘oil and gas, mineral extraction and infrastructure development’ as major markets. In 2003, for instance, the company was granted a contract to train ‘Oil Protection Forces’ (OPF) for Iraq’s ministry of oil. Such secrecy vehicles are apparently rather popular, as the above-mentioned PEP’s wife and attorney were also listed and connected to many of the same entities.

As a typical offshore entity, Standard Bank’s Mauritius operations offer not only the usual services of ‘alternate directors, secretaries, and nominee shareholders,’ but also handles, among other services, ‘company correspondence and day to day work.’ Moreover, although the tax rate for companies is officially 15 per cent, Standard Bank touts the offer that this can be reduced to zero by opting for the Global Business Company Category II (GBCCII). Alternately, ‘it is possible for the company to claim foreign deemed foreign tax credits of 80% via Global Business (GBC Category I) of the Mauritius tax chargeable on the foreign source of income, which results in an effective tax rate of 3%.’ Naturally, senior officials of Standard Bank are ‘permitted to act as directors of the company (GBCC II)’.

’Mauritius is in many ways the Switzerland of Africa, isn’t it?,’ says Elmer. ‘It turned out to be more of the same.’

But there is another African nation vying to be the ‘golden’ financial gateway: Ghana.

Though Ghana is perceived as West Africa’s poster child of political stability after hosting five democratic elections, following a June 2005 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Barclays Bank – one of the world’s leading ‘wealth managers’ based in multiple secrecy jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands, Switzerland and Mauritius – the Ghanaian government has aggressively restructured Ghana’s capital Accra as an offshore centre via the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC).

‘The Barclays Offshore Banking Unit, the first of its kind in Ghana and indeed in Africa south of the Sahara, continues to offer world-class banking service to non-resident private clients and corporates,’ boasted Barclays, the architect behind the IFSCs design.[3] And yes, of course, as a Barclays official based in an African secrecy jurisdiction informed me, ‘We are bound by our confidentiality agreement with our clients. No other branches can access our client details.’

The Bank of Ghana, well aware of the implications of ‘supply-side’ corruption on a continent experiencing between US$200-$400 billion in illicit flight each year, nonetheless confirmed in a report that IFSCs ‘should operate with a minimum of regulation,’ but that the operation of IFSCs, ‘has implications for the Central bank’s work on good governance because it can reduce transparency including the exploitation of complex ownership structures.’

Concerned about the impact of Ghana’s offshore centre, Jeffrey Owens, head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) tax centre stated, ‘The last thing Africa needs is a tax haven in the centre of the African continent.’[4] But Ghana itself may soon be the victim of ‘demand-side’ corruption, facilitating revenue leakage via a consortium of oil corporations.

In June 2007, a consortium of oil corporations, including UK-based Tullow Oil and US-based Kosmos Energy, struck offshore oil in Ghana’s Jubilee oil field, which is estimated to hold recoverable reserves of 800 million barrels, and the potential for a further billion barrels. Regarded as one of Africa’s biggest offshore finds in the last decade, Ghana’s oil will catapult the country from one with an oil import bill of US$1.3 billion annually (2009) to that of Africa’s fifth largest oil-producing nation. An estimated 200 billion cubic feet of gas will allegedly be provided free of charge to Ghana’s state-owned petroleum company, the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation.

But the Jubilee Ghana MV 21 BV – a special purpose company[5] comprised of energy corporations – is incorporated in the Netherlands, one of the world’s leading tax havens that provides specific loopholes for corporate activities. The consortium owns the Kwame Nkrumah MV 21 – the Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) facility that will be used to exploit Ghana’s offshore oil during the first phase of development.

Commenting on the Jubilee Ghana special purpose vehicle (SPV), Elmer explains that the intent is manifold: Protecting secrecy and providing legal, tax and regulatory relaxation. ‘In this case,’ he says, ‘there is a strong suspicion that the SPV [will] charge certain services to the company, therefore reducing the profit and the taxable profit. Another option is that certain currency or derivative deals with the company [will be] made with the same effect that the taxable profit is reduced in Ghana.’

The use of the Netherland’s opaque legal and financial vehicles are likely to facilitate revenue leakage, diminishing Ghana’s projected oil revenue, estimated to inject US$800 million into the economy from 2011 and 2029 (beginning with US$20 per person in 2011 before increasing to US$75 per person by 2017, if revenues are directly remitted to citizens). The jurisdiction, host to more than 20,000 ‘mailbox companies’ (of which 43 per cent have a ‘parent’ in secrecy jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, the Netherlands Antilles and Cyprus),[6] specialises as a ‘pass-through’ conduit for financial flows including ‘dividends, royalties and interest payments’ via ‘special financial institutions’ (SFIs).

