Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Multicultural fraud in Britain
A couple on benefits ran a £280,000 VAT scam on luxury fashion brand Chanel in order to fund a luxury flat in London's exclusive Chelsea, private schools for their children and gambling at casinos.
Emmanuel and Behnaz Scotts bought items at one of three Chanel stores and later return the goods to a different shop to obtain a refund or an exchange.
The couple, who claimed £32,000 in benefits, posed as wealthy tourists in order to claim back tax on returned goods They also misled staff into supplying VAT export claim forms for goods they had not bought.
Last week Emmanuel Behnaz was told to repay £27,672 and his wife £25,622 - or they would be handed 15 months in jail - at an Old Bailey confiscation hearing, reports the Evening Standard.
In March 2012 Emmanuel Scotts, a professional fraudster with convictions for similar rackets in the UK, Switzerland and Sweden who also stole £38,000 from a pawnbroker, was sentenced to four years for the fraud and six months consecutive for the theft.
Sarah Giddens, the prosecutor at the time, said the couple got to know staff at the central London stores in order to get them to sign forms allowing the fraud to take place.
She added: 'The UK retail export scheme is a scheme that allows a traveller to the UK who is not a resident of the UK or EU to purchase goods from participating retailers, inclusive to VAT, to claim back that VAT when they leave the EU.
'This case is all about an abuse of the export system, at Chanel, a luxury boutique shop, selling high level items, often to wealthy visitors to the UK.
'In total they attempted to make a quarter of a million pounds in VAT refunds, but were actually paid £176,000.'
Robert Alder, assistant director for criminal investigation at HMRC, said: 'Emmanuel and Behnaz Scotts were professional fraudsters and thought they were too clever to fail. They passed themselves off as high rollers and spent large sums of criminal cash in expensive boutiques and casinos.
'But their glamorous lifestyle was a sham, funded at the expense of the taxpayer. Our investigations do not stop on sentencing - we pursue the money stolen to reclaim it for the country’s finances.'
A Lefty Archbishop who's generous with YOUR money - but not his flock's
Those in authority become weary of perpetual demands for cash from worthy causes. They include the Head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols.
A couple of years ago my wife, a Catholic herself, went to see him with the suggestion that the Church should do more for those with learning disabilities and their families. Nichols’s immediate response was to say: ‘We’re constantly being asked for money.’
It was only when Rosa explained she wasn’t asking for an extra collection at Mass, just that one sermon a year should be devoted to this issue, that he relaxed and asked her to prepare a report on the idea.
So you would think Nichols might understand why the Coalition government, which is faced with a public sector net debt of over £1.2 trillion, has been pressing ahead with its plans to reform and if possible reduce the welfare bill.
Not a bit of it: in an interview over the weekend, marking the Vatican’s announcement that he was to be made a cardinal, Nichols, while accepting the need for savings, said it was ‘a disgrace’ that the Government had ‘destroyed the basic safety net’ of the welfare state, that it was being ‘punitive’ and that food banks were ‘scandalously’ on the increase.
It is right that our religious leaders stand up for the weakest; and given the popularity of the Government’s move to restrict welfare payments to any single home to no more than the income earned by the average working family, it takes courage to inveigh against it with such vigour.
Above all, Nichols is entitled to his opinion — even if he doesn’t see that this widespread public view is exactly the same sentiment that he himself expressed on behalf of his parishioners when he thought my wife was asking them to give to the families of children with learning disabilities: times are hard for many of us and our natural generosity is not limitless.
There is a further irony: the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, is himself a practising Catholic whose motive for welfare reforms is not to save the well-off from paying more tax but to break the iniquitous cycle of dependency that condemns families across generations to lives without possibility for self-improvement — something you would think the Churches would support.
Indeed, the Chancellor has privately expressed impatience with what he sees as Duncan Smith’s ‘moral crusade’: George Osborne would have liked deeper cuts in the welfare budget, but there are vast costs associated with the switch to Duncan Smith’s grand plan of a ‘universal credit’ which would guarantee (via the taxpayer) that it always pays to enter the world of work.
So why does the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster have such little sympathy for what his fellow Catholic is trying to do? For elucidation, I sought the opinion of Damian Thompson, the former editor of the Catholic Herald and still on its board of directors.
He has no doubt that Nichols’s anathema owes more to political prejudice than to religious doctrine: ‘Vincent Nichols is pure Merseyside Catholic — tribally old Labour. He’s a clever man, but he’s never deviated from his traditional politics. He doesn’t seem to understand the moral imperative behind welfare reform — or want to understand it. He is too polite to say that Tories are his ancestral enemies, but I bet he thinks it.’
I interviewed Nichols once and was impressed by his obvious intelligence. I wrote: ‘He has the fluency any politician would envy, while his hooded eyes inevitably invoke an intensely calculating mind.’
