Pembroke: Chips are down for a new crime wave

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The Independent Online
Never mind crack cocaine, Scotland Yard could have a new epidemic to cope with - the burgeoning black market in stolen computer chips. My moles in the computer industry tell me there has been a spate of break-ins at computer companies where Intel chips have featured large in the booty. The thefts follow Intel's TV advertising campaign which boasted that whichever whizzy computer you buy the chances are it is an Intel microchip that does all the work.

IBM's Greenock plant near Glasgow has suffered a raid. And last Friday 900 of the chips were stolen from NCR's manufacturing plant in Dundee. Police fear that a black market has developed among computer boffins.

Difficult to imagine mobile phone- touting dealers scuffling to supply the boffins' expensive chip habit, but police are taking the outbreak seriously. An army of PCs, sorry, police constables, is sifting through computer magazines where the swag may be advertised.

It's Crufts this week and Pet Plan Insurance, the moggie and doggie insurance company run by Patsy Bloom, has sent Pembroke its promotional brochures.

They include a list of recent claims that show just what a traumatic business owning a pet can be.

Here are a few from the canine claimants' list. A four-year-old lurcher called Dogma received pounds 185.62 (reason: hit in chest by flying dustbin during gale). Rusty, a mongrel, received pounds 167.40 (ate Rod Stewart cassette), and a two-year-old whippet called Dasher was no doubt stung by his treatment when he only received a paltry pounds 15.88 after being attacked by swarm of wasps. But the biggest recent payout went to the owners of Wolfgang, a St Bernard, who received pounds 1,276.30 after the poor mutt fell off a cliff. Do not fret, though. Not only did Wolfgang survive the fall but a lucrative media career awaits. Pet Plan is to use the lovable dog in its forthcoming ad campaign.

The Hoover free flights pressure group clearly believes in winning friends in high places. It is trying to get the Queen on its side. The group has written to Buckingham Palace asking the Royal Household to withdraw its warrant on account of the company's ill- starred free flights offer. 'We don't feel Hoover deserves the warrant after what has happened,' says Harry Cichy, of the pressure group.

Pembroke was not aware that the palace showed any preference in its choice of vacuum cleaner but the Lord Chamberlain's office has treated the complaint with due solemnity. It has passed the complaint on to the Royal Warrant Holders' Association.

Richard Branson, the shrinking violet of the airline indsutry, thrust himself into the spotlight again yesterday when he nipped down to Heathrow for a haircut. The grinning tycoon had his locks trimmed at the new salon opening at Virgin's Clubhouse.

No ordinary barber this. The salon, in Virgin's Upper Class lounge, will be run by Trevor Sorbie, crimper to the stars, including Julie Christie and Sting. Well-heeled passengers will receive haircuts (normal price: pounds 43) for nothing. I'm told Mr Branson jetted off to Los Angeles looking very neatly coiffured. 'It was a much needed trim,' said a freshly cropped spokesperson.

The NSPCC is looking for City firms to don their cycling shorts for its annual bikeathon in August. HFC Bank, British Telecom and Reuters have already signed up for the London to Paris jaunt over the August bank holiday.

Fainthearts or weak legs need not apply. Cyclists have the option of a one-day ride from London to Portsmouth or a three-day trip pedalling along routes of 65, 80 or 100 miles per day.

The London branch of Societe Generale is using the trip to meet up with its Paris counterparts, though what state they will be in when they get there is anybody's guess.

More on bikes. Gerald Ratner, ex- jeweller to the masses, has picked up an accolade in the most unusual of places. The April issue of Country Living magazine gives the prawn sandwich fan a green rosette for championing pedal power over the car. James Goldsmith also gets a nod 'for his surprise conversion to green issues and for putting his money where his mouth is'.