Sunday, 30 October 2011

 

Spain’s first private airport has closed. The Ciudad Real Airport was opened in December 2008, considering that it could act as a Madrid overflow for residents in the south, but that just has not happened. The very last flight, operated by Vueling and with just 45 passengers, took off for Barcelona on Saturday at 2,45pm. The airline lasted less than a year at the Ciudad Real airport which has been dogged by bad luck from the start. It had problems with the environmental agency in 2005 as it is located in a special bird protection area, there were complaints that as much as 50% of the building works were illegal, it needed a continued supply of capital, and the intervention of the Bank of Spain in the CCM Castilla La Mancha savings bank revealed more irregularities. The airport closes with the company, CR Aeropuertos, owing its creditors more than 290 million €. It opened with debts of 1.7 million, and a poster declaring ‘Our dreams take off’, can still be seen in the Cuidad Real City Hall. The airport had hoped to attract seven million passengers a year, and managed to attract the airlines, Air Nostrum, Air Berlin and Vueling, with the attraction of a AVE high speed train station at its door, and one of the longest runways in Europe, but the facility never attracted more than 500,000 travellers in the first year. It was not long before some flights had more crew than passengers. There has been a rash of private airport projects in Spain, started during the economic boom, and there were six projects in total in Cataluña, Aragón, Valencia, Murcia, Andalucía and in Ciudad Real. Only one has opened, and today, has now closed for business.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

 

Australia’s Qantas Airways grounded its entire fleet on Saturday over a bitter labour dispute in an unprecedented move that prompted the government to warn it feared for the airline’s future and would seek action to end the dispute. EDITOR’S CHOICE Strikes cost A$15m-a week in lost sales - Oct-28 US airlines earnings hit by fuel costs - Oct-27 Lufthansa scales back passenger forecasts - Oct-27 Virgin eyes tie-up with Etihad on BMI - Oct-14 Qantas overhauls lossmaking international operations - Aug-16 Qantas said it would lock out all employees from Monday night in a dispute affecting 70,000 passengers and 600 flights on one of the country’s biggest travel weekends. The grounding does not affect Qantas’ budget airline Jetstar or code-share flights on other airlines. Passengers will get a full refund for flights cancelled due to the industrial action, Qantas said on its website. Customers can also rebook their flights for a later date. The announcement took passengers and the government by surprise, embarrassing Prime Minister Julia Gillard who was hosting a Commonwealth leaders summit in Perth. Some of those leaders are booked to fly home on Sunday with Qantas. Unions, from pilots to caterers, have taken strike action since September over pay and opposing Qantas plans to cut its soaring costs, as it looks at setting up two new airlines in Asia and cutting back financially draining long-haul flights. “They are trashing our strategy and our brand. They are deliberately destabilising the company. Customers are now fleeing from us,” Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson took out the gagging order against his ex-wife last year. It's not known why he applied to lift it. Picture: Cameron Richardson Source: Supplied


Clarkson, who has made a name for himself as a man refuses to be silenced, denies the allegation but took out a gagging order against Alexandra Hall last year.

The claim can now be revealed because he asked for the order to be lifted.

It is unclear why he decided to withdraw the order, which banned any reporting of "sexual or other intimate acts or dealings" between Clarkson and Ms Hall.

Ms Hall married Clarkson in 1989 but their marriage lasted only a year.

She claims she had relationship with him after they split and Clarkson was married to his current wife, Frances.

Clarkson's marriage came under fire from the tabloids earlier this year over claims he had cheated on his wife with a member of the Top Gear production team while in Australia.

He denied the reports and said his 18-year marriage was strong.

The couple have three children.



Wednesday, 26 October 2011

 

US X Factor judge Simon Cowell says he wants fans to use Twitter to vote for their favourite contestants. The Fox show has announced that from November 2, fans can cast a ballot by sending a direct message over Twitter to the official X Factor account. Viewers can also cast a ballot on the show's Facebook page and its official website. "It's a sign of the times," said Cowell, who believes more votes will come in as a result of expanding the process. "Sites like Twitter and Facebook give (the audience) a much bigger voice." Aside from social media, votes can be sent the old fashioned way, by making a phone call or sending a text message and by using a special App created for Verizon Android devices. Cowell uses the internet to gauge what people think of the series so far. He goes online during and after the show to see what people are saying and plans to join Twitter once he learns "how to type quicker". The US show is averaging about 12.5 million viewers an episode, but one thing that has hindered it in recent weeks is the Major League Baseball World Series. Games on Fox have pre-empted the show leading to confusion among viewers and causing some DVR devices to not record X Factor. Cowell says the conflict has been frustrating but they "knew in advance this was going to happen". He believes the ratings have been consistent so far and word of mouth will get people to tune in. On Tuesday's first live show, five acts were cut leaving 12 remaining contestants. With the competition heating up, so has the tension among its judges, who are each mentoring a class of contestants. Cowell has the girls, LA Reid is mentoring the boys, Paula Abdul is helping the groups and Nicole Scherzinger has the solo acts over 30. Cowell says Abdul claims to have the hardest category to mentor, but disagrees with her. He mentored the groups in the UK version of the show and "loved doing it".


