Posts tagged Britain
Posts tagged Britain
A one-sided justice sees weaker states punished as rich nations and giant corporations project their power across the world
The conviction of Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, is said to have sent an unequivocal message to current leaders: that great office confers no immunity. In fact it sent two messages: if you run a small, weak nation, you may be subject to the full force of international law; if you run a powerful nation, you have nothing to fear.
While anyone with an interest in human rights should welcome the verdict, it reminds us that no one has faced legal consequences for launching the illegal war against Iraq. This fits the Nuremberg tribunal’s definition of a “crime of aggression”, which it called “the supreme international crime”. The charges on which, in an impartial system, George Bush, Tony Blair and their associates should have been investigated are far graver than those for which Taylor was found guilty.
The foreign secretary, William Hague, claims that Taylor’s conviction “demonstrates that those who have committed the most serious of crimes can and will be held to account for their actions”. But the international criminal court, though it was established 10 years ago, and though the crime of aggression has been recognised in international law since 1945, still has no jurisdiction over “the most serious of crimes”. This is because the powerful nations, for obvious reasons, are procrastinating. Nor have the United Kingdom, the United States and other western nations incorporated the crime of aggression into their own legislation. International law remains an imperial project, in which only the crimes committed by vassal states are punished.
In this respect it corresponds to other global powers. Despite its trumpeted reforms, the International Monetary Fund remains under the control of the United States and the former colonial powers. All constitutional matters still require an 85% share of the vote. By an inexplicable oversight, the United States retains 16.7%, ensuring that it possesses a veto over subsequent reforms. Belgium still has eight times the votes of Bangladesh, Italy a bigger share than India, and the United Kingdom and France between them more voting power than the 49 African members. The managing director remains, as imperial tradition insists, a European, her deputy an American.
The IMF, as a result, is still the means by which western financial markets project their power into the rest of the world. At the end of last year, for example, it published a paper pressing emerging economies to increase their “financial depth”, which it defines as “the total financial claims and counterclaims of an economy”. This, it claimed, would insulate them from crisis. As the Bretton Woods Project points out, emerging nations with large real economies and small financial sectors were the countries which best weathered the economic crisis, which was caused by advanced economies with large financial sectors. Like the modern opium wars it waged in the 1980s and 1990s – when it forced Asian countries to liberalise their currencies, permitting western financial speculators to attack them – the IMF’s prescriptions are incomprehensible until they are understood as instruments of financial power.
Decolonisation did not take place until the former colonial powers and the empires of capital on whose behalf they operated had established other means of retaining control. Some, like the IMF and World Bank, have remained almost unchanged. Others, like the programme of extraordinary rendition, evolved in response to new challenges to global hegemony.
As the kidnapping of Abdul Hakim Belhaj and his wife suggests, the UK’s foreign and intelligence services see themselves as a global police force, minding the affairs of other nations. In 2004, after Tony Blair, with one eye on possible contracts for British oil companies, decided that Gaddafi was a useful asset, the alliance was sealed with the capture, packaging and delivery of the regime’s dissenters.
Like the colonial crimes the British government committed in Kenya and elsewhere, whose concealment was sustained by the Foreign Office until its secret archives were revealed last month, the rendition programme was hidden from public view. Just as the colonial secretary, Alan Lennox-Boyd, repeatedly lied to parliament about the detention and torture of Kikuyu people, in 2005 Jack Straw, then foreign secretary, told parliament that ”there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition”.
Reading the emails passed between the offices of James Murdoch and Jeremy Hunt, it struck me that here too is a government which sees itself as an agent of empire – Murdoch’s in this case – and which sees the electorate as ornamental. Working, against the public interest, for News Corporation, the financial sector and the billionaire donors to the Conservative party, its ministers act as capital’s district commissioners, governing Britain as their forebears governed the colonies.
The bid for power, oil and spheres of influence that Bush and Blair launched in Mesopotamia, using the traditional camouflage of the civilising mission; the colonial war still being fought in Afghanistan, 199 years after the Great Game began; the global policing functions the great powers have arrogated to themselves; the one-sided justice dispensed by international law. All these suggest that imperialism never ended, but merely mutated into new forms. The virtual empire knows no boundaries. Until we begin to recognise and confront it, all of us, black and white, will remain its subjects.
A major case in the British High Court has revealed fresh evidence of civilian deaths during a notorious CIA drone strike in Pakistan last year.
