Authors: Terry Morgan
All of the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The names, incidents, dialogue and opinions expressed are the products of the author's imagination and are not to be constructed as real. The events in this book are entirely fiction and by no means should anyone attempt to live out the actions that are portrayed in the book.
Copyright © 2015
California Times Publishing, Los Angeles
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Table of Contents
JAMES WILLIAM SMITH, former Independent Member of the UK Parliament, talking about organized theft of International Aid money to US Senator Colin Stafford and FBI Legal Attache, Stephen Lockhart, at the US Embassy, London, November 2014:
"Make no mistake, Senator, these are powerful people. They already have money and resources but they are out to make even more. Security is what keeps them out of sight. Politics and bribery is what shuts mouths. Threats and fears of repercussions are what keep people in their place. That is the power they think they have over everyone.
They depend on ordinary people only interested in holding onto ordinary jobs by doing ordinary things—things they are told to do, day to day. But they'll use anyone—politicians, big and small businesses, the press, PR consultants, magazine and newspaper editors, TV, the radio—they'll pay anyone to fake a story or for a piece of news or comment to counter suggestions that things are not as clean as they appear. They'll hack phones and they'll record conversations. And if all that doesn't work then they'll bring in the really nasty elements—underworld characters who know nothing of what is going on but who'll do anything for the promise of big money.
It is a sort of white-collar mafia made up of senior bureaucrats who have learned to specialize in this form of crime. With just a few sitting at the very top there is a structure of lesser fraudsters beneath, all kept in order by threats, blackmail, bribes and promises of money.
Finding those at the top might not be as difficult as we think, but they will be protected by a reputation of dignity, professionalism and status that has been deliberately constructed to make any accusations from outside look absurd and totally inconceivable. I tried the accusations route and I was the one made to look absurd.
And they are using technology, software, the internet—anything that will help to conceal what they are doing. As for their helpers—the lesser fraudsters—they will want to keep them in charge of the day-to-day operations. They need all the systems to appear to be working normally and efficiently, because they might one day need to explain away security and bureaucratic failures and weaknesses they have been ruling over for years and to find plausible excuses for the vast sums of taxpayers’ money they have lost and stolen. That is when the complete innocents and the lesser fraudsters will suddenly find fingers being pointed directly at them. They will become the dispensable, sacrificial offerings to muddy the waters and divert attention.
I know all this because it happened to me. That's why I stayed out of sight for a while, but I always planned to come back to renew my campaign.
So be aware. Those fraudsters sitting at the top will not look like criminals. As they go about their public lives they will look and appear calm and normal because they feel untouchable.
And even if massive fraud was proven, would they automatically lose their freedom, their jobs, their status, their pensions? No, not necessarily. Because the entire system is designed to automatically cover up such activity and if it ever came to public enquiries—which is unlikely—they would point fingers at each other and then hide without fear of prosecution behind the complexity of the organization. Things like that would take years, if ever, to come to Court.
So we will probably show that the whole system is at fault here. Whether we can do anything about it in our own small way I really don't know, but I'm damned sure the millions of hard-working, honest taxpayers out there would support us in anything we do. That is where our strength lies."
JIM SMITH, SCRAMBLING on all fours out of the mosquito net tent that was his bedroom, had another headache.
"Dreaming again," he muttered aloud into the total darkness as he fumbled for the torch and the packet of painkillers he kept in a plastic bag.
Five minutes before, and fast asleep, he had been feeding scraps of dry bread to pigeons in Trafalgar Square in London. Wings were flapping, feathers were flying, pigeons were sitting on his head and his shoulders and bird shit was everywhere. Someone, maybe it was his wife Margaret, was standing nearby watching, clutching her handbag, unfazed, untouched by even a single, grubby, feral pigeon. He had shouted to her amongst the dust and noise of flapping wings. "I need a cat, Margaret. Put a cat amongst them. No, no, second thoughts. Switch on the fan, let the shit hit it."
It was a familiar dream that had started in a way that had suggested it might take off in a different direction, but it was soon back on track, the storyline much as always. In an instant, he was no longer in Trafalgar Square but standing with his hands behind his back looking down from a makeshift platform in a sports hall with five others as they waited for an officer of the local council to make an announcement. It was two in the morning
probably three in the morning when he was dreaming
and he could see cameras, reporters and bleary-eyed council staff
looking at watches wanting to go home. And then it came. In his dream, Jim Smith heard it as if it were happening right there and then.
"…so I hereby declare that James William Smith is duly elected as the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Amberley."
He had woken up at that point because he remembered pushing his hand through the mosquito net to grab the bottle of water. He had drunk half, was grateful for the cooling effect of the other half that dribbled down his beard and then fell asleep again to a lullaby from a gecko chirping somewhere in the total darkness. Within a flash, he was back in London, six thousand miles from his ramshackle hideout in rural Thailand and back more than three years to the time of his election. Then the headache began.