Netflix will offer tens of thousands of films in the UK - including exclusive early access to new films. The move comes after a series of hiccups for the company in the U.S., including price hikes and a disastrous attempt to split off its DVD rental business into a new company called Qwikster. 

Neftlix lost 800,000 U.S. subscribers in the last quarter. In the UK, it will offer video streamed to PCs, TVs and consoles, rather than DVD rentals. 

UK launch: Netflix, the U.S. based company, could pose a major threat to pay TV companies like Sky and Virgin

Coming over to the UK. Netflix has signed a number of deals with leading film studios to have the first rights to offer blockbuster movies once they have finished their cinema run

Robert Downey Junior in Iron Man

Robert Downey Junior in Iron Man. In the USA, the company¿s 'watch Instantly' service holds first-run rights to films from Paramount Pictures, MGM, Lions Gate Entertainment. Paramount titles include Iron Man, Star Trek and Captain America.

Netflix has 25 million users worldwide. It is said to be the biggest single source of North American web traffic, accounting for 24.71 per cent of use.

North American customers typically pay around $7.99-$9.99 a month to stream Netflix films to electronics such as connected TVs, PCs and games consoles.

In the UK, though, it's up against serious competition in the form of it Lovefilm, a UK on-demand service owned by Amazon which is integrated into electronics such as connected TVs and Sony's PlayStation 3.

Netflix is pulling out the stops to try and ensure it offers a unique service. 

 

 

 

It has signed a number of deals with leading film studios to have the first rights to offer blockbuster movies once they have finished their cinema run.

The company said the price details will be announced closer to the date of the launch of the service, which will go live in Britain and Ireland early next year.

Rapid expansion: Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix, already has 25million subscribers worldwide

Rapid expansion: Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix, already has 25million subscribers worldwide

The TechRadar website said: ‘This is pretty exciting news for fans of streaming content.’

Netflix was founded in California in 1997 initially as a DVD rental business where discs were posted to customers across the USA.

It subsequently developed into the world’s largest supplier of web downloads of films and TV with 24.6million users in the US alone.

The company has now embarked on a major international expansion. It began operating in Canada last year and recently added  43 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

A spokesman said: ‘Netflix has revolutionised entertainment across the Americas by giving its members a huge selection of films and TV shows to enjoy when and where they want.’

‘Upon launch, Netflix members from the UK and Ireland will be able to instantly watch a wide array of TV shows and films right on their TVs via a range of consumer electronics devices capable of streaming from Netflix, as well as on PCs, Macs and mobile tablets and phones.’

In the USA, the company’s ‘watch Instantly’ service holds first-run rights to films from Paramount Pictures, MGM, Lions Gate Entertainment.

Paramount titles include Iron Man, Star Trek and Captain America.

There are also deals with Sony Pictures, Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group, and Anchor Bay Entertainment, together with US TV shows offered by NBC Universal and 20th Century Fox.

Netflix is locked into complex negotiations with these companies to have the right to show all its output in the UK and Ireland.

In Britain, the business will face competition from LoveFilm, which is owned by Amazon and offers packages that combine DVD postal rentals with access to streaming.

Lovefilm deals start at £5.99 a month, which includes three DVD rentals a month and two hours of streaming. A £19.95 a month package allows unlimited streaming of films.




 

Screen beauty ... Sam Faiers
Screen beauty ... Sam Faiers

 

Billie added: "It's the only thing we can do to feel safe."

A spokesman said: "It is being arranged. Whenever the girls feel it appropriate they will have security around them."

 

Gesture ... Peri Sinclair takes flowers to sisters' house
Gesture ... Peri Sinclair takes flowers to sisters' house
LOUIS WOOD / THE SUN

 

Replacement locks were fitted at their home yesterday after the thugs stole Billie's keys along with her £1,500 handbag, mobile, jewellery and shoes. She said: "We've been too scared to go out. I lost everything."

The sisters — who run a boutique in Brentwood and are regulars on the Essex party circuit — are considering a trip out today. They will also be visited by police to take statements.

