There is a readily available source of information on donations to political parties. Just type ‘The Electoral Commission’ into your search engine and there you have it! There you will find lists of donations to various political parties by groups and individuals.
When it comes to Conservative Party donations Richard Caring is key. Over the last five years he has donated more than half a million pounds to the Conservative party. On 2nd July he donated the grand sum of £296,000, making him the single largest donor this quarter.
You might think Richard Caring must be a great fan of the Conservative Party, but it turns out that in 2005 he loaned the Labour Party £2 million. This was a loan, not a gift, but, still, it helped the Labour Party to win the 2005 general election.
So who is this man, and why is he pouring such large sums of money into party politics? Though he lives in a mansion in Hampstead, for tax purposes he is classified as a hereditary non-dom. It seems that he likes giving money away, but not paying taxes.
Richard Caring is well known for a number of flamboyant donations and charitable gestures. For example, he raised large sums of money for NSPCC at an event in St Petersberg attended by Sir Elton John and former US President, Bill Clinton. He also donated £1 million to Bill Clinton’s own charitable foundation.
He owns Annabel’s nightclub in London and donated an ‘all expenses paid’ night out to a Conservative Party fundraiser. The gift raised the princely sum of £70,000. It all sounds like so much fun, but there is a sinister side to all this.
As has been widely reported in the press, in September 2005 Mr Richard Caring left Geneva with his bodyguard and a suitcase stuffed full of over quarter of a million in untraceable bank notes! The Swiss branch of HSBC that helped him stuff his suitcase is accused of helping wealthy customers i) conceal assets, ii) dodge taxes iii) take out untraceable cash for unknown purposes, and iv) get advise and practical help on how to cheat the regulators. All of this contravenes banking regulations.
The bank is aiding and abetting the process by which the very wealthy are allowed to steal from ordinary taxpayers. Quite apart from the level of unpaid taxes, however, there is also the question of the damaging repercussions when banks behave so recklessly that entire economies are threatened. It could be even worse than that though. Drugs money, property fraud, funding of terrorist activity all permitted by dodgy bankers!
In February the Guardian newspaper reported that the Tories raised over £5 million from HSBC Swiss bank account holders, naming some key individuals including Richard Caring, Von Opel, Stanley Fink (now Lord Fink!) , Edward Lee, and Zac Goldsmith.
Might these large donations to political parties not be the reason why banks and their customers continue with their fraudulent practices more or less completely unchecked? For me this is not just about individual misdemeanours, it is about the tolerance, even encouragement, of endemic fraud.
The Conservative Party, as the data shows, has been the biggest beneficiary of this kind of funding, but the truth is that both sides of the political establishment have courting big private donations. It is not surprising, therefore, that both major parties appear to prefer to promote the interests of the super-rich rather than to risk alienating them and thereby losing party funding.
The very sad part of this story is that Hervé Falciani, the person who leaked the files that revealed that the Swiss branch of HSBC had illegitimately concealed large sums of money for people facing allegations of serious wrongdoing, is now in jail in Switzerland (having breached very strict Swiss banking secrecy laws). We cannot expect to achieve change as long as the beneficiaries of fraudulent banking practices go on funding our political parties and whistleblowers continue to be silenced.