Sworn witness testimonies reveal in graphic detail how the village of Datta Khel burned for hours after the attack. Many of the dozens killed had to be buried in pieces.
Legal proceedings were begun in London recently against British Foreign Secretary William Hague, over possible British complicity in CIA drone strikes.
Britain’s GCHQ – its secret monitoring and surveillance agency – is reported to have provided ‘locational evidence’ to US authorities for use in drone strikes, a move which is reportedly illegal in the United Kingdom.
The High Court case focuses in particular on a CIA drone strike in March 2011 which killed up to 53 people.
Sworn affidavits presented in court and seen by the Bureau offer extensive new details of a strike the CIA still apparently claims ‘killed no non-combatants’.
‘We were in the middle of our discussion when the missile hit and I was thrown about 24 feet from where I was sitting. I was knocked unconscious and when I awoke I saw many individuals who were dead or injured,’ he says in his affidavit.
Most of those who died in Datta Khel village that day were civilians. The Bureau has so far identified by name 24 of those killed, whilst Associated Press recently reported that it has the names of 42 civilians who died that day.
Pakistan’s president, prime minister and army chief all condemned the Datta Khel attack. A recent Bureau investigation with the Sunday Times quoted Brigadier Abdullah Dogar, who commanded Pakistani military forces in the area at the time.
We in the Pakistan military knew about the meeting, we’d got the request ten days earlier. It was held in broad daylight, people were sitting out in Nomada bus depot when the missile strikes came. Maybe there were one or two Taliban at that Jirga – they have their people attending – but does that justify a drone strike which kills 42 mostly innocent people?
Yet the US intelligence community has consistently denied that any civilians died.
Taliban [Side Note: Yes, that Taliban; their views are far more important than the lies being spewed by the US empire.]
The invading forces top commander, John Allen and stooge administration’s Defense Minister, Abdu-ur-Rahim Wardag in Afghanistan signed a deal Sunday, Apr. 08, 2012 supposedly giving the Afghan puppet forces authority over night raids on homes of Afghan civilians.
The head of the puppet administration, Karzai regarded this move as a great step towards the national sovereignty.
A day after this on Monday, Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby told reporters, “In practical terms, not much has changed.” He pointed out that U.S. forces may only obtain an official warrant from an Afghan panel, and that the President Karzai will not hold “a veto” over U.S. night raids carried out in Afghanistan.
“This is not about [giving Afghan officials] a veto at all,” he said.
Because Afghan law allows warrants to be issued retroactively, that is, the raids could take place before a warrant is obtained, he said
He explicitly said that although the warrants are required for the night raids in accordance with the deal but warrants can be obtained after rather than before the raids.
Lisa Curtis, a South Asia specialist at the Heritage Foundation believes that the US will retain control over night raids conducted by the CIA or associated paramilitary groups.
All the US national security analysts view the agreement as largely symbolic and which will ensure and justify the US permanent military presence after the withdrawal in 2014, however, the night raid operations will continue to happen as they used to do.
The puppet forces will apparently take initiating in the night raids but, in practice, they will act on the order of the US invading commanders and allow the warrants of what the US invaders want them to be issued. Afghan judicial officials will not be authorized to prevent the capture of civilians and that the instruction and permission of the US commanders will be sought before every night raid and release of a detainee captured in nigh raids.
In such circumstances, as they put it (quick reaction times) the US will hold the veto-power, that is, the US forces will have authority over the capture or release of the detainees.
Giving that, what may “the Afghans authority over night raids “signify? Will this “pact “not imply throwing dust into the eyes of Afghans and the world?
The “agreement” follows the martyrdom of the renowned sharia scholar, Ustad Qayam-ud-Din and the capture of his family members in Frayab district, Afghanistan suggesting that the existence of such “deal” has not changed the US strategy and attitudes in Afghanistan.
As a matter of fact, “night raid operation” is a form of state terrorism or terrorism, one of the most malicious of its kind the invading forces use for mass harassment, torture and massacre Afghan nation and disrespect of Afghan national culture which contradicts and violates Geneva and United Nations Conventions and all human rights.
According the western media account and statistics, the invading forces conducted 2200 night raids, involving the mass murder of thousands of innocent and defenseless civilians including children, women, and the aged within their compounds before very eyes of their family members, not to mention those held as captives who have disappeared as if vanished in the thin air.