 

Thoughtful ... pal Mark Wright buys gifts for the girls
Thoughtful ... pal Mark Wright buys gifts for the girls

 

Yesterday The Only Way Is Essex newcomer Peri Sinclair and Sam's ex Joey Essex, 21, took flowers to their home.

The sisters have decided to continue filming the programme and references will be made to their ordeal in tonight's show.

 

Precaution ... locks being changed at pair's home
Precaution ... locks being changed at pair's home

 

Co-star Mark Wright was due to visit last night for dinner. Earlier he was seen buying cuddly toy gifts for the girls.

Viewers will see tonight's ITV2 show fade to black at the end, before Sam talks to him about the attacks.

Lewis Hamilton and Nicole Scherzinger (Pic:PA)

Lewis Hamilton and Nicole Scherzinger (Pic:PA)

IT’S just as well Simon Cowell likes fast cars – he might need to speed off sharpish if F1 race ace Lewis Hamilton claps eyes on him...

McLaren driver Lewis, 26, says the X Factor supremo is one of the key reasons that his four-year romance with Nicole Scherzinger hit the skids.

He reckons 52-year-old Cowell’s decision to offer Nicole, 33, a judging job on X Factor USA – replacing Cheryl Cole – put “immeasurable strain” on the couple’s relationship.

Lewis has been tied up on the Grand Prix circuit while former Pussycat Doll singer Nicole’s own hectic schedule has prevented her from spending time with him on race days.

It means they have barely seen one another in person since May.

Concerned by both their hectic lifestyles, Lewis is understood to have decided they needed a break – as I revealed on Monday.

Last night, a source close to the couple confirmed: “Lewis and Nicole have been having problems for the past six weeks.

“Increasingly hectic schedules this year have meant limited face-to-face time.

“They’ve probably spent more time on the phone or on Skype than they have in person.

“Sadly, Nicole’s job on X Factor USA – which, professionally, has been an unmitigated success – appears to have come at the cost of her relationship.

“Nicole was under enormous pressure to succeed and was desperate to please Simon, her boss.

“But Lewis found their intense working relationship hard to contend with.

“This, plus Lewis’s crazy international jet-set lifestyle, put immeasurable strain on the pair.

“She was crushed and did everything she could to make it work. They are still good friends though and the break-up is all very amicable.”

Multi-millionaire Lewis, who was said to be in a “vile mood” after last weekend’s Korean Grand Prix, recently said he was a long way off wanting to start a family.

Meanwhile, Nicole has become friends with host Steve Jones, who is said to have a crush on her.

Last night, a spokesman for the couple declined to comment.




Tuesday, 25 October 2011

 

Officials said earlier that the ousted Libyan leader would be buried in a secret desert grave, ending a wrangle over his rotting corpse that led many to fear for the country's governability. Transitional government forces had put the body on show in a cold store in Misurata while they argued over what to do with it, until its decay forced them on Monday to end the display. His son Mutassim is thought to have been buried in the same ceremony. A few relatives and officials were in attendance, according to a Misurata military council official. Yesterday, the government bowed to international pressure and announced a commission to determine how Gaddafi died after he was cornered in a drain while trying to flee Sirte, his besieged home town. Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the chairman of the NTC, and other officials have said Gaddafi was killed in crossfire. Mr Jalil said: "In response to international calls, we have started to put in place a commission tasked with investigating the circumstances of Muammar Gaddafi's death in the clash with his circle as he was being captured."

Monday, 24 October 2011


Grzegorz Matlok, 30, burgled a mews house linked to the singer's luxury townhouse in Marylebone, central London, and stole a can of Red Bull after wandering through two bedrooms and a living room.

Southwark Crown Court heard Matlok was discovered holding the drink and playing with a kitchen light switch at around 4.40am on March 12 by Madonna's former gardener-turned film director Nathan Rissman, 39, who was staying in the mews at the time.

When he was quizzed over what he was doing and told Madonna was not staying there, he said: 'I'm sorry. Arrest me, arrest me'.

He later told police he had been given permission by the singer and had found a welcome note from her.

A map with a large 'M' scrawled over Madonna's home and a bag containing a safety knife, nail scissors, a coach ticket from Poland and Matlok's passport were found in a bag outside the property.

A year ago Matlok sneaked into the Wiltshire estate Madonna used to share with ex-husband Ritchie and was caught putting on his clothes.  

The 'Music' star was heard to be 'distressed and unsettled' by Matlok's two successful break-ins and said she feared for the safety of herself, her four children and her staff.

Prosecutor Philip Stott said: 'It appears that the defendant took a route, by examination of the lights he had turned on, through the lounge and kitchen and into a bedroom and dressing area and then gone through an inter connecting door where again he had gone into a bedroom and dressing room, where he disturbed some bed clothes.'

