Baroness Warsi, her extremist business partner and the lunch with the Prime Minister - Daily Telegraph Baroness Warsi, her extremist business partner and the lunch with the Prime Minister - Daily Telegraph

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Baroness Warsi, her extremist business partner and the lunch with the Prime Minister - Daily Telegraph

Baroness Warsi, her extremist business partner and the lunch with the Prime Minister - Daily Telegraph

Last night Labour said it would table further questions on Lady Warsi’s conduct. Michael Dugher, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, said: “These latest allegations take the scandal to David Cameron’s doorstep and to the heart of Downing Street.

“The Conservative Party chairman seems to have been giving her private business associate – a man who has admitted being involved in an extremist Islamist group – access to the corridors of power.”

The latest revelations concern the launch of the Conservative Friends of Pakistan, in the Savoy Hotel, central London, last month. The guests of honour were Mr Cameron and Yousuf Raza Gilani, the Pakistani prime minister.

Lady Warsi paid a total of £5,000 for two tables at the event. Guests on one table included her parents, sisters, and others involved in the family’s Dewsbury-based bed manufacturing business.

She “hosted” another table, made up of clients and staff from “Rupert’s Recipes”, although she sat on the VIP table.

The guests’ names were supplied to the Conservative Party by Lady Warsi’s husband, Iftikhar Azam, from his Rupert’s Recipes email address. Rupert’s Recipes describes itself as a “one stop shop for bespoke ingredients” for breaded chicken, fish batter, meat marinades and kebab seasoning.

As well as Mr Azam, the table included Mr Hussain, Mohammed Johngir Saddiq, and Fareed Nasir. Mr Nasir is the founder of Chunky Chicken, a chain of 19 fast food restaurants, mainly in the Midlands and North West. He said he was invited to the event by Mr Azam as they were “working closely” about a possible deal.

“We are trying to do some work with Rupert’s Recipes, we are not using their spices at the moment but we have had some samples,” he said. He added that he is not a member of the Conservative Party and has not donated money. Mr Saddiq runs Big John’s, a chain of 15 takeaway shops in and around Birmingham, worth £19.5 million. His business claims to have been the country’s first “drive thru” fish and chip shop and offers “the nation’s biggest pizza”. He declined to comment on the function.

Other guests included a halal meat supplier, and men believed to be Pakistani restaurateurs.

Lady Warsi personally vouched for the table’s guests, meaning they were exempt from checks carried out by the party’s internal compliance team, which verifies that guests can legitimately make donations to the party.

Labour wants the latest disclosure added to the investigation that is already under way into why Lady Warsi did not disclose that in February this year she owned a 60 per cent stake in Rupert’s Recipes. Peers have to disclose if they are majority shareholders in a company.

The Conservative chairman said that she became a majority shareholder when shares were transferred to her, but “immediately” transferred a proportion to her husband, and therefore did not have to register the holding with the Lords. However, party officials have consistently refused to provide exact details of the share transfer.

There are also questions over Mr Hussain, who met Mr Cameron at a Downing Street reception in November 2010 at which Lady Warsi was also present.

He has been closely involved with the Islamist group Hizb ut Tahrir, which Mr Cameron pledged to ban while in opposition. Mr Hussain, 42, was first involved with the extremists in the early 1990s, and backed them at meetings after the July 7 bombings in 2005. He also has a conviction for an assault, committed when he was 17. His lawyers confirmed that he was convicted of actual bodily harm in 1988 or 1989 and sentenced to three months in a young offenders institution.

They said that the conviction is now “spent” and its disclosure has “no legitimate …public interest”.

However, it would have been relevant to his presence in Downing Street as it raises serious security questions about whether he was fully vetted.

It is unclear whether Lady Warsi, who has said that she knows nothing of Mr Hussain’s involvement with Islamic extremists, played any role in getting him on the guest list.

The latest disclosures come after Lady Warsi admitted she failed to declare rental income on a flat she owns, and is being investigated in the Lords over expenses claims for overnight stays in London. She stayed as a guest of a party donor who says he did not charge her rent. She claims she gave the money to an aide, also living at the address, who had invited her to stay.