The last government painfully discovered what a formidable political operator he is, when he masterminded his Church’s successful campaign against New Labour’s attempt to make faith schools keep 25 per cent of places free for those without the same religious affiliation. But I doubt he will be as successful in mobilising his flock against the Coalition’s welfare reforms.
This is not least because Duncan Smith and his colleagues have powerful arguments on their side. It’s nonsense to say that there is no longer ‘a safety net’ when the state is currently spending £94 billion a year on working age benefits; and the time processing benefits claims — the most cited reason for destitution — has actually improved over the past few years. The official figures are that 92 per cent of them are processed on time; in 2009/10 it was as low as 86 per cent.
As for foodbanks, there has been an expansion of this field of charity across the industrialised world, not just in the UK: in Germany it has been reported that 6.5 million people are using foodbanks each month.
Given that supermarkets provide more food than paying customers need, it is surely a good thing that this is being put to charitable purpose — even if many users may be relying on it because they have spent too much of their welfare payments on less essential items, such as at the Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, which now litter every High Street in the nation’s least affluent boroughs.
The Trussell Trust, this country’s biggest foodbank, itself acknowledges that its recent growth is partly the result of its publicity campaigns. Also, the Coalition government has authorised JobCentres to point people in the direction of foodbanks. Labour had banned them from giving such advice, possibly out of an ideological horror at the idea of charity supplanting the state.
It is odd, though, that Churchmen should share this horror. But that is demonstrated by the letter a year ago from 43 of the Church of England’s bishops attacking the Government’s welfare reform programme.
As the historian Frank Prochaska observed of the post-war period in his book Christianity And Social Services In Modern Britain: ‘Once religious leaders began to see government intervention as a solution to the crisis of urban poverty, the effect on Christian charity was predictable . . . religious leaders failed to appreciate just how much growth of government welfare would devitalise Christian charity and, by implication, Christianity itself.’
This perhaps helps explain why Nichols thought his parishioners should not be expected to fork out money, personally, for the disabled. As for the report he asked my wife to send him, she never heard back, even though it went to his personal email. When the Catholic Herald made an inquiry about that, they were told blithely that ‘there has been an oversight’. Motes and beams, Cardinal Nichols, motes and beams.
'Permissive parenting' mother loses custody of her two boys because she acts more like a 'best friend' and lets them stay up late playing computer games
A mother who lets her sons stay up late playing computer games has lost custody of them thanks to her 'permissive' parenting.
The boys, 11 and 14 years old, will now live with their father after a family court ruled in his favour and praised his plans to introduce boundaries into their lives.
He had expressed doubts about the mother's mental health and said she was more like a 'best friend' than a parent and lets her sons 'do what they like'.
Judge Laura Harris said the woman had 'significantly failed' the children, and that their behaviour towards adults showed a 'lack of discipline and structure'.
She added: 'I consider the mother’s parenting has been permissive, and, although the court must be tolerant of different standards of parenting, I consider the permissive parenting in this case has caused the children harm.'
Detail of the case has emerged in a written ruling by the judge after a hearing in the Principal Registry of the Family Division of the High Court in London. Nobody involved has been named.
The couple separated in 2002 and in 2004 a court ruled that the children should live with their mother - and have weekend contact with their father. But in 2012 the man asked a court to allow the boys to live with him - complaining that contact was 'regularly refused'.
He told Judge Harris that he was concerned about his ex-wife, whom he thought was showing signs of manic depression.
The man said he was worried about his sons’ dental and medical needs being neglected, and that they were 'left to play computer games' and had 'irregular bedtimes'.
He described his ex-wife as more of a 'best friend' to the boys than a parent and said she would let the children 'do what they like'.
The woman said she had 'gone out of her way' to promote a relationship with her ex-husband and his family. She said the boys had an 'impeccable record' at school and were 'good boys with beautiful manners'.
But Judge Harris ruled in favour of the man and ordered a residence transfer - although she said the woman should have contact.
The judge said the man’s frustration was 'palpable'. 'He has been tenacious to the extent of being dogged in his pursuit of a relationship with his sons. I do not criticise him for his tenacity. Many fathers would have given up by now,' said Judge Harris.
'He has, in my view, demonstrated far better insight into the needs of his teenage and pre-teenage boys, for example, around issues of guidance and boundaries, than the mother. Their parenting styles are very different.
'He is much more in favour of structure, boundaries and discipline, and I can understand why the boys might baulk at that, given what I consider to have been the very permissive atmosphere in which they have lived at home.
'He is totally committed to his sons. He has given his proposals a great deal of thought, and I was impressed with the breadth of the proposals and their depth.