 

 

Matlok had broken into the house after smashing a window with a stone and using a rope and scaffolding to enter one of the three properties by a first floor window.

The court heard he had travelled to England from Poland by coach a few days before the burglary on March 12.

Mr Stott said that in interview Matlok told Madonna's security manager he was there 'To see Madonna' and afterwards told police she had okayed his visit.

Country house: A year ago Matlok sneaked into the Wiltshire estate (pictured) Madonna used to share with ex-husband Guy Ritchie

Country house: A year ago Matlok sneaked into the Wiltshire estate (pictured) Madonna used to share with ex-husband Guy Ritchie

'He told the police he had permission to stay in the flat and that Madonna knew he was coming,' said the barrister.

'He said he had found a note saying welcome and he went inside.

'He said he had been at the address two or three days earlier, but no one had answered the doorbell.

'He said he was not there to steal anything - he said he had sent messages to Madonna over the internet to say he was going to turn up.' 

In a victim impact statement read to the court Madonna said: 'I do not know the defendant, I've not had any form of relationship with the defendant nor have I had any form of contact by phone or by email, or by any other way, with the defendant.

'In particular I've never given the defendant permission to enter the premises or any of my other premises.

'I feel very alarmed and distressed by the actions of the defendant.

When Matlok broke into Wiltshire home, he was restrained by Guy Ritchie (pictured)

When Matlok broke into Wiltshire home, he was restrained by Guy Ritchie (pictured)

'It is extremely unsettling to know that despite the extensive security I have he has been able to break into two of my residential properties.

'I'm worried about my children's safety as well as the safety of my staff. I'm also naturally worried about my own safety.' 

The court heard that Matlok suffered from 'delusions that Madonna loved him' but, according to consultant psychiatrist Dr Nadji Kahtan, his schizophrenia could be controlled by medication.

'In hospital he's fully compliant and has expressed no wish to stop taking it [his medication] and he says he wishes to still take it because he recognises that he has a mental illness,' he said.

'We feel that the best way to manage his illness is for him to continue to be treated at a hospital in England until he can be moved to a hospital in Poland.' 

The court heard however that Matlok had attacked someone in his cell and had been 'rather aggressive' to women, including nurses.

When Matlok broke into the Wiltshire home of Guy Ritchie he was found by a housekeeper cowering under the bed of an 'outhouse'.

Mr Stott said he had to be restrained by Mr Ritchie, a gamekeeper and 'The Football Factory' director Nick Love.

'He had taken cash from Mr Ritchie and Mr Love and had put on a pair of Mr Ritchie's jeans,' he said.

Batteries, a torch, a bottle of shampoo and three credit cards had also been moved, according to Mr Ritchie, but no further action was taken and Matlok was deported in August 2010.

In June Matlok reportedly attempted suicide by setting fire to his cell and was said to have been dragged to safety by prison guards.

Madonna, 53, was not in the property at the time, having taken her four children - Lourdes, 14, Rocco, 10, Mercy, 6, and David, 5 -  to Michigan in the U.S. to pay her respects to her late grandmother Elsie Mae Fortin.

Southwark Crown Court heard Matlok was discovered holding the drink and playing with a kitchen light switch at around 4.40am on March 12

Southwark Crown Court heard Matlok was discovered holding the drink and playing with a kitchen light switch at around 4.40am on March 12

The Pole, who is being held at a secure psychiatric unit, was flanked by hospital staff and assisted by an interpreter at Southwark Crown Court today.

Matlok has admitted burgling the office in Marylebone but denied two charges of burglary relating to a house connected to it, both of which are owned by 'Madonna Ciccone'.

The two charges he denied were ordered to lie on the court file after prosecutors accepted Matlok's plea.

The burglary took place six months after Madonna was targeted by a man who was arrested outside her New York apartment carrying two knives.

Judge Deborah Taylor was expected to order Matlok's detention under the Mental Health Act, 1983, this afternoon.




Tuesday, 18 October 2011

 

Spain is reeling from an avalanche of allegations of baby theft and baby trafficking. The trade began at the end of the Spanish civil war and continued for 50 years – hundreds of thousands of babies are thought to have been traded by nuns, priests and doctors up to the 1990s. This World reveals the impact of Spain’s stolen baby scandal through the eyes of the children and parents who were separated at birth, and who are now desperate to find their relatives. Exhumations of the supposed graves of babies and positive DNA tests are proof that baby theft has happened. Across Spain, people are queuing up to take a DNA test and thousands of Spaniards are asking ‘Who am I?’ Katya Adler has been meeting the heartbroken mothers who are searching for the children whom they were told died at birth, as well as the stolen and trafficked babies who are now grown up and searching for their biological relatives and their true identities.

