Carole Cadwallader wants to tell us all that there’s something very dodgy about Arron Banks, Leave.EU and the Russians. It’s even possible that there is something dodgy there. But all she’s managed to convince me of so far is that she’s not got the first clue what she’s talking about.
I should perhaps disclose – I’ve never met Banks, wasn’t part of any of the official campaigns. But I used to work for Nigel Farage directly, for Ukip, and stood as an MEP candidate for them. I might not be considered entirely independently objective here.
However, I’ve also been in business for myself for a number of decades, much of that concerning Russian and the metals trade. I do actually know some stuff about how business, Russia, and the metals trade, independently and together, all work. Cadwallader makes some howlers on those subjects – meaning that the rest of what is being said it at very best highly suspect. Not so much about literal veracity – who had meetings with whom – but as to implication. But there are also horrible factual errors.
Arron Banks, the millionaire businessman who bankrolled Nigel Farage’s campaign to quit the EU, had multiple meetings with Russian embassy officials in the run-up to the Brexit referendum, documents seen by the Observer suggest.
Banks, who gave £12m of services to the campaign, becoming the biggest donor in UK history, has repeatedly denied any involvement with Russian officials, or that Russian money played any part in the Brexit campaign. The Observer has seen documents which a senior Tory MP says, if correct, raise urgent and troubling questions about his relationship with the Russian government.
Lots of meetings, eh?
So, to the business part. At a certain level of business this is what you actually do. Go to meetings. Go to meetings with people you don’t currently do business with, because that’s your job – meeting people so as to decide whether to do business with them.
Consider the allegations being made over in the US about the Trump Organisation. The allegations are that certain people from that org – one or other of the sons usually – met some dodgy characters. What doesn’t seem to be appreciated is that this is the job to be done. Trump Org licences the name to stick on flashy towers. There are, just to guess, 50 to 200 cities around the world where whacking the word “Trump” on the side of a tower will make money for Trump Org. In any such city there will be 5 to 20 people/groups of developers who think they might make money by building a tower that they can slap “Trump” on the side of. Many of whom will be dodgy, won’t have the money, can’t get the permissions, some few of whom will be able to build a tower, to the required standard, cough up the money for the licence fee and generally complete that tasty piece of business.
The job of the Trump Org peeps is too meet all of these 4,000 and winnow through them to sign contracts with the – what, 30 maybe? – that business will actually be done with.
That is, at a certain level of business affairs meeting dodgy characters isn’t some moral failing nor evidence of wrong doing, it’s the damn job. To meet them to reject them.
I know precisely nothing about Banks’ business dealings, don’t even know how he made his pot. But meeting people to discuss whether to do a deal with them is how he will now be spending his business life. Actually running a business isn’t what he does any more. Trying to work out which business to do next – and more importantly, which not to – is what he does do.
We can translate this into Guardian/Observer terms if we wish. Cadwallader and her work will be managed by whoever it is that edits the Observer these days. There’s also a managing director there who manages things like print runs, distribution and so on – that’s how newspapers work, two management sets, one for content, the other for practical stuff. Up at the parent company level there’s GMG. The CEO of which doesn’t spend any time at all “managing” the newspapers. Their job (umm, used to be the bird who went off to run Easyjet I think?) is to think through which deals the group should be doing. Which radio stations/car magazines should the group buy via offshore tax havens, which should it sell and when?
At a certain level business is about what do we do next, what do we stop doing? And meeting all the chancers and grifters out there to find those few one wishes to consummate a cash relationship with.
Banks talked with Russians? That’s the job, as with Eric and Donald Jr.
Then there’s this:
The communications suggest:
An introduction to a Russian businessman, by the Russian ambassador, the day after Leave.EU launched its campaign, who reportedly offered Banks a multibillion dollar opportunity to buy Russian goldmines.
On this occasion, the Russian ambassador introduced them to a Russian businessman with extensive business interests in Russian goldmines, according to documents seen by the Observer.
It is understood they were presented with a business opportunity in which they were offered a chance to invest in a plan to buy six Russian gold firms and merge them into a single entity, potentially netting a profit of several billion dollars.
*Gales of laughter*. *Snort* *Giggle*
There’s an opportunity to make several billions in the Russian gold mining trade, is there? As Petropavlovsk and others all go bust, require recapitalisations, because the gold price is too low for Russian mining costs? And this opportunity is unnoticed by home grown Russian businessmen? The Abramovichs, Sechins, Potanins, those with the ear of the President, are leaving such riches quite literally lying on the ground so that they can be picked up by some mid-level – look, Banks is such in this world – Englishman?
Seriously, we’re supposed to believe that? Who is supposed to be that stupid here? Us because we’ll believe it? Or Cadwallader because she does?
That there might be a Russian deal involving merging gold mines, sure, that’s possible. But billions of profit? Nope. And again, this is the job of business at this level, meeting people to talk about deals, near all of which are rejected because that’s what the job is, sorting through the deals on offer to decide which one would like to take part in.
As I’ve said, I’ve no idea what Banks has been up to, if anything, but the evidence presented here by Cadwallader manages to show absolutely nothing. Other than her own ignorance of how this business stuff works.
BTW, if anyone has a pointer to that gold mine deal she’s talking about would love to see it and I’ll offer a run through of what was actually happening in it if I see the details.