Unpleasantness in Belgium, Silence in Ireland.

A small storm has begun to form in Belgium this morning. The centre of the storm is a comment made on a Belgian television documentary (begins 26 minutes in) by none other than Jonathan Sugarman, AKA WhistleblowerIRL, whom the Village Magazine called the most significant whistleblower in Ireland.

You have to hand it to Sugarman. He has a knack for giving the authorities heartburn. I wrote an update about his case at the time of the Village Magazine piece which filled in a couple of interesting details.

This time he happened to mention as an example of the total lack of financial regulatory oversight in Ireland during the bubble years the Belgian Bank KBC.  As Sugarman said, just this month KBC Belgium had to give KBC Ireland another €100 million in order to bail it out. To illustrate how KBC had got itself into the state where it is still being bailed out by the Belgian tax payer via its parent company, he told how he himself had been given a mortgage by KBC in Ireland. As he said in the interview,

“When I looked at the forms I had to fill in for KBC Ireland, it was a joke. I could have said I was Mickey Mouse and I work in La la land and I would still have a million euro to buy a house with maybe was woth 200 000 euro. Did anybody ask questions. No. The bank is growing. Where’s the problem.”

Where indeed? What he didn’t say in the interview is that the bank did not actually bother to value the property he was buying before it gave him the mortgage. It looked at the house next door and guessed.

So now given the continued bleeding and rotting going on inside KBC as well as the epic implosion of Dexia and the fact that, as in Ireland, no one has been held responsible, there are questions being asked in Belgium that powerful people don’t want asked.

Back in 2010 I wrote an article about the way German banks used Ireland as a dark pit for doing deals they could not do elsewhere. It was called Ireland was Germany’s Off-shore Tart. It seems she was Belgium’s tart too.

What Sugarman’s story reveals above all is how no one in power, whether that be financial, political or media power, wants any questions asked or truths exposed.  Sugarman has been ignored by everyone in the Irish establishment: his bank, the banks regulator, all the Irish political parties, all the newspapers and I was there when he told his story to one of Ireland’s top TV journalists only to never hear from him again.

Sugarman was the risk manager who resigned from Unicredit when his warnings to senior management, that the bank was routinely failing to hold enough capital to protect depositors from a bank run, were being ignored.

Irish law says clearly a breach of the minimum holdings of even 1% must be notified to the regulator immediately. He was finding UniCredit being routinely 19% short. When he asked an independent company to check his figures they told him the breaches were as high as 40%. This means the bank was short billions. Such a shortfall means if there was run on the bank it would not have a hope of surviving.

Sugarman was ignored and told to stop complaining. He resigned.

A month later Northern Rock collapsed when a run on the bank exhausted its cash reserves. A year later the Irish banks collapsed.

You might have thought the Irish Bank regulator would want to know what Sugarman had to say. You’d be wrong. The Irish regulator has gone out of his way to ignore him. I have been privy to all the emails and correspondence and it is a shameful and tawdry story of obfuscation, lying and threats. Meetings where he was told he could come and tell the regulator what he knew, but that if he revealed any wrong doing by the bank that occurred during the time he was there, the regulator would have to report him to the police. Despite the fact he had been the one trying to raise the alarm.

And so it is that Sugarman has been interviewded by Australian television, Belgian television, Greek television, interviewed by the major Greek newspaper Kathemarini (which is affiliated with the NY Times) which was picked up, written about and made available to an English speaking audience by the noted and respected  British financial journalist Ian Fraser on his blog,

And all the while there has been nothing in Ireland.

If it were just the banks who we had to fight for truth and justice life would be easy. But we are fighting our own political class and our media as well.

We are not all in this together. They are all in it together, against us.  We are on our own.

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33 Responses to Unpleasantness in Belgium, Silence in Ireland.

  1. Diogenis March 12, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    Ofcourse we are on our own.We always have been on our own.Against ancient emperors and the church in the past,today against bankers,corrupt politicians and mobsters.

    I said it here some weeks ago and I will say it again:

    All we have is our solidarity on the streets.Simple as that.