Jim Smith's qualifications as a modern politician were far from ideal. For a start he was in his sixties not his thirties, and he hadn't had the private education or the advantage or influence of an already wealthy and connected family. Instead, Jim Smith had spent thirty years running his own successful manufacturing business
"Started it myself and ran it myself with a hundred or so staff by the time I sold it."
His qualification for politics was, he believed, that having seen life at the sharp end and lived off his wits in a competitive world, he could offer something different to the good people of Amberley
if not the world.
But there were downsides to being independently-minded and also an Independent Member of the UK Parliament. Having no big party affiliations meant having few friends. But he hadn't cared. He had made that perfectly clear at the outset. He was his own man. What you see is what you get. Take it or leave it or just don't vote for me next time. Jim Smith had, though, stored up a few questions for government during his thirty years in business.
"Despite all the apparent checks, balances and bureaucracy behind the provision of economic and humanitarian aid, would the Minister agree with me that if many millions of Euros and Dollars of taxpayer money is regularly finding its way into the pockets of foreign criminals then there is something profoundly wrong with the system. And if evidence shows that certain politicians and unelected bureaucrats are also up to their necks in this organized criminal activity what will he do?"
That was how he had put the cat amongst the pigeons and when the shit had hit the fan. With one question, Jim Smith had touched sensitive nerves, nerves that seemed to have believed that the quiet, undisturbed and lucrative life they had enjoyed for a long time had suddenly been disturbed by an untamed political animal that had just come in from the wild.
He expected some immediate action and got it, but it was not what he expected. Perhaps it had been political naivety, but he immediately realized he had touched the sensitive nerves of some very influential, unknown and invisible people. And what would you do with an unchained and dangerous animal on the loose that was threatening your way of life?
That dream in the hot, airless wooden house on stilts in the deeply rural province of Kanchanaburi in Thailand where Jim Smith now lived had stopped there, but sometimes the dreams went on far longer.
There were the sweaty nightmares of shouting, pushing and shoving, of flashing cameras and thrusting microphones and there were the cold sweaty nightmares of the scandal-loving tabloid newspapers. There was the nightmare that depicted Jim Smith, Member of Parliament, as a bungling amateur with no policies except a string of grudges, no recognized party behind him and only self-interest at heart. The only part that Jim ever agreed with was that he was on a steep learning curve about politics and the self-interests of others.
But he had always been an obstinate man and there was enough evidence to convince himself, if not others, of a climate of corruption and he knew he had trodden on some very big toes. It all added to the feeling that there was something genuinely rotten at the core. Obstinate Jim was like a dog with a bone because what, at five thirty, had woken him to his throbbing headache was no product of a vivid, nocturnal imagination. Jim had been dreaming about actual events of three years ago.
Yes, he acknowledged he may have gone about it the wrong way. His first question at Prime Minister's questions time
was an example. The Speaker had interrupted him. "Order, order. Mr. Smith, please. This is Prime Minister's Questions. Please do not beat about the bush. What is your question?"
Jim Smith had squirmed. "Ah, yes. Would the Prime Minister please ask the Europe Minister and the Minister for International Development to comment on evidence of criminality in the granting and use of EU and other international aid funds and instigate a full investigation."
The Prime Minister stood up, "Yes, I'll ask them." Then he sat down to cheers from all sides. No wonder Jim had suffered from night-time sweats for three years.
After that incident he had tried to forget things but couldn't. He wrote a letter to two Ministers seeking help to investigate his concerns and he talked to Douglas Creighton, his local constituency chairman, about it, but Douglas was showing signs that he thought he was going about things in the wrong way. "Just focus on constituency matters for now, Jim. Why not forget the big issues for the time being."
The living nightmare entered another phase two days after his discussion with Douglas. It was nearly midnight when his mobile phone rang in the tiny apartment in London where he stayed during the week. Margaret, he thought, and checked his watch. It was a bit late for his wife to phone and not many people knew his mobile number. It was a man's voice. "Mr. Smith?"
"Yes. Who is it?"
"You must stop these accusations, Mr. Smith. No good will come of it. Stop now or face the consequences."
Jim, stunned, responded, "Who is this?"
Jim's ear for placing accents was good. The man was possibly French-speaking Belgian. "Stop the questions, Mr. Smith. For your sake, for your family's sake, stop now. You have been warned." Then the caller rang off.
Jim had stared at the phone and checked the caller's number but it had been withheld. "Crank," he said to himself, forgot about it and carried on reading papers. The second call came two days later. This time he was at Paddington Station about to catch a train to go home to Wiltshire for the weekend. "Mr. Smith?" It was the same voice. "We've been doing a check on your old company Smith Technology and your visits to Africa and the Middle East."
