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UK public service company Serco entwined in major fraud scandal

RT | October 19, 2013

UK service company Serco has its fingers in numerous government pies, running British services from transport to prisons while staying invisible to the ‘man on the street.’ The global giant now faces investigation for fraud as it seeks new contracts.

Towards the end of September, the company was alleged in a government report to have charged for the service of tagging criminals who were dead, in prison, or were never tagged at all.

Serco and private security giant G4S overcharged the government by tens of millions of pounds for the practice, which, according to Big Four accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, could date back as far as 1999.

The expose prompted Britain’s Serious Fraud Office to confirm that they are assessing information on Serco provided by the Ministry of Justice.

“We are clear that new business can only be awarded where the integrity of the contracts and the conduct of suppliers can be assured,” the Ministry of Justice stated.

This could lead to an official investigation, and has thrown the company’s leadership into the spotlight as the global giant seeks new defense contracts.

On Friday, it emerged that Serco had been one of three main bidders filing proposals with the UK Ministry of Defence for the role of running a £400 million ($646 million) contract. While it can still bid, it cannot be chosen until present issues are resolved. The deal would run for ten years.

Serco, Telereal Trillium, and Capita-led groups submitted initial proposals in June, while the new bids were executed this week. The contract winner is expected to be chosen by the end of the year.

“Are they competent? Do they have the expertise? Can they really effectively manage the service? I think the answer is becoming clear that no they can’t,” Jane Lethbridge from Public Services International Research Unit told RT.

Meanwhile, Serco has apparently been attempting to rejuvenate its public image, particularly in Britain where its headquarters are based. Some 25 percent of its £4.9 billion ($7.9 billion) annual revenue is acquired through work with the UK government. Around 45 percent of its total revenue comes from the British public sector.

“We will embed quickly and effectively any changes needed into the way we do business, and we expect Serco to emerge stronger as a result,” the company stated.

On Thursday, the Financial Times reported that Serco is predicted to be purging its senior UK management as part of the drive to improve its governmental relationship following its tumultuous year. However, the news left critics doubting whether a mere change in personnel could reform an entire company culture.

“You can’t change a culture in three months,” Andre Spicer, professor of organizational behavior at Cass Business School, told the paper. “The only times that might be possible is if there’s a severe external threat or emergency but I don’t think Serco is in that position at the moment.”

Lethbridge appeared to agree. “Their practices and their publicity are two different things,” she said.

Further commentators have urged caution on the part of Serco. “One of the reasons that these public service markets often go wrong is because the pace and scale of reform is causing significant problems. In the rush to develop public service markets, avoidable errors have been made in design and oversight,” Nechal Panchamia, a researcher at the Institute for Government, told RT.

“What we would urge the government is to slow down, learn quickly from mistakes, and correct them out of the system before another mistake grabs the headline,” she said.

The incident marks the latest in a long line of controversies surrounding the company.

In August, the City of London police were called in by UK Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to probe alleged fraud by the company’s staff working on a £285 million ($460 million) prisoner escorting contract.

“It has become very clear there has been a culture within parts of Serco that has been totally unacceptable,” Grayling said upon launching the investigation.

Early in September, Serco was booted off the FTSE 100. Following the September fraud allegations, Serco’s shares dropped 8p (13 cents) – nearly 1.5 percent – to 543p (942 cents) over the course of a day.

The fraud-related claims follow a list of allegations of detainees facing sexual abuse at Serco-run UK immigration center Yarl’s Wood in September. The reports were corroborated later in the month by further detainees, according to the Guardian.

Although companies like Serco, Capita, and G4S are behind public bicycle rental schemes, speed cameras, military and nuclear weapons contracts, ambulances, and the government’s work program for the jobless, it is apparent that the nation’s general public still remain relatively oblivious to the major role they play in modern society. An RT survey conducted on the streets of London indicated that the average ‘man on the street’ recognized very few of the company names mentioned.

October 19, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Make it happen on purpose, UK private security as terrorism vector

RT | July 18, 2013

The widening of the spiral of fear and increasing demand for ‘protection’ creates an international protection racket cartel indistinguishable, only in that they call themselves ‘legal’, from organized criminal gangs.

