I once sat next to a board director of a major high street bank at a private dinner. Earlier in the day he had listened while I spoke about the laws on money laundering, and I had pointed out the penalties for non-compliance.
He said to me: "You were wrong in one important aspect of your presentation. People like me, people from our class, will never be prosecuted for money laundering, or any other financial crime. We are a protected species."
In August 2012 I sent evidence to the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards to demonstrate why prosecuting bankers for the crimes they commit (PPI fraud, money laundering, market manipulation) was not only a socially required policy, but was also a truly effective deterrent and would have a signal impact by raising levels of banking compliance thereafter.
I anticipated that very few other witnesses would raise directly the issue of the criminal offences committed by banks in the routine course of their business, and I wanted to confront the commission with both the reality of the level of banking crime being committed, but also with the evidence I had gathered which demonstrated that successful prosecutions possessed the most exclusionary effects for people from that class.
I began the evidence with a simple but uncompromising statement which stated: "This paper makes the assertion that the British Banking Industry has become identical with an Organised Criminal Enterprise."
When the commission was in full operation, but having heard nothing from them about my evidence, I rang their office and spoke to a young woman and asked her why my evidence had not been acknowledged on the website.
After inquiring, she said that they did not appear to have received any evidence from me. I asked her to look again. She agreed to do so and said she would ring me back within 48 hours. Needless to say she did not ring back.
Beginning now to smell a rat (or at least a Crown servant), I rang again, and spoke to a young man. He re-confirmed that no evidence had been received from me and that, in any case, not all evidence received was selected for use by the commission. He offered to check, but like his predecessor he failed to ring back.
So I wrote to Andrew Tyrie, the chairman of the committee, on 22 January 2013.
Amazingly, on ringing the commission's office a week later, I was told: "Your evidence has just been discovered, it was here all the time."
I was then told: "Your evidence will be circulated to the commission and they will all have a chance to read it. However, my principals want to redact parts of the report before it is published."
The Crown servants insisted on censoring whole areas of my evidence before publishing it, on the basis that the banks might be offended by its tone and content.
I must say that offending the banks' delicate sensibilities was, and remains, of the least concern to me. What did offend me was the way a group of wholly unelected apparatchiks had sought to suppress my evidence and had clearly decided to deny its existence, rather than present it to the committee, and it was only after I alerted the chairman that I had submitted evidence that it magically "came to light"!
I have now heard from other witnesses who sought to speak truth to power on this commission that their evidence was also lost or brutally redacted.
The chairman repeatedly asked why individuals who had committed criminal offences had not been tried and convicted, and no one could apparently tell him. My evidence contained at least some of the answers he was seeking, but it appears that he was not allowed to see it because the bankers might have been offended.
The British banking sector has committed a whole range of very serious crimes, but not one banker has been prosecuted.
If the commission are denied the right to see the very evidence which might have helped them to come to some more informed conclusions on the topic, it would seem that the protected banking species will be allowed to continue to commit crimes with impunity.
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