The City Diary: Loose cash

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The Independent Online

I'll begin with a curious case involving Christo Wiese, one of South Africa's most prominent businessmen and a former chairman of our own Instore (Brown & Jackson as was), erstwhile owner of discount retailer Poundstretcher.

Wiese had a costly run-in with the UK Border Agency last year, when he was stopped at City Airport as he prepared to board a flight to Luxembourg. When asked by officers whether he was carrying any cash, Wiese unveiled £120,000 in his hand luggage, which prompted officers to retrieve the tycoon's checked-in baggage. That produced a further haul of readies, taking the total to £674,920 (which, by my maths, is a fraction over the £1,000 limit), requiring the carrier to answer a few questions.

Wiese's explanation at the time – that he intended to invest the money in Luxembourg and "had transported it out of South Africa in travellers' cheques to avoid exchange controls" – didn't work terribly well, and his wad was seized. Last week, the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court decided it was "satisfied the cash was associated with criminality" (although the UK proceedings are civil) and made an order for its forfeiture. Wiese is now appealing.

Legal eagle

Certainly, Wiese has not been scrimping on his defence. He employed the services of the famed Clare Montgomery QC, who has subsequently moved on to defend Shrien Dewani – the British newly-wed accused of hiring a hitman to kill his bride – and has represented the likes of BAE Systems and GlaxoSmithKline. Montgomery scares many rigid – but I can't help wondering: did Wiese pay his legal bill in cash? Predictably, the QC's spokeswoman ducks that one.

Goga, please call!

Goga Ashkenazi, the socialite bosom buddy of Prince Andrew, is desperately trying to reinvent herself as a businesswoman, selflessly making herself available for numerous glossy interviews. Now I hear she's being followed around London's most fashionable spots by a film crew.

This recent publicity drive has been notable for a string of uncritical references to her commercial interests – ventures which, of course, owe nothing to Timur Kulibayev, the father of her child and the man the US Embassy cables dub "the ultimate controller of 90 per cent of the economy of Kazakhstan". Sadly, my calls to Goga go unreturned (again). Am I the only journalist she won't speak to?

Funny man

Here's a coincidence. Comedian Stephen K Amos hosted the recent CorpComms Awards for corporate spinners. His name is an anagram of "The Spokesman".