UK security firms Serco and G4S, described as ‘indispensable’ to Britain’s criminal justice system, have been overcharging the government by ‘tens of millions of pounds’ for criminals who had long finished their sentences or been dead for years.

How many kicks in the teeth, or near misses, can this British Government endure before it sees 21st Century ‘terrorism’ for what it is? An organized assault on our collective peace and safety with the purpose of spawning real terrorist cells.

Profit led policing

On Thursday July 11, 2013 Conservative Justice Secretary Chris Grayling delivered a progress report to the House of Commons on the privatization of UK Criminal Justice. His voice was trembling as though he himself could neither believe nor bear the consequences of what he was reading.

Two firms, he explained, Serco and G4S, have been overcharging the government by ‘tens of millions of pounds’ for electronic tagging of offenders, as well as continuing to charge the taxpayer for criminals who had long finished their sentences and some who had been dead for years.

The same week a London inquest jury delivered its verdict that Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga was unlawfully killed while being restrained by G4S guards. His plane was waiting to take off at London’s Heathrow airport when he died and a series of racist SMS texts were also found on the G4S guards’ phones.

Founded in 2004, G4S employs over 600,000 people in 125 countries with revenue of £7.5bn, making it the world’s largest security company. Despite its size G4S appears to have little regard for international law, taking on private prison work in Palestine/Israel which is alleged to contravene Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Transporting prisoners from the occupied territory into the country of the occupier.

Serco and G4S are now so deep into Britain’s criminal justice system the Guardian recently described them as ‘indispensable’. Serco manage six prisons including Oakwood ‘super-jail’ and two immigration removal centres. G4S manage police custody cells, a 999 emergency response service, county control room, police station and court facilities.

Britain’s criminal justice system is indeed becoming utterly entangled in the G4S web. The initiative is shifting with immense pressure being put on Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners to sign up to G4S privatization deals which promise to slash budgets. In times of ‘austerity’ private security firms are getting the whip hand.

Although the ‘savings’ may look good, privatizing the criminal justice system moves society closer to the abyss. As the profit motive creeps in and accountability leaves by the side door we may as well dispense with the word ‘justice’ entirely. US Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr, for example, was sentenced to 28 years in jail in May 2013’s ‘kids for cash’ scandal where over 4,000 children were given maximum jail terms in exchange for over $2m in bribes from the private firm that ran the jails.

Protection racket cartel

In July of 2012 London prepared to host its first Olympics since 1948. But behind the scenes one thing threatened to spoil it for everyone. The main security firm was playing games with the Olympic Committee and the government.

G4S said it was ready, all the risk assessment boxes were ticked and certified. The trouble was they were lying. With only a month to go until the great show got on the road recruitment was nowhere near the numbers required and training was pitiful.

With only three weeks to go the British army saved the day, stepping in with 3,500 soldiers to replace the senior and mid-ranking G4S staff. How that came about is a cautionary tale about private security that was never fully told by the London press.

The world’s biggest private security firm G4S had a £300m contract to hire 10,500 staff for the games. They made sure it all looked good for police and Olympic organisers on paper … but unbeknown to them media savvy G4S trainee Ben Fellows was busy collecting particulars from his G4S classmates about just what a disaster of a ‘training operation’ was unfolding around them.

On Friday June 22nd, five weeks before the opening ceremony, Ben sensationally broke cover on my Bristol radio show under the pseudonym ‘Lee Hazledean’. With quotes like “If a terrorist wants to get into the Olympics all they have to do is queue up” he detailed the G4S shambles and became an internet sensation, clocking up over 120,000 YouTube views in a little over a week.

But his story presented the London media with a problem: if printed and transmitted tens of thousands of Olympic enthusiasts might stay away. One teenage girl, initially delighted with tickets her parents had bought her, told me after she heard the interview “I don’t want to go the Olympics any more… but I don’t know how to tell my mum”.