AFP
Cranes erecting the Pelly tower under construction in Seville.

Spain’s property bust is only getting worse. The wonder is that the country’s economy and banks are still this resilient.

The Spanish government said Tuesday that housing prices remained in free-fall in the third quarter, dropping 5.5% from a year earlier, the biggest decline since 2009.

This makes Spain, in many senses, the worst case of a property bust in the developed world—the country is already deep in its third consecutive year of falling prices, with no rebounds.

Last year, the pace of decline slowed significantly, signalling some light at the end of the tunnel, but another metaphor is called for instead: that last year’s respite was nothing more than a dead cat’s bounce.

The good news should be the overall amount of the decline, since Spain’s government says prices are only down 18%, in nominal terms, since their peak in early 2008.

But that doesn’t include the effect of Spain’s persistent inflation, one of the highest in the euro zone, which makes the real drop closer to 30%—Spain’s government didn’t provide real price data in today’s release.

After earlier predictions of a short-term correction have been smashed, some analysts now say prices may keep falling for the next two years, eroding Spain’s household wealth and banking balance sheets.

Meanwhile, banks are struggling to keep up with the loss in value of the collateral against €400 billion worth of loans to construction and real estate firms, an amount that remains unchanged since 2008.

For Luis Garicano, a professor of economics and strategy at the London School of Economics, this number is perhaps the most dangerous of those related to the bust, since it indicates the banking sector exposure to such loans hasn’t diminished.

He estimates that a possible explanation is that banks have exchanged some non-performing loans for property that they now own, but not enough to offset the rising interest on the loans.

Many, if not most of these loans, are being rolled over to keep zombie developers in business, in the hope that the market will recover.

All the same, banks have also turned into property developers now.

Walk into any Spanish bank branch, looking for a mortgage, and you will see that is much easier to get it if you’ll just take one of the many, many houses the bank acquired from a bankrupt developer. But many will say why worry? The same house will be even cheaper next month.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Celebrities and millionaires living on one of Britain’s most exclusive estates have become the targets of a crime wave.

A diplomat’s wife and son became the latest victims after they were tied up and held at gunpoint during a £100,000 robbery.

St George’s Hill in Surrey has been dubbed the British ‘Beverly Hills’ and is home to Russian oil tycoons, hedge fund managers and City financiers.

Exclusive: The St George's Hill estate in Surrey has been hit by a crime wave in recent months. It lists oil tycoons and hedge fund managers among its residents

Exclusive: The St George's Hill estate in Surrey has been hit by a crime wave in recent months. It lists oil tycoons and hedge fund managers among its residents

Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty and Chelsea footballer Didier Drogba are also residents.

The estate is hidden behind security gates and guarded around the clock by security guards and CCTV cameras.

But that has failed to protect the residents from falling foul of a string of crimes since April.

Police have warned them to be on their guard after the latest incident last month was a gunpoint £100,000 robbery in which a diplomat’s wife and son were tied up.

One resident said homeowners, who paid up to £10million for the privilege, are ‘living in fear’ of becoming the next victim.

The neighbourhood, a favourite with Russian oil tycoons, hedge fund traders and City financiers, has been dubbed the British ‘Beverley Hills’.

Among the high-profile names to own a home there are Dragons’ Den star Theo Paphitis, Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty and Chelsea footballer Didier Drogba.

Other include Scottish TV actress Hannah Gordon, former Chelsea player Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and the BSkyB chief executive Jeremy Darroch.

While former residents on the 420-home estate include Ringo Starr, Kate Winslet, Cliff Richard, Jenson Button and Sir Elton John.

Surrey Police admitted the tranquil Weybridge neighbourhood, known as ‘The Hill’ to locals, has been hit by a string of crimes since April.

Celebrity residents: Shilpa Shetty
Chelsea's Didier Drogba

Celebrity residents: Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty and Chelsea striker Didier Drogba are among the people who live in St George's Hill, Surrey

They included two violent robberies, a burglary, two thefts, the theft of a car, vandalism and a violent attack.

Detectives are still hunting the masked gunman behind the terrifying robbery where the victims were tied up and threatened with a sawn-off shotgun.

The woman, aged in her 30s, and her teenage son escaped unhurt as he made off with cash and jewellery worth £100,000.

Police suspect their attacker may have had an accomplice in a car outside but the pair managed to dodge security on the estate.

One local, who did not want to be named, said all householders had been warned about the recent crimes and been told to ‘be vigilant’.

He said: ‘There has been a lot of talk about the crime rate in the past six months.

