The Old Boy’s Network

Although my trilogy is not faction or non-fiction, an important and interesting element for me has been the background research. At the moment, I am editing and re-writing Part Two – Deception. When I wrote the first draft some six years ago, there was a scene where Franco Brambilla met Charles Kane’s team. In his strong cockney accent Charles, the former MI5 agent who had been charged with monitoring the movements of UK–based oligarchs of the former Soviet Union, entered into a long tirade concerning the City of London. In particular, he mentioned the Remembrancer’s Office.  The Remembrancer sits in the UK parliament, bringing intelligence from the political sphere to the City, and lobbying in parliament on behalf of finance and the City Corporation. Something that I was not aware of at the time of writing the first draft. Now that I am editing and re-writing, I discovered more about the whole set up of the City of London in particular, the Livery Companies. The Tax Justice Network argues that these constitute an Old Boy’s Network that contribute to important but unseen business and political presence in the broader UK economy and political system.

The Corporation, which predates the British parliament, has various other special privileges and ‘freedoms’ – meaning it is carved in some ways outside of normal UK civic governance. Another unique point is its non-party voting system, where corporate players are allowed to vote alongside the 10,000-odd residents in local elections. This separateness gives the City Corporation something of an ‘offshore’ flavour,11 and its special status has helped it defend itself, and the UK’s financial sector more generally, over centuries. These ‘freedoms’ from political interference also help explain why important parts of the British Establishment and institutional apparatus such as the Old Bailey (the central criminal court) and Fleet Street (traditionally, the home of newspapers) are located in, and have thrived in, the Square Mile.
These ‘freedoms’ and prerogative powers have helped protect the UK’s democratic institutions from political interference. But they have also been mixed with other ‘freedoms’ and their uses, where far greater caution is warranted.
The City Corporation has long fought for ‘freedom’ to trade relatively unhindered from demands and pressures from various sovereigns and governments – and often from tax.

There are over one hundred Livery Companies, many of which date back to the thirteen the Century. One of the latest to be established is The Worshipful Company of Tax Advisers (1995), what a wonderful name!!

It is worth reading the TJN report on the UK. Far from the Government’s claims that it is clamping down on tax evasion and money laundering, it seems that the UK combined with the three Crown Dependencies (Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man) and the 14 Overseas Territories, which include such offshore giants as Cayman, the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda is the world’s worst culprit.

The role of the City of London in engaging with the ex-Soviet oligarchs, and making pots of money along the way, has been well documented in a recent supplement to the Private Eye. Having witnessed the clambering volunteer lawyers and accountants in the early 1990s hoping to get their teeth into the new opportunities, the Private Eye findings did not surprise me.

When the senior KGB officer, Viktor Pavlov, was in London during the 1980s, he spent quite some time studying the Livery Companies ( he probably read the same book as I did The Livery Companies of the City of London). He decides with his IRA contact to establish The Worshipful Company of Lonely Geezers. Nothing to do with the Worshipful Company of Tax Advisers, who are becoming an increasingly isolated breed in the eyes of the UK public!