Some kind soul posted on Youtube my BBC Timewatch programme on Generals Curtis Le May and Tommy Power. It’s had over 100,000 hits since 2012.
I was reminded of the this exclusive story from 22 years ago I did with Kim Sengupta at The Independent. Recall meeting Karpichkov and then shortly after he was on hunger strike in Brixton prison. But he survived and has done many interviews since I note.
Spy who exposed money launderers faces death
Paul Lashmar, Kim Sengupta Monday 08 November 1999
FOR THE past two weeks Boris Karpichkov, a former KGB major, has been on hunger strike in Brixton prison, south London. His story, if true, is one of intrigue, greed and violence. And it may cost him his life.
Mr Karpichkov, a Latvian, is facing extradition accused of stealing $500,000 (pounds 310,000) from a failed bank in Riga, Bank Olympia. He denies this, saying the real reason he is wanted is that he uncovered corrupt links between senior figures in the Latvian government and the Russian mafia. Mr Karpichkov says that if he is sent home he will be killed. He says the mafia has taken out a $800,000 contract on him and his family.
Sixteen months ago he fled to Britain with his wife and two sons aged 13 and 16, claiming political asylum. They used false passports issued by the Latvian secret service.about:blankhttps://acdn.adnxs.com/dmp/async_usersync.html
A week after arriving in Britain he was arrested by Scotland Yard at the request of the Latvian government and has been held on remand. He has gone on hunger strike toraise awareness of his case.
The former major, who has limited English, said: “My family and I can’t go back to Latvia or Russia ever again. If we will return, it would mean for us only death. We lost all our property, everything we had in Latvia. We do not receive in Great Britain any help or benefits because British authorities refused us.”
Mr Karpichkov said he was given details about the mafia contract. “They have approached former officers of the KGB’s top secret unit Alfa, who specialised in assassination. At the present time these people are looking for our family everywhere and sooner or later will find us in Britain,” he said.
Mr Karpichkov, of Russian extraction and nationality, was recruited by the regional KGB in 1981 when Latvia was part of the Soviet Union. He said he was trained in the Higher Secret Services School in 1985 and as a special forces operative during the war in Afghanistan.
In early 1990, after the Cold War ended, he was assigned to the new Russian intelligence service, the FSB. It was sensitive work investigating corruption in Latvia involving prominent political figures and key people in the Russian and local mafias.
From 1993 he worked undercover running a commercial information agency. But Mr Karpichkov was actually gathering information on money laundering through Latvia’s biggest commercial banks, including Bank Olympia. The bank handled a number of International Monetary Fund credits worth millions of dollars intended for the country’s industrial and agricultural development. Mr Karpichkov said that in this period he gathered an “explosive” dossier, with tape recordings, about “the close connections between highest level officials of the Latvian state with leaders of organised crime”.
Mr Karpichkov said he passed some of this information to his bosses in Russia’s secret services. At this point, he said, they betrayed him and told the Latvian police about his work. He said this led to his arrest by the Latvian police and later by the Russian police. He said he was tortured and beaten.
When Olympia Bank failed in 1995, questions were asked about where large sums of money had gone. Although he was not seen as a central figure, Mr Karpichkov was accused of involvement with theft. He denies the allegations. He met the attorney-general of Latvia, Janis Skarstins, in 1996 and was offered a deal under which he would have been treated as a special witness in return for handing over evidence.
Although Mr Karpichkov handed over documents and tapes, the deal fell through and he was placed under house arrest. But he escaped from his sixth-floor apartment by climbing down a rope made from knotted-together clothes, and fled with his family to Cyprus. Later they flew to Russia, and after meeting problems there they sought asylum in Britain.
Mr Karpichkov said he explained his predicament to the Home Office as part of his asylum claim, which was being processed normally until his arrest. The family were found housing by a local authority. They appear to live in poverty, dependent on hand-outs.
“The Latvian authorities only asked for extradition after I gave interviews to the Latvian press on the phone,” said Mr Karpichkov. He believes they only want to extradite him to stop him publishing information abroad on corruption in Latvia.
Establishing the truth of Mr Karpichkov’s claims is difficult. There is no doubt that much of his story is true, and a great deal of it is supported by Latvian and Russian newspaper articles. But whether he has defrauded a Latvian bank or incurred the wrath of his country’s officials is harder to determine.
Latvia has an extradition agreement with Britain, but it does have problems with mafia corruption at a high level. Mr Karpichkov’s case reflects the difficulties the Home Office faces in uncovering the truth of the many East European asylum cases in the years since the Berlin Wall came down.