‘Although it might not seem particularly high compared to most of the country, the simple fact is that people pay a lot of money to live here and do not expect to be living in fear.

‘There are private security guards, CCTV cameras, barriers and all sorts, so this kind of thing is very out of the ordinary for people who live here.

‘We have been told to be vigilant and to report any suspicious behaviour to the police and to the security team here.’

Elmbridge councillor Peter Harman said: ‘They’ve got their own security on the estate and they have cameras that monitor traffic going in and out, and all the cars are recorded, so it should be easy to trace people.’

The residents’ association boasts it is a ‘unique location’ for successful high achievers looking for a ‘secure and private location.’

Each house is required to have ‘at least’ one acre of land and boundaries cannot be marked by fences or walls, only hedges and bushes.

The 964-acre estate boasts its own golf club and 15 tennis courts, four squash courts, state-of-the-art gym, 20m swimming pool and sauna, bar and restaurants and its own beauty spa.

According to estate agents Savills, the the area is ‘internationally renowned as one of the most sought-after private estates in England.’

But it is not the first time the estate has had problems with unwanted intruders and people ignoring the law.

In May, peace at the gated community was punctured when squatters moved into an empty property 200 yards from the members-only tennis club that forms its social hub.

Residents were sent a letter saying those responsible were ‘known to police’ and they should be on their guard.

But the unwelcome neighbours managed to stay for several weeks at the £3million empty property which was at the centre of a long-running legal dispute.

A Surrey Police spokesman confirmed the crimes took and said officers continue to appeal for witnesses over the armed robbery.

A spokesman for St George’s Hill Residents’ Association declined to comment.




Sunday, 16 October 2011

 

Another day, another downgrade. Reduced to surviving on two pints of lager and pack of crisps at recent Christmas parties, misery was heaped on Royal Bank of Scotland's highly-paid investment bankers on Friday as they were told that they would have to fund this year's bash entirely out of their own pocket.

 

6,000 Britons who hold money in the Swiss arm of HSBC will soon receive a letter telling them that they need to own up to unpaid tax. The bank is acting on information received last year under a tax treaty. This revealed that more than 6,000 individuals, companies, trusts and other bodies held accounts and investments with HSBC Geneva. HMRC has already begun criminal and serious fraud investigations into more than 500 individuals and organisations holding these accounts. HMRC will shortly be writing to those who have not yet come forward, or are not under investigation. They will be offered a chance to contact HMRC and disclose all their tax liabilities, HMRC said. Fines of up to 200 per cent of any tax may, in certain circumstances, be imposed on people not coming forwards during this window for disclosure. "This is not an amnesty. There are no special rates of penalty or interest for those who come forward voluntarily," said HMRC's Dave Hartnett. "This is an opportunity for those who have made errors in past returns to correct them. The net is closing on offshore evaders. Don't wait for HMRC to contact you."

Thursday, 13 October 2011

 

 – the biggest ever uncovered in the UK. Nigel Cranswick, 47, tried to cheat the taxman by claiming back tax on £2billion worth of bogus sales made by his mobile phone firm I2G. The “phenomenal” turnover was generated in eight months, HMRC said. Advertisement >> Meanwhile Cranswick lived it up in his rented villa in Marbella. “Despite this phenomenal turnover... I2G operated from a small office in Sheffield,” HMRC said. The scam was smashed after a five-year police probe, Newcastle crown court was told. Cranswick, from Sheffield, admitted conspiracy to cheat HMRC, as did accomplices Brian Olive, 56, of Doncaster, and Darren Smyth, 42, from Rotherham. Claire Reid, 45, also from Rotherham, admitted false accounting. The four will be sentenced next month

35074501 Today from i: Brits abroad

T

 

 wealthy Britons are planning to flee what they believe to be an over-taxed and crime-ridden UK, with France the most favoured destination, according to a survey published by British bank Lloyds TSB. The survey, published on Monday, found that 17 percent of those with more than £250,000 ($391,025) in savings and investments wanted to move abroad in the next two years, up from 14 percent six months earlier. The most popular destination for the rich exiles was France (21 percent), followed by Spain (15 percent) and the US (11 percent).  Three-quarters of those questioned (73 percent) thought that crime was a bigger problem in Britain than other developed countries. "Sadly, it seems August's riots, tax increases and a rising cost of living have cast a pall over life in the UK for some wealthy people," said Nicholas Boys-Smith, managing director of Lloyds TSB International Wealth in a statement. "It may reignite fears of a 'wealth drain' from our economy as rich people seek pastures new," he said. 42 percent of those questioned named tax as a reason for leaving, up from 35 percent six months ago. Cost of living was a factor for 52 percent, up from 31 percent. Research in January 2011 suggested that 4.6 percent of the UK population have over £250,000 in savings and investments, which equals around 2.8 million people.