Running straight after Fellows’ interview Oxford economist & terrorism expert Martin Summers, reminded us that lawyer Kurt Haskell spotted the 2009 Underpants bomber being allowed onto the plane without a passport… again by private security.

He also pointed out the alleged 9/11 hijackers boarded the doomed planes in Boston via private security firms. If those attacks are being carried out by a private military company ICTS & G4S could, far from preventing, be the facilitators of terror attacks said Summers.

The next week, on Tuesday 26 June 2012 the Director General of MI5 Jonathan Evans appeared on Channel 4 News. Gone was the “wide open to terror” claim. Security correspondent Simon Israel just repeated Evans’ assertion that “the Olympics Games is not an easy target for terrorists”.

Except perhaps, Evans said, there may be an Iranian, Syrian or Hezbollah attack. What these countries and factions could hope to gain from bombing the Olympics neither Simon Israel, nor Jonathan Evans, who has since been replaced, attempted to explain.

So Ben Fellows was right because with three weeks to go 3,500 British soldiers were drafted in to take charge and the story of the G4S fiasco dominated national headlines for a week. Now the fix was in the London media were safe.

With less of a fanfare, Israeli President Shimon Peres announced he would no longer be coming to London. He and his staff had been promised special permission to stay in the central athletes only Olympic Village so he wouldn’t have to walk far and could observe the Jewish Shabbat. Under the new security regime they would have to stay outside the park like everyone else. You can tell real security, nobody bypasses it.

Back in September 2004, private Israeli software firm Verint Systems were granted privileged security access to the London Underground. This was ten months before the 7/7 London bombings.

Verint won a contract to install and operate ‘smart’ CCTV. So smart in fact that all the hundreds of expected images of July 2005 alleged bombers getting onto or travelling on the three bombed tube trains were ‘lost’.

So what of this company’s bona-fides’? Verint’s parent company Comverse Technologies had an embarrassing chairman. Israeli Kobi Alexander fled the US in 2006 and went straight on to the FBI’s ‘most wanted’ list after stealing from his own firm.

Charged on 35 counts he was chased by Wall Street regulators the Security & Exchange Commission (SEC). Finally being run to ground via Germany to Namibia. In 2010 he paid a fine of $53m to avoid going to court and regain his freedom to travel.

A previous incarnation of Verint Systems, Comverse Infosys, was implicated in the US’s 2001 AmDocs spying scandal where Israeli phone software, installed on US telecom networks, was being used to warn Israeli mafia drug traffickers to switch phones and identities when the FBI were tapping their phones. 200 or so Israelis were arrested and most deported.

But what about the most recent terror attacks? The April 2013 Boston bombings has some of the most serious problems of FBI and mainstream media credibility to date. Not only does there seem to be little to connect the official suspects to the bombing but a private ‘Craft’ security guard at the scene has a black bag that seems to ‘disappear’ around the time the bomb went off.

“Hey Bro, Where’d Your Backpack Go” was one set of images from the finish line circulated to tens of thousands when CBS 60 Minutes’ Twitter account was hacked. Again it appears to anyone with the time to take a look for themselves that private security should be a prime suspect in that bombing.

Neither does mainstream press seem to question why one of the FBI’s two official ‘prime suspects’, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was filmed under arrest, naked, unharmed and being sat down in the back of a police car but then somehow died of horrific wounds sustained when he was previously ‘run over’ by his brother Tamerlan.

If even just a small proportion of these allegations are true then ‘double your money’ private security firms paid for providing security at an event or location may be abusing that privileged access for ‘quid pro quo’ deals. Certainly the mainstream press are simply not asking even the most obvious questions.

Unscrupulous staff, ex mercenaries as some are, can then also be paid for tip-offs, to turn a blind eye, possibly with a nod and a wink from the top. They may even actually plant bombs themselves. A ‘false flag’ attack can have a massive political impact and, if the media oblige and look the other way, be blamed on the enemy of the day.

These dangers should make it clear that secretive and profit motivated private security companies must under no circumstances be allowed to replace publicly accountable police or armed forces.

July 18, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, False Flag Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Make it happen on purpose, UK private security as terrorism vector