Questioned on the Number 10 reception, a Downing Street spokesman said: “All guests invited to Downing Street receptions must go through security checks and are properly searched on entry to ensure they pose no security threat and all electronic equipment, including mobile phones, is taken off them for the duration of their stay.”

He failed to answer questions about whether security would be reviewed in the light of Mr Hussain’s invitation to the event.

A Conservative Party spokesman said of the Savoy reception: “This was a party event organised by the Conservative Friends of Pakistan to reach out to potential supporters within the British Pakistani community.

“All those who bought tables were fully compliance-checked to ensure they were permissible donors, and everyone who attended was subject to the normal security arrangements.

“No gift or hospitality was received by Baroness Warsi and no issue arises in relation to the ministerial code.”

He added: “This was a party-political event for members of the British Pakistani community. To suggest that there was any impropriety in their being invited is simply mischief-making.”

Cartel money laundering cases tough but critical - Miami Herald

When it comes to arresting drug traffickers and dismantling organized crime, the investigation into a U.S. horse racing operation allegedly laundering money for one of Mexico's most powerful cartels is rare - and difficult to prosecute.

Unlike most drug busts, the backbone of sophisticated money laundering cases is a complicated trail of paper - reams of bank, tax and property records - that usually take years to track. But hitting organized crime where it hurts the most - the money flow - is the most effective way to shut the crime networks down, investigators say.

"The money is much more valuable to the trafficker than the drugs are," said John Kirby, a former federal prosecutor in San Diego, who worked on money laundering cases against the Arellano-Felix cartel, among others. "If you want to hurt these guys that's how you do it, because that's the end product. That's what they really want. And if you can try to take that away, then you're really having an impact."

During his 10 years in the U.S. Attorney's office, Kirby said he prosecuted hundreds of drug traffickers. "I had eight good money laundering cases. They're just hard."

Chasing organized crime's money flow isn't a new tactic. The same racketeering laws being used against Mexican cartels today are the ones that targeted the mafia in the 1970s. Money laundering was spelled out as a federal crime with a 20-year maximum sentence per count in 1986 as law enforcement officials increasingly recognized that just seizing the drugs wasn't enough to bring down traffickers.

In this latest case, federal agents raided an Oklahoma ranch, a New Mexico quarter horse race track and sites in Texas on Tuesday, alleging a brother of a leader in the Zetas drug cartel was using a horse-breeding operation to launder money. Millions of dollars went through the operation, which bought, trained, bred and raced quarter horses throughout the southwest United States, the indictment says.

Eight people were arrested, including Jose Trevino Morales and his wife in Oklahoma. Two of his brothers and four others remain at large.

"That case will be a model, a blueprint for a long time to come of how we need to take on these 21st-century criminal techniques," said Douglas Leff, who was chief of the FBI's Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit before recently returning to New York. He expects more cases because of a 2010 Mexican banking law that makes it difficult to deposit U.S. dollars into accounts across the border. That means cartels will do more money laundering in the U.S., he says.

"If we can follow the money successfully, that's going to be the avenue that leads us to the top of the food chain rather than somebody who's just a trusted manager," said Leff, who spent some time on the case while at headquarters.

The government's investigation into the horse operation began in January 2010 with a tip from an informant in Mexico that two Trevinos at the top of the Zetas organization were the real buyers behind two quarter horses that sold for more than $1.1 million at an auction in Oklahoma City, according to court records. The IRS had its own investigation of Jose Trevino, and the investigations merged in February 2011.

Usually the drug cash was smuggled back into Mexico and run through currency exchanges for an initial rinsing. Then the Trevino brothers recruited Mexican businessmen to wire payment or write checks for horses bought in the U.S. to make the transactions appear legitimate. They would reimburse them in cash. At other times, workers for the Zetas' Dallas cocaine distributor passed drug cash directly to Jose Trevino - at least once at a Wal-Mart outside Dallas - cutting out the return trip to Mexico, court records say.

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