Honestly, the sun always shines on the Glencoe Car Park Run.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Columbo, Carnegie, Capone and Dave King

Idiots! They're all idiots. No, that's too kind. They're all loonies. Yes, that's it, loonies. And trolls. They're all looney trolls. Not to forget obsessed. They're all obsessed looney trolls...and idiots, too. Yes, don't forget they're still idiots. And sick idiots at that. Sick, obsessed, idiot, looney trolls. 

Who are these people and why are they all deemed sick, obsessed, idiot, looney trolls? 

Let's look at the case of The Scotsman's Tom English. 

Mr English's alleged crime has been to continually ask questions about the, some would say, dodgy past of potential Rangers investor Dave King, and whether or not he is a fit and proper person to be involved in running a football club in Scotland.

It's only fair at this stage to point out that many others don't consider Mr King's past to be in the slightest bit dodgy. This also gives me the opportunity to say that, even though I don't agree with their analysis of the situation, I won't resort to calling them idiots or obsessed loonies. Neither do I think Mr English is an obsessed idiot.

The highlight of this supposedly dodgy past was Mr King's guilty plea of contravening the South African  Income Tax Act on forty one occasions. There were other, more serious, charges dropped in the agreement between Mr King and SARS (South African Revenue Service). But even without the fraud, money laundering, racketeering and Exchange Control Act charges the High Court still sentenced Mr King to a grand total of eighty two years imprisonment. 

Now, no matter how you look at it, eighty two years in jail is an eye-watering headline.

Mr King, however, managed to buy himself a get out of jail card by agreeing to pay an equally eye-watering sum of approximately £44,000,000.

With this payment Mr King exited the High Court a free man and his debt to South African society was paid, or at least had been agreed to be paid.

This brought to an end a process that started through the courts when he was arrested in 2002.

During that lengthy process High Court judge Justice Southwood labelled Mr King as a glib and shameless liar and mendacious witness who had no respect for the truth and won't hesitate to lie.

But at the end of it all Mr King pleaded guilty in a High Court to forty one contraventions of the Income Tax Act. 

Now, I don't know about you, but I believe anyone who pleads guilty to any offence deemed worthy of being dealt with in the High Court is, by definition, a criminal.

Does that make me an idiot?

Does it confirm my status as a looney?

Am I sick?

Am I obsessed for pointing this out?

If you believe the answer to any of the above is yes I'd love to hear why. In the meantime let's get back to Mr King because the roots of his downfall are far more interesting.

In May 2000 Mr King attended an auction in Johannesburg and purchased a painting called Cape Girl with Fruit for the princely sum of £140,000. 

Considering the sums of money now associated with Mr King £140,000 is a mere drop in the ocean. But at the time Mr King claimed his earnings that year were only £6,279 and had asked his name be taken off the register of taxpayers.

Something didn't add up. How could someone earning so little afford a painting for so much?

Preferring not to keep a low profile Mr King gave an interview to a magazine where he openly discussed the painting. No doubt most readers didn't give the article much thought. 

However, the piece caught the eye of one interested reader. Charles Chipps was a South African Service investigator, likened to Inspector Columbo, who'd just processed Mr King's tax return. Alarm bells started ringing.

Mr Chipps began looking into the businessman's finances and found a vineyard in Stellenbosch, a private jet, Ferrari sports cars and a pounds 1.2million mansion in the most exclusive part of Johannesburg, Sandhurst. 

Mr King had bought four homes, demolished them and built a walled mansion on the site. 

Digging deeper, Mr Chipps found a myriad of companies with Scottish names such as Ben Nevis and Glencoe all connected to Mr King.

It looked like Mr King was, rather than having an income of only £6,279, making millions in shares and not giving the taxman his due. 

The hunt was now well and truly on, all because of the doggedness of Charles 'Columbo' Chipps.

It soon became clear Mr King hadn't paid any income tax since 1990. 

Yet it was only this year (2013) that Mr King finally admitted any wrongdoing; hence his possible jail sentence and subsequent fine.

But, as mentioned earlier, to some this isn't enough evidence of Mr King's criminal past. Some claim he's not guilty of tax offences, even though he pleaded guilty to contraventions on the Income Tax Act. Some claim, incredibly, he's not a criminal because he was fined and not jailed. And in a remarkable display of what many in Scotland call succulent lamb journalism, his crimes, worthy of an eighty two year jail term, are being reported in some newspapers as minor offences. 