  2. Michael Fish March 13, 2013 at 5:10 am #

    Sugarman should become an investigator for bank regulators somewhere – though this would require a perfect world. As you say, the criminal lack of follow up of the irish regulators is exceeded only by the incredible Irish decisions to use Irish tax-payers’ money to underwrite the bad loans made by foreign banks. When will someone sue those responsibe ? When will even opposition parties with axes to grind wake up to start the ball rolling for some kind of justice.

    • austbe March 13, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

      Irish Civil Courts will not hear allegations of Fraud or Criminality against Banks, unless the complainants are legally represented in Court, no legal professionals want to be associated with such allegations!
      Some Irish People have resorted to lodging Criminal complaints with the Police (An Garda Siochana) but there is a news balackout on these complaints, not one single word!
      New opposition party Direct Democracy Ireland is contesting a local election on March 27th and they are standing on a platform to address all the issues with the Banking Sector and Bailouts by the Irish Taxpayer, things are happening but we will never hear about them in mainstream media….

      • Golem XIV March 13, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

        If you contact me with details I WILL tell people. I spoke to someone about this this morning. You give me more details I’ll write you a story.

        • austbe March 13, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

          Golem,
          If you would like to contact me in private at awaken.longford@hotmail.com I would be happy to discuss further, I have reposted your article thank you.

      • backwardsevolution March 13, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

        austbe – no, fraud and criminality are for the criminal courts, and we all know that no banker will ever see the inside of a cell. You need to get together a class action and go after the bankers in civil court. You need to show damages. It could be done.

        As one former lawyer on another blog likes to say: courts were set up for “contract law”. They were put in to protect the “elite,” to protect their business and property rights. Contract law is the basis of the court system.

        Start thinking about how you and others have lost because of the banker bailouts (suppression of interest rates, as an example, or increased taxes) and put a price on it. Go after them on this basis. Courts need to see a breach of contract or some injury that you can put a price on.

        • austbe March 13, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

          Yes I agree wholeheartedly, we have learned that the hard way, as we do not have the benefit of Legal Advice, the truth be told, nobody in the legal profession wants to be associated with a case which could impact a bank in a serious way, we have one case which we are steering in the direction you are describing, but the Bank is resisting this vehemently, we are 4 days into a simple motion hearing in the High Court in Dublin where the Bank is trying to have the matter dismissed as frivolous and vexatious so the battle is monumental in just trying to get to a full hearing.
          As lay litigant’s we are seriously prejudiced in a fair crack of the whip, but we have learned long ago that if it is justice we are looking for the Civil Courts in Dublin is the wrong place to seek it out, so now we are looking for damages and remedy, justice is for another day!

          • backwardsevolution March 13, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

            austbe – I don’t know much about Ireland’s situation, but in the States the banks have pretty much protected themselves by lobbying Congress to have laws changed retroactively (in order to cover their wrongdoing) or had laws changed after the crisis (in order to benefit them going forward).

            As David found out, when a bank regulator comes out and says that a bank did nothing wrong, that gives the bank’s counsel enough leverage to shut you up.

            Of course, who the hell is a bank regulator when it comes to issues of wrongdoing? Shouldn’t the final say be in the court system? As long as a bank can get a regulator to say nothing is untoward, that’s supposed to be okay? Nonsense!

            As much as I detest the banks, the regulators, the ratings agencies, and everybody else who took part in the financial orgy, THEY ARE ALL BEING PROTECTED BY YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS, otherwise there’d be court cases and prosecutions, wouldn’t there? Who is passing these retroactive laws and current laws? Who isn’t going after these guys? THE PEOPLE YOU ARE ELECTING!

            Noam Chomsky said you must always try reform first, go the legal route just to see how much support you get (none). Then, if you find that doesn’t work, then you know where you stand, don’t you? You then go after who is aiding and abetting these guys – your government!

  3. Nicholas Dyson March 13, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    Since last night, have they succeeded in making the truth invisible as well as illegal?

  4. Hawkeye March 13, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    Things are definitely getting very Orwellian.

    This morning I was hoping to find a copy of my ICB submission from 2010. This because I wanted to cite it on a recent blog about banking Fraud:

    http://rwer.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/big-bank-immunity-when-do-we-crack-down-on-wall-street/

    There is now no sign of the website set up for the ICB (aka Vickers Commission). HM Treasury still have the reports listed on their site:

    http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/fin_stability_regreform_icb.htm

    But any attempt to get hold of either the initial “Issues Paper”, or any of the submissions made by myself, NEF, Positive Money etc. has now disappeared.