"Oh? Yes, I see." Jim had stopped walking, put his case down, moved the phone to his better, left ear, and pushed his long, gray hair back. "Who am I speaking to?"
"You had good business in South Africa, Mr. Smith. But there was some sort of relationship with a lady in Johannesburg
a Mrs. Margo Vos. Do you want to comment? And there was another lady, a Miss Dilini de Silva. Not South African but from somewhere else. Do you know who I'm talking about?"
"No, of course not. Who am I speaking to? What is your name, please?"
"We will have to report this, you understand. There are also some serious concerns about business activities in Africa and the Middle East. You will, of course, be only too aware of bribery and corruption law."
"Who the heck are you? Are you threatening me?"
"Back off, Mr. Smith. Back off. You've already been warned once. Back off or face the consequences." There was a click. The caller, whoever it was, had finished.
Sometimes, at that point in the cold sweat of the nightmares in the hut in Thailand, he would force himself to wake up, switch on the torch, shine it around the room, watch the dust particles in the beam, see a large spider or another gecko. Sometimes he got up and made a coffee or just switched the torch off and tried to sleep again, but it was often useless. The headache would have already started.
He remembered Margo Vos. She was the wife of the owner of an importer he once dealt with. He had had a pleasant enough dinner with them at their house in Cape Town a few times. But who on earth had dredged up this almost forgotten name from the past and why? The last time he'd heard from Walter Vos was
six years ago at least and the last time he'd seen Margo must have been seven or eight years ago. Walter had sold the business. He and Margo had split up. But as for anything untoward between himself and Margo Vos the suggestion was ludicrous.
And then the other name mentioned? Dilini something? The name rang a distant bell somewhere in Jim Smith's mind, but having been married to Margaret for thirty years he would surely have remembered a liaison with someone called Dilini.
Sunday, two days later. At home near Swindon, Margaret had appeared tetchy for most of the day. She hardly spoke over lunch. He tried to talk to her at one point and even thought he might raise the idea of a rare break, a holiday or something, but the phone had rung and Margaret got up quickly to answer it. It was a friend of hers. As usual he didn't listen but he finished his lunch alone, took his plate to the kitchen and went into his study. Margaret was still on the phone. Thinking her mood was something that just happened occasionally with no good reason, he spent the rest of the afternoon there.
By late afternoon he realized he needed to get back to London. Still trying his hardest to be sensitive to Margaret's mood, he said goodbye, kissed her cheek and left. Margaret said nothing but closed the front door before he'd even got into the car. Unusual. Memorable. He spent the night in the Gloucester Road flat but on Monday was at a conference on international trade in Reading where he had been asked to speak on his experiences of exporting to Africa. He had enjoyed the experience and the opportunity of mixing with businesses, but, because he was already annoyed with press coverage, he hadn't bothered to read any of the days' newspapers.
By Monday evening, though, and no longer able to resist checking them, he bought a bundle of dailies outside Gloucester Road tube station, walked to the flat and, as he walked, checked the tabloid. And, yes, there was yet another cartoon of himself. For that paper, he had become a running joke. It was his long, gray hair they found amusing or useful. Not that it was, in his opinion, too long. He had worn it like that for years and liked it that way. It was just that it had become grayer and thinner and he had been likened to the old Labor party leader, Michael Foot. This was, Jim thought, a gross exaggeration, but it bothered him because he felt it was what was said and done that was important, not how one looked.
He let himself into the basement flat, threw the pile of papers onto the coffee table, switched on the TV and went to the kitchen to fill the kettle. With the tap still running, he swilled out a dirty mug that had lain on its side in the sink since Friday. He put it, still dripping, onto the kitchen table, opened the fridge to find it almost empty except for a tub of butter, a pot of marmalade and a carton of orange juice. There was no milk. “Black will do.” He tipped two spoons full of coffee into the wet cup and stood waiting for the sound of the kettle to come to the boil. Instead, it was a familiar voice on the TV that he heard.
“So what have you to say regarding the allegations about your husband?"
Jim rushed from the kitchen to stand in front of the TV. Margaret was standing surrounded by pushing reporters, microphones and TV cameramen. It was clear they had been waiting for her to either arrive home or come out to speak to them but she looked flushed and unsure how to deal with the situation. Jim fell into the nearest chair to watch. Margaret was standing by the gate leading to the gravel driveway of their house. The all-so-familiar blue cedar, the centerpiece of their front garden, was behind her. The front door of the house could be seen as the camera moved to keep Margaret in the center of the screen.
“Please,” he heard her say. “I can’t say anything just now. Please move away.”