Rogue Trader

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Spotlight on Belize ...

What is it about this tropical paradise that's made Belize such a magnet for murdering Jesuits, lumber barons, drug dealers, money- launderers, off-shore bankers, insect-lovers, and Tory party treasurers?

GEOGRAPHY 32,000sq kms of crocodile-infested swamp and jungle (much being chopped down). Average rainfall 178in a year (twice Manchester's). Summers over 100oF. Appalling humidity, non-stop hurricanes, swarms of giant killer bees, deforestation, water pollution from sewage and pesticides on vast plantations

IMPORTANT FACTS Independent from UK 1981. Brits wanted out since Sixties. Debilitating 100-year, hot-cold war with Guatemala next door. Population 190,000 (falling due to big illegal emigration to the US). Once home to 400,000 Mayan Indians (now near extinct).

FAMOUS RESIDENTS Hostile wildlife and Scottish pirate and slave-trader Peter Wallace, who stole Belize from Spaniards in 1832: Brit colony followed.

CULTURE AND SOCIETY No schools bar church ones. Under 100 doctors. Infant mortality 30:1000. Malaria and dengue fever rampant again.

ECONOMY (official) Tourism, agriculture, banking. World's main chicle producer for chewing gum addicts.

ECONOMY (real) Drugs, money laundering, prostitution, corruption, ecological destruction, debt slavery. Belize now leading trans-shipment centre for Columbian cocaine.

LABOUR RELATIONS Sugar and banana plantation workers exist in barracks with no water or electricity. Disease, pesticide poisoning rife. Belize City famous for "dance hall" brothels. Trafficking in women for prostitution is on the up. "Sex tourism" on the up too.

OFFICIAL SALES PITCH TO TOURISTS "Whole country's a zoo" Chamber of Commerce.

FINANCIAL SECTOR 8,000 foreign firms registered in Belize: many believed to be for money-laundering by Columbian and local drug producers and crooks from around the world. Anti-laundering laws passed in 1996, but no prosecutions yet. US tried to outlaw off-shore banking early Nineties, but resisted by Britain's Tory government.

BIGGEST OFFSHORE BANK Owned by Michael Ashcroft, treasurer of the Conservative Party.

This week's sexy Michaels ...

MICHAEL ASHCROFT - Sexy billionaire, Conservative party treasurer. Under attack for his off-shore activities in Belize.

SIR MICHAEL ANGUS - Sexy Whitbread chief executive. Pulled out of fight to take over Punch taverns.

SIR MICHAEL PERRY - Sexy former chairman of Unilever. In the frame to become new chairman of M&S.

ST MICHAEL - Not Sexy. Under attack from a M&S shareholder at last week's AGM. "BHS underwear is a damn sight more sexy," yelled Mrs Teresa Vanneck- Surplice. "I may be in my fifties, but I like my underwear sexy."

Amazing news, powerful insights and jaw-dropping tit-bits, this week taken from the current issue of Management Today ...

"Metal-bashing is out, and knowledge-creation is in." Top marks for original thinking.

"Small companies are more likely to deliver dramatic growth than big companies ... potentially small companies can double and redouble in size. Giant companies cannot do that."

"Few clowns want to take over the circus, negotiate with the performing poodles, and fill in VAT returns; others aspire to quit the Big Top and become chartered surveyors." So that's where they come from.

"You would have to be a tin-eared, helpless, no-hoper to fail to milk money out of a commercial radio broadcasting permit." Hence the losses at Talk Radio.

"The key to success is failure."

Being mobile is a good thing, after all: "How often do you hear a sports team coach urging his players to stand still? Or a military strategist calling for the creation of a slow, static, task force. No one is against mobility."

"Three steps towards becoming a billionaire inter-net salesperson. 1: Decide what you want to sell..."

"Like cathedrals, cars are the collective work of anonymous artisans but are dense with emotional power, which we either accept or reject. And always with passion ... None more so than Volvo."