Some western writers have taken the lid off few of the invading forces shocking war crimes in a series most appalling and malicious ones committed by the invaders across Afghanistan. In one of the articles Jerome Starkey is quoted as saying that there was the heart-breaking incident in an outskirt of Gardez city in Paktia province of Afghanistan in which US forces conducted a night raid and brutally murdered two pregnant woman and a teenage girl and the US forces later claimed that it was done by Taliban, in attempt that the invaders would pin their crime on Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate.
Two years ago, a piece of faulty computer code infected Iran’s nuclear program and destroyed many of the centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Some observers declared this apparent sabotage to be the harbinger of a new form of warfare, and United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has warned Americans of the danger of a “cyber Pearl Harbor” attack on the US. But what do we really know about cyber conflict?
The cyber domain of computers and related electronic activities is a complex man-made environment, and human adversaries are purposeful and intelligent. Mountains and oceans are hard to move, but portions of cyberspace can be turned on and off by throwing a switch. It is far cheaper and quicker to move electrons across the globe than to move large ships long distances.
The costs of developing those vessels – multiple carrier task forces and submarine fleets – create enormous barriers to entry, enabling US naval dominance. But the barriers to entry in the cyber domain are so low that non-state actors and small states can play a significant role at low cost.
In my book The Future of Power, I argue that the diffusion of power away from governments is one of this century’s great political shifts. Cyberspace is a perfect example. Large countries like the US, Russia, Britain, France, and China have greater capacity than other states and non-state actors to control the sea, air, or space, but it makes little sense to speak of dominance in cyberspace. If anything, dependence on complex cyber systems for support of military and economic activities creates new vulnerabilities in large states that can be exploited by non-state actors.
Side Note: I HOPE this is satire… or British humor that I’m just not ‘getting’.
I want to live in a surveillance state. Big Brother, come cast your watchful eye over me and mine. I love you, bro.
Seriously, when I saw the outcry over Government plans to gain access to telephone, email and internet, my initial reaction was: “You mean they can’t do that already?”
I assumed, somewhat stupidly, that everything we said, typed or viewed was routinely monitored, and then filtered by some giant, super-secret computer tucked away in a heavily guarded subterranean basement of GCHQ: “Hodges has just said he wants to shoot another Liverpool player, sir.” “Oh, he’s always saying that, Jones. Ignore him.”
I don’t want less surveillance, I want more of the stuff. My idea of the perfect society is one where every street corner has a CCTV camera, everyone has a nice shiny ID card tucked in their wallet and no extremist can even think of logging onto a dodgy website without an SAS squad abseiling swiftly through their window.
For one thing, I have a relatively benign view of the state. There are some things it does much better than others, and I realise it’s high time it learnt to cut its coat to suit its cloth. But on balance I view the state as a force for good, rather than some giant, menacing monolith, and that’s especially true when it comes to stopping myself, my family and my friends getting blown up by crazed terrorists.
Britain is exporting surveillance technology to countries run by repressive regimes, sparking fears it is being used to track political dissidents and activists.
The UK’s enthusiastic role in the burgeoning but unregulated surveillance market is becoming an urgent concern for human rights groups, who want the government to ensure that exports are regulated in a similar way to arms.
Much of the technology, which allows regimes to monitor internet traffic, mobile phone calls and text messages, is similar to that which the government has controversially signalled it wants to use in the UK.
The campaign group, Privacy International, which monitors the use of surveillance technology, claims equipment being exported includes devices known as “IMSI catchers” that masquerade as normal mobile phone masts and identify phone users and malware – software that can allow its operator to control a target’s computer, while allowing the interception to remain undetected.
Great empires, such as the Roman and British, were extractive. The empires succeeded, because the value of the resources and wealth extracted from conquered lands exceeded the value of conquest and governance. The reason Rome did not extend its empire further east into Germany was not the military prowess of the Germanic tribes but Rome’s calculation that the cost of conquest exceeded the value of extractable resources.
The Roman empire failed, because Romans exhausted manpower and resources in civil wars fighting amongst themselves for power. The British empire failed, because the British exhausted themselves fighting Germany in two world wars.
