Friday, October 24, 2008

Mandelson Weaselish: Beating GOO Hands Down


Apparently answering the question: "When did Mr Mandelson meet Oleg Deripaska?" European Commission numpties answered that the two men met: "At a few social gatherings in 2006 and 2007", but had never discussed aluminium, the main source of Deripaska's wealth. Source: Times/Guardian.

Anyone with any appreciation of Weaselish would understand that the question really is asking for a non-definitive answer. The correct one to go with would be: "What was the first time that Mr Mandelson and Oleg Deripaska met?" Better still "... and when were they both present in the same room for the first time". And on the latter observation about aluminium: "And when did they first discuss Deripaska's interests in aluminium?"

The Guardian have now traced Mandelson and Deripaska to being in the same, newly opened, Italian Restaurant, Cantinetta Antinori in Moscow in October 2004 shortly before Mandelson took up his appointment though it was announced, thereby trumping the Times who had them there, along with Nathan Rothschild in late January 2005.

There may yet be further meetings to be discovered. But on the same theme I'm not sure we know yet when Osborne first met the man, or indeed whether other Tories such as Oily Duncan had met the fella. As we wondered out loud:

The nuance to look out for when Sir GOO provides a timetable of his meetings with Oleg, expected later today, is that it will probably be confined to meetings in Corfu of which there "aren't many". How about meetings in the other 200+ states in the world?

In fact Sir GOO included a meeting in Davos as well as his yacht-hopping in Corfu. But is that it?

Cantinetta Antinori, Moskva seats around 150 on two floors, with a typical cost per diner of $200 for their Tuscan cuisine and Antinori wines. It is one of the hot spots for high-end diplomats, politicians, media and commercialists.

13 comments:

Everybody Hates Chris said...

I want to ask a genuine question that I'm not sure has been raised elsewhere and, hopefully, without taking sides. I may go over my 100 word limit, but I do think this is important.

By his own side's admission, Osborne met Deripaska four times in a single weekend - which does seem odd if indeed it is the first time they have ever encountered each other. Instant chemistry, eh?

It would also seem that there was some sort of conversation(s) about the possibility of the Russian donating to the Tories. Oddly, most versions seem to imply that the initial trigger for this was voiced by the Labour supporting Nat Rothschild.

The allegation then arises that the nature of these conversations (which may or may not all have included Osborne and Deripaska) could have been illegal on several counts.

None of this came out at the time but a couple of months later, after Osborne has been found to be the source of a report that Mandelson had attacked the abilities of Gordon Brown, the details of Osborne's own conversations surface.

My question is this, if the actions of Osborne and his colleagues were illegal why didn't they come out anyway and only did so after Mandelson had been 'grassed up' and embarrassed. Surely such a cover up and group silence is a criminal act in itself.

Another question is how could Osborne have been so spectacularly stupid as to take this course of action while Mandelson was in the same country let alone the same resort. That is either completely implausible or utterly reckless.

To nip round the corner to fetch the Tory Chief Executive while Mandelson is on the boat seems to call Osborne's judgement into question whatever else he later did.

Chris Paul said...

Rothschild is not "Labour supporting" or at least not as far as anyone knows. His family supported Osborne's office to the tune of £190,000, which Osborne tried to cover up.

Osborne had already met Deripaska at Davos. though I suspect that was not their first meeting.

There is no reason to think Mandelson or anyone from Labour knew about the fundraising issues, or indeed that Rothschild, who will be familiar with the rules being an ex-Pat himself, believed it to be illegal.

He simply believed it was bad form for Tories to be critting his mate Oleg as refused visa by USA etc when they were meeting him themselves, and ditto telling tales about Mandy.

I don't think any illegality was consumated, or at least not in the way of the speculation, but I do agree that GOO's judgements are to say the very least appalling.

Best of all:

Cameron will have to keep him. As he has had to keep Spelman. Ho ho.

The Lakelander said...

I believe that Peter Mandelson is telling the truth.

Really, I do.

Everybody Hates Chris said...

Honestly, Chris, I am trying to understand this rather than cast aspersions.

I still don't understand how this story, potentially involving criminal activity, didn't come out until after Mandelson's conversations were made public.

If Osborne hadn't leaked the general thrust of Mandeson's views on Brown would we still be unaware of Osborne's own little difficulties?

I think that's a perfectly reasonable query.

Evan Price said...

My view is that if you look at sections 54 and 61 of the PPERA 2000 (a very silly piece of legislation), soliciting a donation from an impermissible donor would itself constitute and offence - you would need 'to act in furtherance of an arrangement which facilitates or is likely to facilitate, whether by means of any concealment or disguise or otherwise, the making of donations to a registered party by' an impermissible donor.

