Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cyril, Che, Spartacus...standing up to be counted in JERSEY

Cyril Vibert interview 18 October 2012.

"A long habit of not thinking something wrong gives it the superficial appearance of being right..."

We have all been annoyed at being fined for some trivial matter such as not displaying a parking disc or not filling in some official form or other before the deadline.

It's not that we have intended to break any law but we are sometimes treated as "criminals" just for a simple lapse of memory. Nobody is a victim. There is no loss or injury but somehow the "system" demands that we should be punished and/or inconvenienced and we have all wondered why? What really is the purpose of imposing a "criminal" sanction on otherwise innocent people trying to cope with our ever more complex style of life?

For Cyril a parking ticket  or "notice" in St Helier was the last straw and he began wondering why should he have to respond at all - who has dreamed up this complex charade of pseudo contracts, obligations, fines and other impositions?

Here he explains his thinking and why he is challenging the obscure legal mumbo jumbo that surrounds so much that passes for "justice" in and out of the court system.

Most of us just pay the fine, grumble a bit, but don't make a fuss.

Fortunately, people like Cyril come along from time to time to challenge the validity of entrenched practices and procedures. During his most recent Magistrates' Court hearing (although as with all Jersey courts the "hearing" system is not very good for the public to follow matters easily) it was obvious that his words are being noted. The Magistrate (as discussed in this video interview) was outspoken in her criticisms of the behaviour of the States' Police officers who knocked on his door demanding information. So critical indeed that their charges were quashed - but who will have learned from this experience? There was no "accredited media" presence during the hearing so presumably the lessons will not be learned by the general public - but how about the 240 or so officers of the States Police or the 250 Jersey lawyers who will be advising their future clients....?

As Cyril says there is much more to this than mere "parking fines" - the challenge he makes is to the very roots and presumptions that prop-up  judicial credibility here and elsewhere...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Jersey political heroes - more dead than alive...?

Abraham Jones Le Cras – where are you now? Your Island needs you!

Like so many born outside Jersey, Abraham Le Cras believed in and campaigned for political and social reform in the Bailiwick over many years during the 19th century.

He was probably a spin-off from the very wealthy merchant and naval family (such as Noah Le Cras) which had Jersey links but lived mostly in England in the 18th century - but Abraham personally often struggled to scrape a living.

Abraham was born in Salisbury (Hants) during1798 and died in Jersey in 1869.
The short video above records an attempt to identify for certain his grave in Green Street cemetery this week.
It is somewhat ironic that he lies amongst the graves of many political campaigners and refugees from all over Europe that came to rest in Jersey during the reign of Victoria – but that is another tale that somebody should research and publish on…especially if the proposed new Police HQ is likely to bury any of the evidence…

That there is some uncertainty over his final resting place is typical of the official Jersey attitude towards reformers and we have just passed by 28 September – the anniversary of Jersey’s revolution in 1769 – yet again with no official acknowledgement of its importance.

We know that the official entry for 28 September was officially scribbled out of the official court records in 1769 and this simple act is typical of the controlling of the record and our memory of the history of the Island that continues to this day.

There is still an Island attitude that favours an “official” view of events whether this might be the Occupation or the image of the modern finance industry.
As in 1769 or during Abraham Le Cras’ lifetime, to speak out or to offer a different or challenging point of view is still likely to invite official condemnation or ridicule.

Thus many years after Le Cras had died it was just too painful for Jersey’s celebrated “historian“ (and man of God) the Reverend Balleine to put aside his own prejudices in order to assess Abraham for his volume on “Jersey Bibliographies”  wherein Le Cras was dismissed as an AGITATOR.

He was physically attacked on several occasions in the Streets of St Helier and is still dismissed today as a political crank by “the establishment” for his views that rubbished the status of “King John’s Charter” (still the foundation of Jersey’s Constitution according to the Senator Sir Philip Bailhache) or the powers of the States’ claim to be an independent “government”.

During his busy life, Abraham carried out the most extensive research into the history and constitution of Jersey and the other Channel Islands. How he gained access to many of the original documents is a mystery (bearing in mind that even the States was closed to the public). But some of his original writing survives in Le Societé and Public libraries along with examples of the several newspapers that he published from the appropriately named Hope Street in St Helier.

Now, there is a great deal posted about him and his career on the Internet – just Google Abraham Le Cras to enter a different world where the bravery of this man during a life-long campaign can be glimpsed.

Don’t expect such information to be offered in oven-ready, easy to swallow format here.
If YOU are interested to discover it is now possible to read on-line his 1839 book on “The Laws, Customs and Privileges and their Administration in the Island of Jersey”. This contains his 52 Articles Petition to the UK Parliament seeking REFORM and be amazed how so much of  this is bang-on relevant for Jersey TODAY.

It is even possible to purchase on-line a facsimile “print to order” copy of this book (he published others too) which is still a valuable source of relevant information about Jersey and its institutions. Then he wrote that the purpose of his 1839 petition and book was to expose;
“…the scandalous laws of Jersey and the wretched way in which they are administered in the fervent hope that it will provoke enquiry and be the means of causing such abuses as shall be proved to exist, to be forthwith reformed…”

The States of Jersey he decided  then "has become a useless body"so just what would he have made of today's shower?

So, don’t just sit there doing nothing in 2012 or wishing for somebody else to complain on YOUR behalf.
If you believe that Jersey government, the courts, legal system and their administration need REFORM it is still possible to petition the Privy Council, or the UK Parliament or have an input in the Jersey Electoral Commission or to lobby States’ Members or join a political or campaigning group….Abraham Le Cras would be amazed at the ease with which we can access information today and the failure of so many to put such a facility to good use.