In his book, The Rule of Empires (2010), Timothy H. Parsons replaces the myth of the civilizing empire with the truth of the extractive empire. He describes the successes of the Romans, the Umayyad Caliphate, the Spanish in Peru, Napoleon in Italy, and the British in India and Kenya in extracting resources. To lower the cost of governing Kenya, the British instigated tribal consciousness and invented tribal customs that worked to British advantage.
Parsons does not examine the American empire, but in his introduction to the book he wonders whether America’s empire is really an empire as the Americans don’t seem to get any extractive benefits from it. After eight years of war and attempted occupation of Iraq, all Washington has for its efforts is several trillion dollars of additional debt and no Iraqi oil. After ten years of trillion dollar struggle against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Washington has nothing to show for it except possibly some part of the drug trade that can be used to fund covert CIA operations.
America’s wars are very expensive. Bush and Obama have doubled the national debt, and the American people have no benefits from it. No riches, no bread and circuses flow to Americans from Washington’s wars. So what is it all about?
The answer is that Washington’s empire extracts resources from the American people for the benefit of the few powerful interest groups that rule America. The military-security complex, Wall Street, agri-business and the Israel Lobby use the government to extract resources from Americans to serve their profits and power. The US Constitution has been extracted in the interests of the Security State, and Americans’ incomes have been redirected to the pockets of the 1 percent. That is how the American Empire functions.
The New Empire is different. It happens without achieving conquest. The American military did not conquer Iraq and has been forced out politically by the puppet government that Washington established. There is no victory in Afghanistan, and after a decade the American military does not control the country.
In the New Empire success at war no longer matters. The extraction takes place by being at war. Huge sums of American taxpayers’ money have flowed into the American armaments industries and huge amounts of power into Homeland Security. The American empire works by stripping Americans of wealth and liberty.
This is why the wars cannot end, or if one does end another starts. Remember when Obama came into office and was asked what the US mission was in Afghanistan? He replied that he did not know what the mission was and that the mission needed to be defined.
Obama never defined the mission. He renewed the Afghan war without telling us its purpose. Obama cannot tell Americans that the purpose of the war is to build the power and profit of the military/security complex at the expense of American citizens.
This truth doesn’t mean that the objects of American military aggression have escaped without cost. Large numbers of Muslims have been bombed and murdered and their economies and infrastructure ruined, but not in order to extract resources from them.
It is ironic that under the New Empire the citizens of the empire are extracted of their wealth and liberty in order to extract lives from the targeted foreign populations. Just like the bombed and murdered Muslims, the American people are victims of the American empire.
In a failed attempt to appear unbiased and objective, the BBC now “reveals”, almost a year after the information was relayed by several alternative media, that British Special Forces played a key role in steering and supervising Libya’s “freedom fighters” to victory. Known and documented many of these so-called rebels were mercenaries under contract to NATO.
British efforts to help topple Colonel Gaddafi were not limited to air strikes. On the ground - and on the quiet - special forces soldiers were blending in with rebel fighters:
This is the previously untold BBC account of the crucial role part played by British and Allied Special Forces in leading the insurrection largely integrated by Al Qaedas affiliated operatives:
Unmanned aircraft are the new cornerstone of modern military operations, and both American and British crews are learning to fly them at a New Mexico Air Force base. There, they must tackle the practical questions of what it means to wage war from afar.
America and its allies are fighting wars around the world from computer screens in the deserts of Nevada and New Mexico.
Drones - officially known as remotely piloted aircraft - have become a major part of modern warfare.
These unmanned aircraft have the ability to fly above contentious areas, taking and relaying surveillance photos. The most controversial drones have the ability to launch an attack via onboard weapons.
America operates thousands of drones, with the bigger, more sophisticated versions controlled from bases in the US.
More pilots are being trained to fly American unmanned aircraft than fighter planes, and most of them are put through their paces at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.
It’s the biggest drone pilot training centre in the world, with American and British crews learning to fly them, spy with them and fire missiles from them.
Proposals for real-time monitoring of email and social media show the government has caved in to the security services
If the government were to suggest monitoring every building that each person in the UK visits, and making a note of every conversation they had, the policy would be seen as electoral suicide. Assurances that the actual content of conversations wouldn’t be recorded would be unlikely to help.
It’s a telling sign of how many real-world freedoms have been sacrificed online, then, that a government that just two years ago pledged to“reverse the rise of the surveillance state” feels able to propose real-time monitoring of all email and social media communications.
