Monday, 11 April 2016

Cameron’s cronies


Among the deluge of reportage from the Panama Papers on tax havens, tax dodging and money laundering in the past week, one article carried in the Guardian on 7 April has gone overlooked.

The sub-headline on the article read: “After sanctions were imposed, it took four years for all companies linked to John Bredenkamp to be shut down, Panama Papers show”

A key part of the article then read:

“Sanctions were imposed on alleged [Mugabe] regime insiders John Bredenkamp and Billy Rautenbach. Bredenkamp had built an estimated £700m fortune from tobacco trading, grey-market arms dealing, sports marketing and diamond mining. His arms brokerage, ACS, counted BAE among its major clients. Rautenbach had business interests in South Africa and investments in Congolese mines.

Europe blacklisted both men in January 2009. Their companies were registered with Panama-based offshore agent Mossack Fonseca and after Europe issued sanctions, the firm’s partners quickly agreed to resign and make a report to regulators in the British Virgin Islands, where both Rautenbach and Bredenkamp’s companies were incorporated.

But the Panama Papers, a leak of the internal data of Mossack Fonseca, appear to show the firm missed multiple external red flags in the years before the sanctions. Some of these might have prompted an earlier resignation, or more detailed checks on the source of funds. The firm also appears to have been slow to close down some of the companies in question, even after deciding to resign.”

The Guardian had reported seven years ago:

“BAE is accused in the reports [leaked evidence from South African police and the British Serious Fraud Office] of corrupt relationships with an arms tycoon, John Bredenkamp, recently blacklisted in the US for his links with Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Bredenkamp's blacklisting freezes his assets in the US.”

(BAE accused of £100m secret payments to seal South Africa arms deal, 6 December 2008;

But according to reports in the press and internet Mr Bredenkamp - born 11 August 1940 in Kimberly, South Africa - had personal involvement with David Cameron, when the current British prime minister was a young business advisors.

According to internet sources, In what has been described as a sanctions-busting trip, a youthful Mr Cameron visited South Africa in 1989 accompanied by Conservative MP, Sir Kenneth Warren  and nuclear weapons inspector, Dr David Kelly who in several earlier visits had been given access to South Africa's nuclear weapons research facility at Pelindaba, near Pretoria.

The purpose of David Cameron’s  trip, if the internet sources are to be believed, was to arrange for three of South Africa's eight nuclear weapons to be shipped to Oman, where they would be stored in case they were required in Iraq. The remaining six nuclear warheads  were destined to travel from South Africa to Chicago in the US. The next phase of the operation was that, once the weapons had left South African soil, the British Government would reimburse the South African firm Armscor and the British firm Astra, through the middle man John Bredenkamp

In order to keep this out of Parliament and out of the public domain, the then British Prime Minister, Margaret thatcher,  was asked to sign off these weapons under a special Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) describing them as metal cylinders rather than nuclear bombs. The UOR document was signed just before Mrs Thatcher left office in late 1990. It was subsequently revealed that £17.8 million was siphoned from this secret nuclear deal into Conservative Party funds. This narrative was the basis of the Facebook page "David Cameron and the Missing Nukes" in July 2012, published on line by WikiSpooks.

John Bredenkamp (  is now  a Zimbabwean citizen, and arms dealing tycoon who in 1976 founded the Casalee Group, ostensibly trading in tobacco through a large network of branches across Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Greece, India, Russia, Spain, Thailand and the USA.
John Bredenkamp's company was in fact secretly at the heart of the international arms trade, breaching UN sanctions in many of its deals. A British TV documentary "The Casalee File" (1994) alleged that Bredenkamp had supplied arms to Rhodesia, Iran and Iraq, as well as mines sold to Iraq which resulted in the killing and maiming of British soldiers in the Gulf war.

Bredenkamp is reported to hold Zimbabwean, South African and Dutch passports. As a Rugby Union international, he captained Rhodesia from 1965 to 1968.