Back in June 1991, a programme I had made for Granada TV’s current affairs series, World in Action, entitled ‘The Firm’, was broadcast revealing much about the Royal Family’s wealth and tax arrangements. I had worked closely with Phillip Hall, whose book on the subject, ‘Royal Fortune’ was published the next year. Phil had spent a decade investigating the Queen’s wealth. At the time, the Queen and Prince of Wales were not paying income tax. For most members of the public, who concerned themselves with such matters thought that not being required to pay tax was privilege of the Royals throughout history.. The most significant strand of the programme’s research was to show that there was no historical basis for the tax exemption and that tax had been paid by all the Queen’s predecessors except her father, George VI (d 1952) who had been the first monarch to have negotiated an exemption for income tax. (Modern income tax is generally accepted to have been first implemented in 1799).
Before 1760 the monarch met all official expenses from hereditary revenues, which included the profits of the Crown Estate (the royal property portfolio). King George III agreed to surrender the hereditary revenues of the Crown in return for payments called the Civil List. Our research showed that members of the royal family had subsequently negotiated a series of favourable tax and financial arrangements over the years. The number of members of the family paid out of the public funds to the Civil List had grown over the years.
We had also a considered attempt at estimating the Queen’s wealth – which is veiled in secrecy – and put her as one of the wealthiest women in the world worth £7.7bn. Her assets were and are enormous, though it fair to say, much is held on behalf of the nation like her astonishing collection of art including Michaelangelo drawings. some is purely commercial. Prince Charles has turned the massive land ownings of the Duchy of Cornwall into a lucrative business for the family.
I also wrote an article of the Sunday Independent ‘Secret Deals let Queen avoid her income tax’. (see attached pdf)
Directed by Brian Blake, the programme had a massive impact at the time including a Private Eye cover. It is probably the most impactful piece of journalism of my career with a direct cause and effect. It hit a public nerve.
As I recall the Royals were not very popular the time and later in 1991, as a result of a backlash, and the Queen urged Prince Charles to start discussions with the Treasury. The Queen herself was already consulting her advisers and the Treasury about her tax status.
In Autumn 1992 with the financial discussions still going on behind closed doors, the public were also concerned that the Queen wanted public funds to repair Windsor Castle which suffered a devastating fire in Autumn 1992. The Daily Mail, unaware of the behind-the-scenes negotiations, gently proposed a public gesture. “We sympathise with The Queen. Of course, we do. But these are hard times for most people. Many of them have a truly horrid year. They have lost their livelihoods….Even been driven from their homes. The Queen should pay some tax on her income. And fewer member of her family should be a charge on the Civil List. She should offer to contribute to restoring the fabric of Windsor Castle.’ At the time, a poll carried out by Numbers Market Research for The Independent on Sunday found that nearly eight out of 10 people believed the Queen should pay tax.
Six days after the Windsor Castle fire, the then PM John Major made a surprise announcement in the House of Commons that the Queen and the Prince of Wales had volunteered to pay tax on their private incomes and that the Queen would reimburse the Civil List annuities of five lesser members of the Royal Family. John Major informed Parliament that the National Audit Office would be looking into expenditure on the royal palaces.
1992 was dubbed the Queen’s ‘annus horribilis’ We estimated the Queen’s income tax liability to be £7.2m per annum. Ever since the Queen and Prince Charles has paid income tax on the private income and there are less members of the Royal Family on the Civil List.
The question of the Royal Family’s wealth and the delicate relationship between the Civil List – payments to the Royal Family, what they are personally worth and how much personal wealth they derive from the land they hold and what exactly do they hold on behalf of the Nation, are still percolating. I expect to see new revelations before long.
Survivors of 1965 Indonesia massacres urge UK to apologise
After Observer report, families say the move would help heal country’s wound
Revealed: how UK spies incited mass murder of Indonesia’s communists
Slaughter in Indonesia: Britain’s secret propaganda war
Interview for Faculti
“Given the importance of the intelligence services in shaping the news agenda it is a matter of serious concern that the links between hacks and spooks have been so little studied in the academy. Paul Lashmar’s latest text helps fill the
gap in masterly fashion.
He is the ideal person to write this study. An award-winning investigative reporter and now head of the prestigious Journalism programme at City, University of London, Lashmar has covered many of the recent controversies outlined
here. Since the early 1980s, his career has included spells at the Observer, Granada Television’s Work in Action, the Independent and the Independent on Sunday. The bibliography at the end includes 24 texts he has sole-authored
plus another 21 he jointly authored between 1983 and 2018 – this alone giving an idea of the depth and breadth of his journalism in this area.
But Lashmar’s investigative background means that he is able to enliven the text throughout with some engaging personal anecdotes and insights into changing journalist routine.”
“This is, in fact, a massively detailed, original and thought-provoking study that should be required reading for all students and teachers of journalism, media, communication, intelligence studies and politics”
The full detailed review is in Vol 18. No1/2 2021 OSSN 1742-0105 and can be found at: http://www.ethical-space.co.uk
There seems to be lot of renewed interest in the seminal jazz big band Loose Tubes who started out 37 years ago. Here’s a piece I wrote for The Observer in January 1986.