If this were not the case, parties would need to establish first the status of a person before asking them for donations - and it would be rather silly to prohibit those discussions if you happen to do it the wrong way around.

There is little doubt that GO erred politically and that the story is justified on that ground; but as the Electoral commission has said, there is simply no evidence of an offence - whatever Huhne and others may say.

Evan Price said...

I've re-read the first sentence and realised I have missed a 'not' - sorry!

tory boys never grow up said...

Evan

I agree that PPERA is poorly worded - but the part of Section 61 that you quote clearly means something other than transactions which have been entered into - because those are covered by Section 61(a). As to what it does actually mean - I very much doubt whether the Commission will have been prepared to offer an interpretation as the usual line from regulatory bodies is that interpretation of legislation is usually a matter for the courts. On the other hand there may already be interpretations to hand given the recent cases regarding proxy donors. Perhaps someone needs to make a formal complaint to find out what the real position is?

tory boys never grow up said...

EHC

There has been some speculation that the timing of Rothchild's revelations about Osborne may well have been to warn Osborne off from blabbing about something else which would damage Rothschild's business interests. Given the normal hedge fund managers' love of money and secrecy such theories certainly have some validity - I find it difficult to buy the story that Rothchild has suddenly become Mandelson's creature.

Of course the whole episode has handed tremendous power to Deripaska - who could very easily break Osborne's career by supporting/embellishing Rothschild's account whether it is true or otherwise. Deripaska's past history hardly shows a reluctance to make use of such advantages when they fall into his lap.

Anonymous said...

TBNGU

I understand what you are getting at, but I wouldn't have thought that the definition of 'tremendous power' was the ability to break George Osborne's career.

I am certainly not arguing that Rothschild has become Mandelson's creature. Quite the opposite.

And nobody has yet demonstrated why the allegations against Osborne have come out after Mandelson's conversations were disclosed. If the issue is that important, why did they not surface at the time.

Chris Paul said...

Rothschild may be to an extent Oleg's creature I suppose? Oleg would I think be mightily pissed off at the way GOO was dissing him.

Must agree with Evan and TBNGU that PPERA is not the best. Ashcroft has driven a coach and horses through it with his "travel costs" stuff, completely against the purpose of the law; and there is a local Lib Dem association near me in GMC that is taking the Michael something rotten, by setting up would you believe it a "printing club".

Not a company, not an association that needs to produce any account or declare any donations to it, yet one that could arguably launder other monies one way and another. And I think the Chair of that association is a respected family law barrister and ex-Councillor.

So it must be legal, decent and honest under PPERA.

Don't think EHC that anyone can be blamed for not outing the possible transaction before this spat because this law is bad law and unless there are some photos, CCTV, audio recordings, documents yet to emerge - imagine that! - this is a case of he said, she said.

Between politicos, hedgies and oligarchics i.e. not a one of them truly credible, but all respectable enough to walk away "cleared".

But anyway IMO Cameron must keep GOO and this is a good thing as he is even more damaged goods now than he was three, two and one weeks ago.

Chris Paul said...

Lakelander - re your post. October 2004 is not necessarily year zero for mandy-oleg meetings. I'd be very surprised if that were in fact the first one. But Davos 2008 is hardly likely to be year zero for GOO-oleg meetings either.

Anonymous said...

Your first two improved questions might do it Chris but "And when did they first discuss Deripaska's interests in aluminium?" is too specific for these 7th Dan Weaselists. "Discuss?" they'd say "Oh, Never" (We both stated stuff. But there was no discussion)

I'm not sure why Europe was imposing Aluminium tariffs on Russia or whether continuing this would have been in the interests of member states. But I see no problem in Mandelson meeting with people over a meal. Is anyone suggesting that a $200 meal, enjoyed in the same place, perhaps at the same table, which who knows who paid for, might have swung a gigantic concession on Aluminium?

Everybody Hates Chris said...

In answer to the most recent post, and according to The Times:

"The European Commission imposed a tariff on Russian and Chinese aluminium foil producers in 2001 because they were allegedly dumping cheap foil into the European market. The companies were accused of selling the foil at artificially low prices, which was damaging European producers.

"After a year-long investigation, the EU decided that Rusal (Deripasksa's company) was no longer dumping and should therefore not pay the tariff, saving the company tens of millions of dollars."

That seems to suggest (although does not implicitly say) that the traiff was removed only on Deripaska's company. Now that could be becuase Rusal was the only only that went on the comply with the rules and, in turn, that could have come about through these meetings with Mandelson. But if it is, all the more reason why they should have been official and minuted.