The information stored would include the sender and recipient of an email, the time it was sent, and details of the computer it was sent from. This would build a profile of who contacts whom, with what frequency, and from where.
The government says such measures are essential to counter organised crime and terrorism, citing that 95% of organised crime investigations and “every” major counter-terrorism investigation use communications data. However, this statistic does not show if such information was essential or even useful to these investigations – merely that investigators chose to get hold of communications records on almost every occasion, usually via warrant or use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa).
This kind of surveillance is nothing new: it’s been gradually expanding in the UK over the past decade, from measures that make it easier to obtain permission to monitor communications, to requiring internet service providers to store information on email communications to all their users. Under Ripa, state employees as junior as Royal Mail officersare allowed to “ping” mobile phones for location information on the basis of a simple, unrecorded, verbal request.
Information about each email sent – the data that would be covered by the new proposals – already has to be stored by providers for at least a year under UK law. The change would make it accessible to intelligence services in real time, presumably to allow for patterns or unusual activity to be spotted.
The World Economic Forum said Wednesday that the BRICS countries, despite their booming economies, are lagging behind their rivals when it comes to capitalizing on Internet technologies.
The Switzerland-based non-profit group released a report highlighting that the world’s most developed countries dominate the top of a “networked readiness” list while the highest ranking BRICS nation was China in 51st place.
The acronym “BRICS” is used to refer to surging economies in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Although BRICS are fiercely competitive in the global arena, they are hampered by challenges when it comes to adopting information and communications technology (ICT), according to the “Living in a Hyperconnected World” report.
A lack of skilled workers and shortcomings in institutional environments for businesses were cited as factors stifling entrepreneurship and innovation.
The forum’s chief business officer Robert Greenhill said the Internet was causing a shake-up for traditional organizations and “we are beginning to see fundamental transformations in all areas of the economy and society.”
Sweden was ranked highest in networked readiness, followed by Singapore, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Netherlands, and Norway.
The United States was in eighth place, with Canada and Britain rounding out the top 10 list.
The Networked Readiness Index combined data from publicly available sources with feedback from a survey of more than 15,000 executives.
Hundreds of peace activists on Sunday tried in vain to break into the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in Brussels, with 483 of them arrested by police.
The demonstration, organised by the Belgian association Action for Peace two months before a NATO summit in Chicago, was called to protest the alliance’s intervention in Afghanistan and Libya, and nuclear arming.
“No demonstrator was able to enter NATO headquarters,” spokesman for Brussels police, Christian De Coninck, told AFP. “We detained 483 people for questioning and all of them should be free in the evening.”
De Coninck said no one was hurt and no damage was reported.
Demonstrators crossed fields and sought to climb over fences leading to the NATO compound, but were stopped by a large police presence, some on horseback, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.
“We neither want the anti-missile shield, nor intervention by NATO in Libya or Afghanistan, nor nuclear bombs that are illegal in our country,” said Benoit Calvi, a spokesman for Action for Peace.
Demonstrators shouted “No more NATO”, “We want peace now” and “NATO Game Over”.
“A military alliance that intervenes all over the world and has nuclear weapons is a threat to world peace,” said Action for Peace.
Some “500 to 600 policemen” were deployed to counter the demonstration, a policeman said.
Demonstrators, most of them in their twenties, were from Belgium but also arrived from Britain, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey.
Those stopped by the police were made to sit in lines with their hands tied behind their back.
In March 2008, about 1,000 peace activists had mounted a similar operation to mark the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq. At the time police detained 450 people.
A year later, another attempt to storm NATO headquarters on the 60th anniversary of the military alliance ended with the arrest of 442 people.
Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, was forced to fend off accusations that the UK had violated South America’s nuclear moratorium by dispatching a Trafalgar-class nuclear submarine to patrol the seas around the islands.
“I’m afraid I’m duty bound to respond to the insinuations made by theArgentinian delegation of militarisation of the South Atlantic by the British Government,” he said. “These are unfounded, baseless insinuations.”
Foreign Office officials have become wearily used to Argentinian diplomats using global meetings to reinvigorate their campaign to recover the islands, known as Las Malvinas in Spanish, in advance of the 30th anniversary of the junta’s invasion on April 2.