When he left Gallaher tobacco, Bredenkamp founded the Casalee Group of companies in 1976 registered in Antwerp, Belgium. It is believed that the Casalee operation was involved in the sale of Rhodesian tobacco on world markets, through evasion of UN sanctions. Casalee was primarily a leaf tobacco merchanting company but was also engaged in general trading and an active initiator of counter trade and barter deals. The Casalee Group grew over 16 years to become the fifth largest tobacco merchant in the world and the biggest non-US leaf tobacco company. The Group employed 2,500 people and had offices in all the major tobacco growing countries in the world including the USA (Winston-Salem), Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Greece, India, Indonesia, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey and Yugoslavia. The company owned tobacco-processing factories in Holland, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Brazil.
The Casalee Group of companies was sold in 1993 to Universal Leaf Tobacco, the largest leaf tobacco company in the world, for $100 million.[9] Since then, Bredenkamp has expanded his business interests into many other different areas, through both the Zimbabwe registered Breco Company and Defence Company Ltd (Defco) in England.

Bredenkamp's career took off in earnest during the late 1970s when he became deeply involved in the commercial affairs of the embargoed UDI regime in Rhodesia. It has been claimed that he effectively ran the finances of the Rhodesian armed forces during the later stages of the Bush War. [12] In this capacity, he brokered export sales of Rhodesian products (mainly tobacco) and used the proceeds to fund the purchase of munitions and military equipment. His "sanctions busting" deals (often involving complex barter transactions) arguably helped sustain the UDI regime for far longer than would otherwise have been possible. These deals were entirely legal under Rhodesian law.
After independence in 1980, Bredenkamp left Zimbabwe and moved his base of operations to Belgium. In September 2006 Bredenkamp was tried in Zimbabwe on charges that he used a South African passport on international journeys. Zimbabwean citizenship law does not permit dual nationality. Although acquitted, he had to fight a second court case to obtain an order to return his Zimbabwe passport which the clerk of the court had retained. He was ordered to produce documentary evidence of his renunciation of South African citizenship in order to have his nationality restored permanently.

In his book In the Public Interest,  Gerald James describes Bredenkamp's arms trade and British MI6 involvement thus:

Casalee had bases all over the world, including America, Luxembourg and of course Brussels, with its special understanding of the intelligence services of Britain.... Casalee made its vast wealth acting as middleman to all the major players in the arms industry with the blessing of both US and British Intelligence. According to the Belgian Public Prosecutor, Casalee was in fact largely connected and controlled by MI5, the British Intelligence service with responsibilities in former colonies.”

As Chairman of British arms manufacturer Astra Holdings throughout the the period that produced the ‘
Arms-to-Iraq scandal’, Gerald James was in a better position than most to understand the finer points of Casalee's Intelligence and arms trade involvement.

In June 2013, the Independent reported another court case involving Mr Bredenkamp, this time in Britain, saying “The Government is at the centre of an extraordinary legal battle with a Zimbabwean arms dealer who claims the Foreign Office unlawfully caused his assets to be frozen based on “unsubstantiated” comments made to an ambassador.
John Bredenkamp, a controversial businessman accused of breaking sanctions in Rhodesia in the 1970s and supplying arms to both sides during the Iran-Iraq war, is suing the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, after he discovered the British Government was behind a decision to blacklist him for supporting Robert Mugabe.
The 72-year-old tycoon claims the European Union measure in 2009 was “devastating for his personal and professional reputation” and was based on “exceptionally generalised” evidence.
In documents filed at the High Court, Mr Bredenkamp’s lawyers said the Foreign Office’s evidence was “based on entirely unsubstantiated, undocumented and unparticularised comments made orally to the former ambassador of the United Kingdom to Zimbabwe, Dr Andrew Pocock”.
“Remarkably, and despite the entirely predictable and disastrous consequences which would flow from listing the claimant, it appears the ambassador failed to seek, let alone obtain, any detail at all as to the comments made to him, and that he did not even make contemporaneous records of those comments he particularly relied upon.”

The last sentence of the Independent news report read: A representative of Mr Bredenkamp’s who attended court but refused to give his name told The Independent that “everything that has ever been written about him is fictitious and based on no evidence”. He added: “If you Google Mr Bredenkamp he is supposed to have stolen nuclear bombs. It is ridiculous.”

(“Zimbabwean arms dealer sues Foreign Office for freezing assets” Independent, Friday 21 June 2013;

Make up your own mind.

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