    Are we to assume that any dissenting arguments can simply be “deleted”?

  5. Christina March 13, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    Indeed.
    What can be done to get the story and its cover up out again?

    As for the latest twist in Sugarman’s story – it is ironic that whilst KBC blushes about its credit assessment procedures, the Irish regulators seem just as quiet as before.

    Thank you for all the work you are doing – it is hugely appreciated,

  6. GeoWaveRider March 13, 2013 at 11:16 am #

    There is one thing for sure, if they didn’t know who Golem XIV was, they do now. I believe we are entering very dangerous times.

    It is interesting to consider what TPTB would do if it the masses did wake up to what is going on and decided to take action.

    I am in mind of our high opinions of our record on human rights and our wonderful democracy when it is used as a reason against those seemingly less so, Libya being a recent example.

    You should remind yourself of how “The State” behaves when it doesn’t like what the population is doing, and ask yourself why?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Beanfield

  7. Hawkeye March 13, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    The irony of this recent episode is that corporate lawyers have no regard for the “art of listening” or the principles behind it outlined in the recent post.

    They hope to win the argument by suppression of free speech, and avoidance of debate and discussion.

    We may be witness to widespread lawlessness in future. A direct reaction to the very basis of law being contorted as a tool for repression.

  8. Golem XIV March 13, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    Sorry not to be here earlier. Been a hell of couple of days.

    The story I was writing, mentioned the large and politically powerful Austrian bank, Raiffeisen. I felt what I had to say was factually correct. Raiffeisen didn’t agree. Raiffeisen threatened legal action if I did anything at all with the story and Reuters decided to pull it. I can’t go in to their reasons in detail without also telling you the story, but I can say they were legal ones based on how Raiffeisen was cleared of any wrong-doing by the Austrian regulator.

    I felt I had plenty of facts to counter Raiffeisen but Reuters’ legal counsel evidently felt otherwise. They felt if the story went ahead as was, I would get myself as well as them in a world of trouble.

    There is so much I would like to say, not to mention, wanting to actually publish the story itself – but I cannot yet think how to do it without being on the wrong side of the law.

    • sheepshagger March 13, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

      Does this mean you can’t reply to our email requests for a copy of the article?

      Perhaps you could fictionalise things?

    • Gemma March 13, 2013 at 11:45 pm #

      David, have a word with Klaus Kastner (http://klauskastner.blogspot.de) he is an Austrian banker of some repute. You probably know of him. He may be able to advise you on this? There may be a way to tell half the story?

  9. Golem XIV March 13, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    I’m afraid that is one of the several things it means. I am really sorry about it but the risks are severe. All I can say is the fat lady isn’t even in the stadium yet.

    • sheepshagger March 13, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

      Perhaps a long chat with a sympathetic politician might lead to something being said
      under privilege. Trafigura’s super injunction was neatly side-stepped that way.
      I know David Norris was slapped down in the Irish Senate when he tried to raise the
      Jonath Sugarman affair – but he did try. In Ireland there are several TDs – Richard Boyd Barret, Luke “Ming” Flannagan may be interested or in the UK George Galloway is not afraid to let the cat into the pigeon coup.
      Anyway I do hope that Rueters paid you.

    • Phil T. March 13, 2013 at 11:07 pm #

      Don’t you love the way these guys continue to raise the bar on tackling the issues of the day?

      http://www.youtube.com/user/NMAWorldEdition

  10. Hawkeye March 13, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    It seems that Raiffeisen is no stranger to controversy:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raiffeisen_Zentralbank#Controversy

    http://robertamsterdam.com/2007/05/raiffeisens_ties_to_murder_and_corruption_in_russia/

    Seems that HSBC hadn’t cornered the laundry market alone.

    • steviefinn March 14, 2013 at 12:28 am #

      David

      This must be a massive disappointment for you, considering that you obviously put a lot of hard work into the article which the SOB’s would not even pay you for You mentioned Reuters had someone to look at the piece from an ethical viewpoint., a sick joke considering that should have produced a moral judgement. Makes me wonder what else has been censored in this manner.