The International Institute of Strategic Studies, a London think tank, said yesterday that the diplomatic offensive, which is designed to bolster the government’s flagging popularity was based on a strategy of isolating Britain in Latin America and beyond. “Argentina’s current strategy is focused not on military deployments but on diplomatic and economic initiatives,” it said. “Buenos Aires hopes to harness the emerging global clout of Latin American countries to strengthen its position.”
Mr Clegg was responding to an intervention by Hector Timerman, Argentina’s foreign minister, at the Seoul meeting, accusing Britain, an “extra-regional power”, of flouting treaties prohibiting nuclear materials from South America and the Caribbean.
“Argentina demands that that extra-regional power that has recently sent a submarine capable of carrying nuclear arsenal to patrol the South Atlantic waters confirm the absence of nuclear weapons in the region,” MrTimerman said.
However Mr Clegg rejected the claim London had violated the Tlatelolco treaty banning nuclear weapons.
“As my colleague from Argentina knows, the UK ratified the protocols to the Treaty of Tlatelolco in 1969,” he said. “We have respected these obligations and continue to do so.” President Cristina Kirchner has wasted to opportunity to advance Argentina’s demands that Britain open negotiations on Falklands sovereignty. She has branded the UK a ‘crude colonial power in decline’ and used summits to proclaim that the recovery of the Falklands was an issue for all South America.
British diplomats predict that the campaign will continue to widen but stop far short of military action. “We just try to keep the level of rhetoric at a sensible level,” said one Whitehall source.
(Reuters) - Britain is to allow one of its intelligence agencies to monitor all phone calls, texts, emails and online activities in the country to help tackle crime and militant attacks, the Interior Ministry said on Sunday.
“It is vital that police and security services are able to obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public,” a Home Office spokesman said.
The proposed law already has drawn strong criticism, from within the ruling Conservative Party’s own ranks, as an invasion of privacy and personal rights.
“What the government hasn’t explained is precisely why they intend to eavesdrop on all of us without even going to a judge for a warrant, which is what always used to happen,” Member of Parliament David Davis told BBC News.
“It is an unnecessary extension of the ability of the state to snoop on ordinary people,” he said.
New legislation is expected to be announced in the legislative agenda-setting speech given by the queen in May.
Currently, British agencies can monitor calls and e-mails of specific individuals who may be under investigation after obtaining ministerial approval, but expanding that to all citizens is certain to enrage civil liberties campaigners.
Internet companies would be required to install hardware which would allow the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), referred to as Britain’s electronic ‘listening’ agency, to gain real-time access to communications data.
The new law would not allow GCHQ to access the content of emails, calls or messages without a warrant, but it would allow it to trace who an individual or group was in contact with, how frequently they communicated and for how long.
The Sunday Times newspaper, which first reported the story, said some details of the proposals were given to members of the Britain’s Internet Service Providers’ Association last month.
“As set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review we will legislate as soon as parliamentary time allows to ensure that the use of communications data is compatible with the government’s approach to civil liberties,” the Home Office spokesman said.
Any proposed legislation changes are likely to face stiff opposition in both houses of the British Parliament.
A similar proposal was considered by the then-ruling Labour party in 2006 but was abandoned in the face of fierce opposition by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, who are junior partners in the ruling coalition.
The proposed legislation could reflect the U.S. Patriot Act, controversially introduced six weeks after September 11 in 2001, to expand the government’s authority to monitor the communications activity of its citizens.
Immaculately dressed, often in cream linen, Neil Heywood was the epitome of a British gentleman abroad, but his death in a hotel room in China has left those who knew him asking what secrets he may have taken to his grave.
The 41-year-old Old Harrovian was a vastly experienced China hand, who advised Chinese and Western businesses. He was an entrepreneur with an eye for deals and his insight was much sought after, as were his connections to Chinese officials, including Bo Xilai, one of the most powerful rising stars of the Communist party.
But it also emerged on Tuesday that he was an adviser to Hakluyt, a corporate intelligence firm founded by former MI6 officers. Hakluyt has confirmed that Heywood prepared periodic reports for it, but said he had not been working for the company at the time of his death.
A friend who has known him since childhood described Heywood as “like a character in a Graham Greene novel - always immaculate, very noble, very erudite”.
“Privately, I always wondered if he was in MI6,” said the friend, who added that there was no evidence to suggest he had been a spy.
“He had his fingers in many pies, and often it is quite easy to make someone like that the scapegoat, to make them look suspicious, but he was not at all mysterious to the people who knew him.”