'I was impressed with how he said he would deal with difficulties, for example, if either of the boys ran away. His analysis of what he saw facing the boys if they stayed with their mother was insightful.'
The judge said the woman was 'very angry and wilful' - an attitude fuelled by a belief that the man had an affair before their marriage ended. 'Her hatred of the father is almost pathological,' said Judge Harris.
'So preoccupied is she with her own sense of grievance that she completely overlooks the effect of her behaviour on her children. 'In my judgment, she has prioritised her own needs and feelings at the expense of the needs of her children.
'That is not to say that she does not love her children, I have no doubt she does, although I find her love to have something of a possessive quality about it.'
The judge added: 'I consider that she does have a very permissive style of parenting, and I accept the father’s evidence that she is more like a friend than a parent.
'I am satisfied that there is a failure to provide proper guidance and boundaries essential for the social and emotional development of these pre-adolescent and adolescent boys. Further, I have real concerns about her as a role model. 'I am sad to come to the conclusion that I find on all these fronts this mother has significantly failed these boys.'
'Disparate Impact' Doctrine Often Hurts Those it's Intended to Help
Disparate impact. That's a phrase you don't hear much in everyday conversation. But it's the shorthand description of a legal doctrine with important effects on everyday American life -- and more if Barack Obama and his political allies get their way.
Consider the Department of Justice and Department of Education policies on school discipline. In a "dear colleague" letter distributed last month, the departments noted that "students of certain racial or ethnic groups tend to be disciplined more than their peers."
Specifically, blacks made up 15 percent of the student population but accounted for more than 35 percent of suspensions.
The letter breezily explains that "research suggests" that this disparate impact of student discipline is not explained by more frequent misbehavior and concludes that "racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem."
The upshot is that teachers and principals are on notice that they may get into trouble if they suspend or penalize black students in disproportion to their numbers.
It's not hard to imagine the likely results: quotas on student discipline and a double standard if, as appears likely, black students misbehave at higher rates than non-blacks.
And it's important, as U.S. Civil Rights Commission member Gail Heriot wrote, to "consider the other side of the coin -- that African-American students may be disproportionately victimized by disorderly classrooms."
Not much learning takes place in classrooms disrupted by misbehaving students. This policy could end up hurting black students who do not misbehave.
A similar price may be paid by law-abiding blacks and Hispanics in New York City if incoming Mayor Bill de Blasio follows through on his campaign promise to end the police department's stop-and-frisk policy.
That policy was disapproved as "indirect racial profiling" by a federal judge who used disparate impact analysis: The percentage of blacks and Hispanics stopped and frisked was far higher than their share of the city population.
But as Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute has pointed out, the relevant comparison group is not population data, but crime data. The judge, she wrote, "ignored the fact that blacks commit nearly 80 percent of all shootings in New York and two-thirds of the violent crime."
The appeals court removed the judge from the case and stayed her decision, and de Blasio appointed William Bratton, who has defended stop-and-frisk, as police commissioner. This suggests that the police tactics that have made the city safer for law-abiding blacks, and Hispanics will not be entirely abandoned.
Another area in which disparate impact analysis has been deployed is in housing. Department Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan referred approvingly to a study by Zillow, an online real estate data company, that said blacks and Hispanics are denied home mortgages at rates higher than whites and Hispanics. "(T)hese fundamental disparities affect the abilities of members of each group to accumulate financial assets," Zillow's economist writes.
But he also admits that black and Hispanic applicants had significantly lower incomes than whites and so presumably tend to be less creditworthy. Dispensing with credit standards to promote minority homeownership led directly to the 2008 financial collapse -- and to foreclosures on blacks and Hispanics.
Disparate impact analysis came into the law when courts faced disingenuous and sometimes violent resistance to civil rights rulings and laws by Southern whites. It was a drastic remedy for drastic obstruction of the law.
A 1971 Supreme Court case ruled that employment discrimination could be inferred by seemingly neutral practices that had disparate impact on blacks and whites.
Around that time, the Nixon administration was imposing racial quotas and preferences on building trades unions, where desirable positions tended to be doled out to sons, nephews and cousins of current members.
Ultimately, disparate impact analysis rests on what ordinary citizens instinctively recognize as a fiction, the notion that in a fair society you would find the same racial and ethnic mix in every school, every occupation and every neighborhood.
This runs against the sometimes uncomfortable fact that abilities and interests are not evenly distributed among ethnic and racial groups.
That doesn't justify racial discrimination. Ordinary Americans understand that the variation within groups is much higher than the variation between groups. They understand that it's unfair and unwise to judge individuals by their race of ethnicity.
Unfortunately, disparate impact doctrine produces policies that lead people to do just that. And in the process, it produces results that hurt many of the intended beneficiaries.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.