Matt kenyon
Illustration by Matt Kenyon

What if it falls apart? For all my adult life, I have been what in England is called a pro-European or Europhile. For most of that time, European history has been going our way. Now it may be on the turn. Soon, it could be heading the Eurosceptics' way. What then?

Over the last half-century, the institutional organisation of Europe has progressed from a common market of six west European states to a broader and deeper union of 500 million individual Europeans and 27 countries, from Portugal to Estonia and Finland to Greece; 17 of them share a single currency, the euro. There are no border controls between 25 European countries in the Schengen area. Enveloping it all is the fragile skin of the European convention on human rights (now under facile attack from some British Conservatives) which allows any individual resident of no less than 47 countries, including Russia, to contest a violation of their inalienable human rights all the way to a European court of human rights in Strasbourg.

Never has Europe been so united as this. Never have more of its people been more free. Never before have most European countries been democracies, joined as equal members in the same economic, political and security community. Our continent still has a grotesque amount of poverty, injustice, intolerance and outright persecution. (Try living as a Roma or Sinti in eastern Europe for a taste of all that.) I prettify nothing. But – to adapt a famous remark about democracy by that great pro-European British conservative, Winston Churchill – I do say that this is the worst possible Europe, apart from all the other Europes that have been tried from time to time.

Now all this is under threat. A poorly designed, over-extended and ill-disciplined monetary union is in danger of falling apart, bringing bitter recriminations and lasting divisions. More fundamentally, the past emotional motivators and political engines of European unification are no longer there. The peoples of Germany, the Netherlands and other core countries of the European Union are loth to take steps of further integration which many of the creators of monetary union thought would be necessary to sustain it.

I blame politicians like Angela Merkel for not showing more leadership in this respect, but such leadership would involve a heroic, uphill struggle to persuade reluctant publics in what are still (contrary to what Eurosceptics claim) largely sovereign national democracies. If these were not sovereign national democracies, the whole financial world – from Washington to Beijing – would not this week have been waiting with bated breath on the vote of one small party in the parliament of Slovakia.

I note in passing that many of the current difficulties of the eurozone were predicted back in the 1990s, and I was a sceptic about monetary union at that time. This is what I wrote in 1998: "The rationalist, functionalist, perfectionist attempt to 'make Europe' or 'complete Europe' through a hard core built around a rapid monetary union could well end up achieving the opposite of the desired effect. One can all too plausibly argue that what we are likely to witness in the next five to 10 years is the writing of another entry for [Arnold] Toynbee's index [to his A Study of History], under 'Europe, unification of, failure of attempts at'." But I am not now going to hide behind that testament to my own earlier scepticism about one element of a larger project.

As a pro-European, I stand by the whole project, warts and all. I recently contributed to an appeal – which you too can sign – arguing that the eurozone can only be saved by further fiscal integration and a strategy for growth. Remarkably, even the Eurosceptic prime minister David Cameron recently told the Financial Times that Germany and France need to fire a "big bazooka" to convince financial markets and hence preserve the eurozone. That is a bit like the Duke of Wellington wishing Napoleon success in consolidating his continental empire – but extraordinary times do produce such delicious moments.

Beyond this, however, I'm not going to add a single word to the 537 newspaper columns you have already read explaining how the eurozone must and can, or must not and can not, be saved. You decide which economic commentator you believe.

Instead, I want to ask what happens if the eurozone does fail, one way or another – and that failure begins a much larger process of gradual disintegration. Suppose that the EU in 2030 has become something like the Holy Roman Empire in, say, 1730: still extant on paper, but more origami than political reality. What then?

For us pro-Europeans, what happens then will be, first of all, a paradoxical kind of liberation. Rather like the supporters of a long-term incumbent government, for decades now we have felt some obligation to defend the existing state of affairs, with all its obvious flaws. Eurosceptics, by contrast, have enjoyed the glorious irresponsibility of opposition – and, heaven knows, the Brussels institutions furnish endless easy targets for the sceptic and the satirist.

Now the boot will be on the other foot. For a few years, like an incoming government, Eurosceptics will be able to blame current problems on the preceding regime (overhasty monetary union led to German-Greek loathing, etc), but that only lasts so long. Sooner or later it will become clear that it is their kind of Europe we are living in, not mine.

 

 

Consider two small airports in the middle or Europe. At Maastricht Aachen Airport, business is booming thanks to an influx of German passengers who are fleeing a national aviation tax introduced on January 1, 2011. Meanwhile, just 80 kilometers across the border, Germany's Weeze Airport has been steadily losing customers.

