Letters: Profits of corruption in Africa end up here

These letters appear in the Friday March 14th edition of the Independent

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I continue to note with disapproval the way news about corruption in Nigeria and other parts of the developing world receives liberal and voyeuristic coverage in the western press (“On a mission to clean up Nigeria”, 13 March). What appears to be grossly underreported is the proven presence of Nigeria’s missing billions in the banking and financial institutions of western countries and a few notorious tax havens.

The erstwhile Nigerian President Sani Abacha single-handedly stole up to $5bn and the bulk of these monies are officially acknowledged to still remain in the UK, France, US and Switzerland. Progress in freezing the stolen funds is grindingly slow, and more importantly only about $500m has been returned by Switzerland alone.

Lots more coverage of the harbouring of noxious funds by western banking institutions in our daily newspapers in the UK will go a long way in reducing corruption abroad.

May I offer my thoughts as to where the allegedly missing £12bn in Nigeria reported by Nigeria’s central bank governor may be? I would suggest a thorough look at the records of banks in London, Paris and New York, and of course Switzerland’s notorious secret banks.

Dr Gbenga Oduntan, Senior Lecturer, International Commercial Law, University of Kent, Canterbury

I am sure there will be widespread support for the Caribbean leaders who are collectively demanding compensation from Europe for the ravages of the transportation and enslavement of their forebears. But before the poor old British taxpayer is forced to cough up the billions involved, we can easily identify the people who benefited from slavery, and their descendants to whom those financial benefits have passed down.

In February 2013, excellent work by Dr Nick Draper of University College London revealed that up to 3000 families were compensated from the public purse to the tune of the equivalent of £20bn when the slaves they “owned” were freed in 1833. Thanks to the meticulous records of the 19th-century bureaucrats, we know where that money went – including the families of David Cameron, the Hoggs and Bazalgettes and the Earl of Harewood. We can thus easily get it back and pass it on to the claimants in the West Indies.

Colin Burke, Manchester

Putin speaks for the Russian people

I have a Facebook message from one of Russia’s leading documentary makers, Alexey Pishchulin, who filmed me in 2012 for a biography of my grandfather A F Kerensky, much-abused leader of the Russian Provisional  Government.

He sent me a list of “Ukrainian” cities: Kharkov, founded by Russia, 1630; Dnipropetrovsk, founded by Catherine II, 1776; Kherson, founded 1788 by Catherine II to build the  Russian Navy; Donetesk, founded 1869 by Alexander II; Odessa, founded 1794 by Catherine the Great; Simferopol, founded by Catherine the Great  in 1794; Sevastopol,  founded by Catherine the Great in 1783.

“And so,” he asks, “This is Ukraine?”

Whatever we may think of Vladimir Putin, and in my case the answer is “not very much”, at the moment he is speaking for the Russian people.

Britain has for many years gloried in ignorance of Russia, traditionally referred to as a “barbarous, Asiatic despotism”. Lloyd George sought to play on this insult in conspiring to bring down the Provisional Government in 1917 at the cost of tens of millions of Russian lives.

But now might be a good time to put prejudice to one side and finally show some respect, if only briefly, for the deeply held feeling of the Russian people that they have a legitimate right to show concern for fellow Russians. This new regime in Kiev is by no means showing a smiling democratic face to those Russians who now live in what some people call Ukraine.

If we wish to have good relations with Russia, and encourage Putin to join the fellowship of European nations, then taking an uncomprehending and aggressive stance is not the way to go about it.

Steve Kerensky, Morecambe, Lancashire

A mere billion or two? Let the bankers pay

How disappointing to see Hamish McRae (12 March) fall into the old trap of likening public expenditure to household spending.

Mr McRae is right that £1.9bn – the figure the Labour Party’s innovative job guarantee policy would cost – is a drop in the ocean when the Government spends about £700bn a year. However, he is wrong to argue that Ed Balls’s linking of the spending pledge with the reinstatement of the Bankers’ Bonus Tax is “absurd”.

When the next government (of whatever party) takes office, Britain will be smarting from massive public spending cuts. The idea that ministers should be “bright enough to figure out the ways to save” £1.9bn, as Mr McRae suggests, is what is really absurd. I should think that there is no few billion pounds of unnecessary public spending (except on the Trident weapons system, but that is another matter) left to cut, after half a decade of austerity. There is no fat left to shed.

So I’d rather the Government took a modest contribution from well-off banking executives than remove yet another essential service from those who’ve already paid dearly for regressive austerity measures. Anybody who has witnessed the consequences of spending cuts on our poor, our young and our future should feel the same.

Jack Darrant, London SW2

Farmed salmon pose threat to wild fish

The Scottish salmon-farming industry simply doesn’t add up. You quote Scott Landsburgh of the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) as saying: “The survival rate of farmed salmon in the wild is virtually zero.” (“Sterilise farmed salmon to save wild species, critics say”, 10 March.) So how come a scientific study published last year showed that 25 per cent of wild salmon in Scotland were now contaminated with genes from Norwegian-origin farmed salmon?

So-called “Scottish” salmon farming owes its origins more to Norway than Scotland. Norwegian salmon eggs are imported by the farms operating off the west coast of Scotland and 66 per cent of the Scottish salmon-farming industry is now Norwegian owned.

SSPO also claims that the industry has made “huge efforts” to improve containment. So how come over 2.5 million salmon have escaped from Scotland’s salmon farms in more than 130 separate incidents since 2002, including the escape of 154,569 fish off Shetland in January? 

The simple answer is to stop farming salmon in the sea; the risk to native wild salmon stock is clearly too great.

Jenny Scobie, Director, Protect Wild Scotland, Ullapool, Wester Ross

English not just for North Koreans

Further to Ian Burrell’s report on the BBC’s role in teaching English (“News the North Koreans can trust”, 10 March), why restrict this programme of teaching English to North Korea?  Millions of people throughout the world acquired a good working knowledge of our language through the regular broadcasts of “English by Radio”. Then the BBC dropped it. 

As the article points out, “American propaganda” through the Voice of America is distrusted, and people prefer to listen to the BBC, as shown by the latter’s superior listening figures. At no extra cost, the World Service should get out the old tapes and get on with it. 

William Robert Haines, Shrewsbury

Perils of a walk in the sunshine

Spotted enjoying the unaccustomed sunshine: a tiny girl, coasting at walking pace on a three-wheeled scooter, dutifully holding Mum’s hand. Her small head is dwarfed by a large crash helmet.

Fast forward 20 years: what would I see? Perhaps an anguished agoraphobic, imprisoned by an irrational conviction that danger starts at the front door?

When we surround our children with ever more protection for their physical safety, I feel that their long-term mental wellbeing is not taken into account. Somehow we need to strike a balance between reasonable safety precautions and instilling the idea that a walk in the sunshine is fraught with peril.

Julie Hynds, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Abusing the public trust

Steve Richards (11 March) does an excellent job of laying out the pointlessness of “shaming” in the various public scandals we’ve witnessed recently, and the need for a “sledgehammer” solution, but he stops short of suggesting what such a solution might look like.

Maybe a good start would be to create a new crime of “abusing the public trust”, framed broadly enough to include legislature, judiciary, utilities, transport and finance sectors inter alia, and carrying a mandatory prison term for anyone found guilty.

Gerard Bell, Ascot