Farrukh Dhondy | Sleaze, hypocrisy, fraud, corruption: The many ills that bedevil UK today

The Asian Age.  | Farrukh Dhondy

Opinion, Columnists

The sin of some other nations puts the UK in the listening side of the confessional

Crowds are on the way to Buckingham Palace after the coronation ceremony for Britain's King Charles III in London, Saturday, May 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

O Bachchoo spot that bird in flight

Is it an Eagle, Hawk or Kite

Swooping now to kill its prey

And bear some slower bird away

Or pluck a squirrel or a rat

Or any crawling species that

Catches its hunting, roving eye

Red in beak and claw to ply

Nature’s truth that might is right

And birds of prey have the keenest sight.

From Bowl -- We’d Rather Bowl, by Bachchoo


In this week of celebrations over King Charles III’s coronation, ignoring the sceptres of the anointed isle, I choose to dwell upon examples of British hypocrisy, sleaze, corruption and fraud. These are not by any means peculiar characteristics of this “seat of Mars”. The sin of some other nations puts the UK in the listening side of the confessional.

Start with the fun one. A reputable barrister, known for her defence of left-wing activists and her stances on human rights is one Helena Kennedy KC (King’s Counsel). I know of her and met her once through my late ex-wife Mala Sen, whose friend she was. In 1994 Helena had published an essay which criticised the monarchy. “It is understandable that many see it as the fountainhead of snobbery and class division, creating a corrosive culture with its defenders, often sycophantically allied to its continuance because patronage is one of the pegs which secures its hold.”

Well said? Helena is now a baroness and as the announcements for the coronation ceremonials of what she called “an institution which surrounds itself with the unworthy notion of aristocracy” were published, we were told that the Queen Consort’s rod will be carried in the coronation procession and presented to Her Majesty by -- you guessed it -- Baroness Helena Kennedy.

Okay, as she wrote, she “sycophantically allied… etc”. So what? No corruption here!

And so, to more serious stuff involving fraud, corruption and hypocrisy. Start with the fraud.

A parliamentary investigative committee has concluded that during the Covid-19 pandemic, under the supervision of PM Boris Johnson, chancellor Hedgie Sunak and health secretary Matt Hancock, £4.5 billion was handed out to fraudsters through errors in the furlough and self-employed Covid support schemes initiated by Hedgie.

This calculated sum attributed to “fraud” does not include the exorbitant sums paid out to suppliers of unusable face masks and deficient anti-virus equipment destined for hospitals.

It certainly doesn’t include the billions spent on the completely ineffective “Test and Trace” schemes headed by the pallocracy of the BoJo government’s ministers, who had little or no expertise relevant to the running of these.

The £4.5 billion and the taxpayers’ billions spent on friends in the pallocracy and on benefactors’ contracts taking advantage of the pandemic, will never be recovered. And yet, and yet last week Hedgie announced his support for Cruella Braverman’s policy of hiring large houseboats into which they will put asylum seekers because, said Hedgie, it would be cheaper to house them -- to me manifestly the wretched of the earth and some not-so-wretched shysters -- in these flotillas rather than in inland hotels and accommodation. He said the taxpayer was handing out £6 million a week for this accommodation. Even if one accepts this exaggeration, that would mean £6 million multiplied by 52 a year, which amounts to £312 million annually. Is there any comparison to the £4.5 billion that the taxpayer lost to error, corruption and fraud?

The refusal by Cruella and Hedgie to compare the figures of expenditure and the drain on the taxpayer, figures which are made public on the same day appeals, gentle reader, to put it mildly, as evasion or hypocrisy.

According to another parliamentary committee, fraud accounted for 41 per cent of all crime in Britain. I must confess that I regularly receive emails and other notifications that I have won the Nigerian lottery, or that I am beneficiary of the will of a distant relative called Archimedes Dhondy, or that a close friend of mine has had his passport and wallet stolen in some remote part of the world and I am to either send my back account details including any passwords so that my winnings or inheritance can be deposited, or I can buy Amazon credit vouchers and sent them to my destitute stranded friend. I admit that out of sheer

laziness and an attitude that money doesn’t make for happiness, I have avoided handing over my bank details to the Nigerian lottery and forfeited a few million pounds in winnings, even though I’ve never bought a ticket. As for helping a friend who is stranded in some remote part of the world, it serves him bloody well right for going on holiday without offering to pay for me to accompany him.

The fact is that £4.7 billion is lost through fraudulent dealings each year in the UK. The Action Fraud institution of the government gets 300,000 complaints from individuals and 600,000 per year from businesses. Only one per cent of these lead to prosecutions as the City of London police, which oversees Action, Fraud has not been given the manpower or the funds to investigate this volume of fraudulent crime. The home office’s attitude to this criminal activity has been to assign two per cent of its newly recruited police officers to the fraud squad.

It’s all politics! Cruella probably believes that the victims of fraud can suffer, as putting resources and rhetoric into redressing the wrongs done to them has no real political advantage for her. Rhetoric against asylum seekers has.