The Dutch Central Bank, not entirely pleased with this situation, defines ring-fenced SFIs as ‘institutions (that) are subsidiaries of foreign parent companies used to channel capital through our country that has really nothing at all to do with the Dutch economy.’[7] The statistics are stark. In a report titled ‘The Netherlands: A tax haven?’ (2006), the Dutch-based Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations stated: ‘Gross SFI flows through the Netherlands amounted to €3,600 billion or over eight times Dutch GNP. Most SFIs are managed by one of the 132 specialised trust offices. However, the majority of SFI transactions can be attributed to a small group of multinationals that control about 100 to 125 SFIs, and have offices of their own.’ These offices, representing about 80 per cent of SFIs, provide ‘substance’ to profits laundered from, for instance, developing countries by supplying the components of ‘economic activity’ defined as an address and management. Like the Netherlands Antilles, the jurisdiction does not place details of trusts on public record, nor does it require that company accounts or beneficial ownership be made available for public record.[8]

But the Dutch – ranked by the Washington-based Centre for Global Development as the world’s third best donor country[9] – vehemently deny this. In 2009, for instance, the Netherlands, via the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington, acted quickly to remove a bullet point contained in a White House briefing about tax havens, revealing the jurisdiction as a corporate favourite: ‘Nearly one-third of all foreign profits reported by US corporations in 2003 came from just three small, low-tax countries: Bermuda, the Netherlands, and Ireland.’

Ironically, though corporate mispricing accounts for 60 per cent of illicit flight from resource-rich developing nations, specifically those in oil and-mineral rich West Africa, Ghana vies to become the Netherlands of Africa. ‘Under the IFSC, Barclays Bank has been given the license to operate the first Offshore Bank in the sub region.’[10] Cumulatively, US$13 trillion in private wealth is stashed by tax evaders and avoiders in secrecy jurisdictions. If taxed at a moderate 7.5 per cent rate of return, these funds would yield US$865 billion dollars annually.

The Ghanaian government is eager to realise the World Bank’s predictions of Ghana graduating from being a low-income member, such as Chad, through increased GDP. But neither the government nor the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, headed by Nana Boakye Asafu-Adjaye, former country head for oil corporation Vanco Ghana Limited, appear to have a problem with the current state of arrangements, just six months shy of exploitation.

The paradox? Even as Ghana potentially stands to lose development revenue to ‘onshore’ tax havens like the Netherlands and multinationals, it is aggressively vying to become the Netherlands of Africa.’

Have you seen John Grisham’s The Firm? It’s just like that; except it’s not a few lawyers but the whole political system,’ Elmer warns before our conversation comes to an end.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* This article first appeared in The Thinker (Volume 18/2010).
* Khadija Sharife is a journalist, visiting scholar at the Center for Civil Society (CCS) based in South Africa, and contributor to the Tax Justice Network.

NOTES

[1] All quotes attributed to Rudolf Elmer are based on a series of telephonic interviews with the author.
[2] Document on file with author.
[3] Barclays Bank (2010), ‘Ghana: Country Overview.’
[4] Guardian (19 January 2010), ‘Tax Havens Risks Corruption, OECD Warns Ghana.’
[5] World Bank/Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (2010), ‘FPSO Kwame Nkrumah MV 21.’
[6] Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (2006), ‘The Netherlands: A Tax Haven.’
[7] The Netherlands Bank (2010), ‘Balance of payments and international investment position.’
[8] Tax Justice Network (2009), ‘Netherlands and Netherlands Antilles Country Reports.’
[9] Centre for Global Development (2009), ‘Netherlands Score.’
[10] Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (2010), ‘Financial Services.’”

 

(Quelle: Pambazuka News.)

Global: Neue WikiLeaks-Enthüllungen – CIA als Agentur des Terros

Donnerstag, August 26th, 2010

“Wikileaks Releases CIA ‘Exporter of Terrorism’ Report


Whistle-blowing website Wikileaks has published a CIA memo examining the implications of the US being perceived as an “exporter of terrorism”

Whistle-blowing website Wikileaks has published a CIA memo examining the implications of the US being perceived as an “exporter of terrorism”.

Whistle-blowing website Wikileaks has published a CIA memo examining the implications of the US being perceived as an “exporter of terrorism”The three-page report from February 2010 says the participation of US-based individuals in terrorism is “not a recent phenomenon”.

The memo cites several cases of alleged terrorist acts by US residents.

An official played down the report from the CIA’s so-called Red Cell, saying it was “not exactly a blockbuster paper”.

The Red Cell was set up in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to offer an “out-of-the-box” approach and “produce memos intended to provoke thought rather than to provide authoritative assessment”, the CIA website says.

CIA spokesman George Little said: “These sorts of analytic products – clearly identified as coming from the Agency’s ‘Red Cell’ – are designed simply to provoke thought and present different points of view.”

The report, which highlights attacks by US-based or US-financed Jewish, Muslim and Irish-American terrorists, questions how foreign perceptions of the US could change with continued attacks.

“Much attention has been paid recently to the increasing occurrence of American-grown Islamic terrorists conducting attacks against US targets, primarily in the homeland. Less attention has been paid to homegrown terrorism, not exclusively Muslim terrorists, exported overseas to target non-US persons,” the report says.

The memo, titled What If Foreigners See the United States as an ‘Exporter of Terrorism’?, concludes that if the US is perceived by other nations as an “exporter of terrorism”, those countries may be less willing to co-operate with the US in the detention, transfer and interrogation of future suspects.

Wikileaks on 23 July published 76,000 secret US military logs detailing military actions in Afghanistan, an act the US authorities described as highly irresponsible.

The website now says it will release 15,000 further sensitive documents, once it has completed a review aimed at minimising the risk that their publication could put people’s lives in danger.”

(Quelle: CommonDreams.org.)