In a South African article from 2008 Alec Hogg talked about time spent with Mr King a few years previous. He likened Mr King's reluctance to admit his shortcomings and come clean to that of American criminal Two Gun Crowley, immortalised in Dale Carnegie's classic How To Win Friends And Influence People. 

While crouched behind an overstuffed chair, dodging bullets from the cops and occasionally responding to their fire, "Two Gun" wrote a letter for the one who might come upon his body. The key part read "Under my coat is a weary heart, but a kind one - one that would do nobody any harm."

Carnegie wrote that the claimed innocence of "Two Gun" is part of the human condition. No matter how heinous their crimes, perpetrators rationalise and justify to themselves how they are innocent of all accusations.

Al Capone also genuinely saw himself as a benefactor rather than parasite on society, protesting that "I have spent the best years of my life giving people the lighter pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the existence of a hunted man."

Alec Hogg continues: 

"We have many examples. Most recently lawnmower salesman turned robber of widows and orphans, Fidentia's J Arthur Brown told anyone prepared to listen that he was the one being victimised. That bungling by the authorities caused destitution among the thousands of widows and orphans whose bequests were tied up in Living Hands trust looted by Fidentia .

"While at large, Brown helped convinced himself as much as the rest of world that his cause was honourable, by acquiring as employees the best sporting personalities the stolen money could buy. Creating a veneer of respectability such miscreants seem to crave.

"So it was with King.

"His ill-gotten millions bought half of Gary Player's stud farm in the Karoo, partnership in Player's Blair Athol golf course development  - and the honour of caddying for the famous golfer at the world's most prestigious tournament, The Masters at Augusta.

"Those in the know realise once you cut through the technicalities, he is the original "pump and dump" king. His great fortune amassed in record time through offloading shares in his listed company called Specialised Outsourcing; a company conceived in dubious circumstances and destined, almost as quickly, for the knacker's yard.

"King's company became the first JSE-listed financial services operation to report quarterly results. Each one outdoing the next with glowing reviews and aggressive profit forecasts. Boosting the rapidly rising share price from the pre-listing 120c to more than 60 times that level.

"Protected by then lax rules on disclosure of share sales by directors, King banked around R1,2bn by transferring ownership of a massively overpriced and since defunct company to asset managers. The buyers - trusting institutional fund managers - were never told the shares King was "sourcing" for them came from his own pockets. Had they known this, the buying frenzy in Specialised Outsourcing stock would have fizzled out as quickly as King and his cronies had started it."

"King accused Sars of underhanded tactics; of bullying his sanctimonious butt; and warning the rest of us that where he goes we may also follow. Like we'd have expected from "Two Gun" Crowley, Al Capone or J Arthur Brown."

Like Eliot Ness, Charles 'Columbo' Chipps stuck to the task of following the money in order to find justice, though he never lived to see the case through to the end.

Mr King appears to have taken it all in his stride. 

This glib and shameless liar and mendacious witness who had no respect for the truth and won't hesitate to lie flew into Scotland last week. He claimed to have spoken to the relevant people who may have stood in his way in his quest to return to Rangers. 

Since then both the Scottish Football Association and AIM stock market have issued denials regarding any correspondence with Mr King.

It looks, on the face of it, like Mr King continues to be a glib and shameless liar who has no respect for the truth and won't hesitate to lie.

Hell mend anyone willing to point this out, though. For they will be slandered and ridiculed, like Mr English.

Let's finish with a return to the wise words of Dale Carnegie on How To Win Friends And Influence People.

He wrote, "Wouldn't you like to have a magic phrase that would stop argument, eliminate ill feeling, create good will, and make the other person listen attentively? Yes? All right. Here it is. Begin by saying: "I don't blame you one iota for feeling as you do. If I were you, I should undoubtedly feel just as you do."

It really is that simple. 

Displaying empathy and tolerance of other views is the starting point for any reasoned discussion. 

Closing your mind to the possibility that you might be wrong and others right is bordering on bigotry. 

Labelling those offering opposing views in a well-constructed and reasoned fashion as sick, obsessed, idiot, loony or troll leaves one in no doubt.


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