A few years ago, things were exactly the opposite. The Netherlands had its own, yearlong experiment with an aviation tax, but revoked it in July 2009 after it saw Dutch hubs like Maastricht Aachen Airport lose passengers to rivals in neighboring countries, including Germany.

The levy cost Dutch airports, airlines, and related businesses between 1.2 and 1.3 million euros in lost revenue, according to a study by Amsterdam Aviation Economics, a research institute affiliated with the University of Amsterdam.

Hans van Mierlo, a professor of public finance at the University of Maastricht, said the abundance of transportation options in Europe means travelers can and will seek out alternatives whenever one country unilaterally imposes an air passenger tax.

"The [Dutch] crowd went to Germany; now the German crowd comes to us," he told Deutsche Welle. "I am surprised that the German government didn't learn from the Dutch failure."

Front of Maastricht Aachen Airport Maastricht-Aachen Airport may be small, but traffic is growing rapidlyHefty rates

The German aviation tax runs at a rate of eight euros per one-way flight within Europe, 25 euros for medium-haul services to the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, and 45 euros for long-haul flights. The tariff only applies to flights originating in Germany. The German Finance Ministry reported the duty raised 434 million euros in revenues in the first half of 2011.

However, for travelers, the tax can double the total cost of a bargain ticket. That has driven Irish budget carrier Ryanair to cancel some of its services from Weeze Airport and add flights at Maastricht. Meanwhile, rival airline Germanwings has launched a service linking Maastricht to Berlin 12 times per week.

Those moves helped drive Maastricht Aachen Airport's whopping 70 percent increase in passengers so far this year. That is quite a comeback from the time of the Dutch aviation tax, when it lost 25 percent of its customers.

Runway of Maastricht Aachen AirportMaastricht's airport has new routes to Bucharest, Tenerife, and other spotsAmong the new clientele is Ne Pham from Jülich, Germany. She told Deutsche Welle that she used to fly out of Cologne or Dusseldorf to destinations like Italy, the United States and her native Vietnam.

"It's cheaper to fly from [Maastricht] than from Germany," she said. "It's easy to find, has lots of parking spaces, and a very fast check-in. It's small but nice."

Maastricht makeover

To accommodate new passengers, Maastricht Aachen Airport has renovated its main waiting area and sole restaurant. A new bus line runs from Cologne directly to the Dutch airport, where travelers are greeted by a row of flags from seven European countries. Airport staff members are required to speak German and English in addition to Dutch, and a number of them speak French as well.

Marion Schramm and her husband, from Geilenkirchen, Germany, echoed Pham's reasons for choosing Maastricht Aachen Airport. But they were not as impressed by the small airport's recent makeover.

"It's obviously dinky," Marion Schramm told Deutsche Welle, "You see everything right away. But it's a lot cheaper than Germany at the moment."

Lobby of Maastricht Aachen AirportCustomers have mixed reviews for the small Dutch airport's facilities

Weeze's woes

The German Airport Association, which represents German air hubs, has called for an immediate end to the national flight tax. It reported a tepid growth rate of 3.2 percent at airports throughout the country this July, compared with the same month last year.

Weeze Airport, near Dusseldorf, had 22.8 percent fewer customers in the same time period. Ludger van Bebber, the airport's managing director, said many of the hub's clients used to come from the Netherlands.

"The aviation tax destroys the level playing field for us," he told Deutsche Welle. "That is the main issue we have here at Weeze."

Meanwhile, Berlin's two hubs are seeing travelers hop across the border to nearby Polish airports. And people in Munich do not have to drive far to reach a number of alternative airports in Austria and the Czech Republic.

Jan Tindemans, chairman of Maastricht Aachen Airport's board The chairman of the Maastricht airport's board is planning for growth to continueDutch chairman confident

While the German Finance Ministry has denied recent media reports that it might lower the aviation tax rates, the ministry is scheduled to evaluate the levy's effects on small and medium-sized airports in June 2012.

The chairman of Maastricht Aachen Airport, Jan Tindemans, said he is not worried about his business in the short term - even if Berlin ends up decreasing or revoking the tax.

He told Deutsche Welle that winning back market share in the wake of the Dutch tax experiment was very difficult. He does not expect things to be any easier for German hubs.

"No bakery wants its customers to go for one or two times to another bakery, because they always think [the customers] will stay there," he said. "There will be some people who will go back, but I don't think there will be much of an effect."

Tindemans said Maastricht Aachen Airport is seeking to add more airlines and destinations to its roster. He added that his airport could double annual traffic to almost one million passengers over the coming years if economic conditions remain stable.

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