      It is getting very hard to keep up with the sordid events that keep coming to light, but thanks mainly to the internet & people like you, it appears that enough information is getting out there which is gradually turning the tide. The very fact that they are resorting to these sort of tactics is perhaps showing that despite their hubris & power they are becoming increasingly under pressure.

      I am sure you will eventually be vindicated, in not just this matter, but I imagine at the moment for you, that thought would be nothing more than cold comfort, as it must be for Jonathon & many others, those who know the true meaning of the word ethical.

      Take care.

  11. cirsium March 13, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    I read the explanatory article last night and it was sobering to find it gone today. I wish that I had printed not bookmarked it and the one on HSBC.

  12. The Dork of Cork. March 14, 2013 at 12:43 am #

    A win win situation ??????????

    http://www.irisheconomy.ie/index.php/2013/03/13/the-eu-us-transatlantic-trade-and-investment-partnership/

    The Irish economy site is filled with creatures of the temple.

    They publish this rubbish

    “The increased level of economic activity and productivity gains created by the agreement will benefit the EU and US labour markets, both in terms of overall wages and
    new job opportunities for high and low skilled workers. Labour displacement will
    be well within normal labour market movements and economic trends. This means
    a relatively small number of people would have to change jobs and move from one
    sector to another (0.2 to 0.5 per cent of the EU labour force.)
    • The agreement would have negligible effects on CO2 emissions and on the sustainable use of natural resources”

    The euro crisis was caused by the breakup of the Westphalian nation state because the banks could not make enough profits within such limited (in their eyes) control over political & economic systems.

    They reduced controls so as to increase short term profits.
    i.e increased efficiency by pushing former nation state resources upwards…….this created a leverage crisis of titanic size

    Incrediably the banks & their servants want to increase global trade to ever higher levels of intensity.

    It is certainly not in the interests of the average US person to become part of a non continental economy.

    http://www.lngworldnews.com/new-study-says-u-s-should-use-gas-in-manufacturing-than-exporting-as-lng/

    The UK maybe given its population density and lack of resources and its sad history of free trade post corn laws.

    This is a old debate , a very old debate.
    its just that normal people don’t get to input or understand what global banking forces are doing to them.

    In these final days they are essentially sucking the marrow from the bones of the carcass.

  13. The Dork of Cork. March 14, 2013 at 12:52 am #

    Valentia or Newfoundland ?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDFrGp8yxl8&list=UUnlOwuC-ek-Nbocg6hPOeWw&index=99

    Is globalization over or is it just getting started ?

    Me thinks this is a repeat of the 1600s

    Back then it was all about the breakup of tribal systems so as to build the banking nation state system of control.

    Now its about the breakup of the nation state by a very eager grasping market state.

    I am afraid the evil forces at work are beyond most peoples comprehension just as it was 400 + years ago with the beginning of the corporate model of exploitation.

    People living in a global village of a few 100 people in their eyes could not imagine such forces.
    The Bank of St George and the rest of those bastards might as well be little green men in space machines.

  14. The Dork of Cork. March 14, 2013 at 1:09 am #

    The opening to Barry Hines “threads”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQo0BQM3OlQ

    Sheffield was still a Industrial town back then !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Not for long.

    Getting married in the early 80s recession ………

    Who would have thought it would have exported industry on such a vast scale to China ?

    On one level Its a very different world today.

    On another the systems of control have changed.

    HQ remains.

  15. Phil (Mcr) March 16, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

    Public talk in Manchester:

    Inequality, Crime and the Banks: a talk with former Scotland Yard Fraud Squad Officer Rowan Bosworth-Davies

    Thursday 4th April, 7pm @ Friends Meeting House

    Rowan will focus on:

    - the changes in the financial sector’s culture following the era of the 1986 Big Bang deregulation
    - the dangerous disconnect between those who invest money and those who handle it
    - how greed has become a badge of honour for City financiers
    - how bankers have significantly increased their take of the wealth created in the UK, and how these developments have led to a significant increase in the gap between the obscenely rich and the ordinary citizen
    - how the regime of extreme inequality being created will lead to greater social unrest, public disorder and civic disobedience

    and most importantly how simply enforcing the law can stop it

    Book tickets here:

    http://robbingbanks.eventbrite.co.uk/#

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