Just because Abraham is now sleeping is no excuse for YOU to do nothing….

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

PIRRWITZ v AI and PI - the most expensive Jersey show for years...

Pirrwitz v AI and PI in the Jersey Court

If you need the services of a Jersey lawyer to give advice on some simple legal dispute, the chances are that you will not bother to ask. At least, not unless you meet a friendly lawyer in the pub and manage to extract some “pro bono” words of wisdom over an orange juice.

In other circumstances, as we know too well it’s not just the oranges that get squeezed by or for our particularly avaricious legal eagles’ pleasure or reward. Even the simplest legal consultation costs many hundreds of pounds and the experience is usually unpleasant.

So when I dropped into the “Old Library” Royal Court recently to see what the case of Pirrwitz v AI and PI was all about I was amazed to observe that there were eight or ten of the super expensive vultures busily pecking away at some obscure financial skeletons.

Besides which there was the Deputy Bailiff with two Jurats, all dressed up in their finest red robes, as well as the court Greffier and ushers. There were also a couple of anonymous men in suits – who might have been more lawyers – sitting at one of the tables and there was also the well dressed witness, under cross-examination. He claimed professional qualifications and expertise (but not in law) and spoke with a “foreign” accent and mostly about euros. Although he did mention a board meeting over dinner at the Longueville Manor in Jersey and others in Vienna, Turkey and Bratislava…

All in all, this was a very expensive show to put on just for my benefit as the only member of the general public present and this apparently went on for the whole week, morning and afternoon. When the court adjourned at 5 pm on Friday and one counsel enquired “when it might end?” (feeling fees fatigue perhaps?) we learned that yet more expert witnesses were being flown in from Italy on Monday, that the current witness might as well stay for the weekend because he too would be required again  - and the case would go on at least until Wednesday…

So plenty more lovely fees to be paid yet by somebody and no doubt there would be much wining and dining at chic places in anticipation of a good result for one party or another in the fullness of time…and the “court costs” must be horrendous too. So this must be the benefit for Jersey?

So far as I am aware, there was no press presence – I presume that this is just an everyday case of no particular importance in the world of Jersey finance.
So not of local interest then?

However, this case that has mysteriously come to roost in this odd little jurisdiction (although the matters complained have little of nothing to do with the Island or its residents) has been reported-on quite extensively overseas.

The following extract is typical and serves to outline what has been going on with the management of these “publicly quoted” AI and PI companies, out of sight and out of mind of any Jersey regulation or concern although JFSC is supposed to have looked at some dubious dealings here in the past.

Jersey Advocates Collas Crill describe their involvement on their own website as a complex landmark “Dispute resolution” case with Advocates Nuno Costa and Danny Le Maistre leading their team in cooperation with Latham & Watkins of London and Wolf Theis of Vienna on behalf of Meini Bank AG (Austria) etc.

Unfortunately the sound systems in Jersey courts must be designed to prevent the public hearing what is going on but there is a cast of many millions (in fees) who have been milking these “two Jersey investment funds” for years - although they are due to be wound up (and presumably buried) this October (according to unflattering reports in the Telegraph and other well known scandal sheets).

Crill Canavan and Carey Olsen seem to have been the principal Jersey firms with a managing interest in the funds.
During the “hearing” one witness suggested that the annual management fees were as much as 10 millions euros for each fund so if this sort of money came the way of Jersey lawyers- well it indicates the scale of the case.

Local boy Richard Boleat’s involvements were also frequently referred to – and his finance profile is visible on the NET…

Bjorn Pirrwitz who was a non executive director for just a few months but collected huge fees is suing for the non-payment of 1.3 million euros which he claims is due to him as an “Ogley” payment or “exit fee” regardless of whether he fell or was pushed…

This is the wonderful world of finance with its smelly and sordid entrails exposed to public gaze – but it is just not being reported in Jersey.

Today (Wednesday) is the final scheduled day in the Jersey “Old Library” Court – so catch it if you can.

The report from FORMAT trend “the portal for business and money” that follows has been translated from a German original on-line, but the meaning is clear enough.

AI and PI as a self-service store: Board members collect exorbitant salaries

  • Björn Pirrwitz klagt PI und AI auf 1,3 Millionen Euro Björn Pirrwitz complains PI and AI to 1.3 million Euros
  • Vilsmeiers Monatslohn beläuft sich auf 30.000 Euro Vilsmeiers monthly wage amounts to 30,000 euros
Die Klage eines früheren Boardmitglieds der Meinl-Nachfolgegesellschaften zeichnet ein unschönes Sittenbild. The action brought by a former board member of Meinl's successor companies paints an ugly portrait of manners. Die Rebellen gönnten sich absurde Gehälter. The rebels gave themselves ridiculous salaries.
Sie sind mit dem Anspruch angetreten, für mehr Transparenz zu sorgen und die Abzocke durch die Meinl Bank zu beenden: die sogenannten Rebellen, die bei Meinl Airports International im Juli des Vorjahres und bei Meinl International Power im darauf folgenden Herbst die Macht übernommen haben. They are with the claim set out to provide more transparency and end the rip-off by Meinl Bank: the so-called rebels, who have taken over from Meinl Airports International in July of last year and at Meinl International Power in the following autumn the power. Heute sieht das eher nach Lippenbekenntnissen aus. Today, it looks more like lip service. Denn auch die neuen Herren dürften die beiden Firmen, die heute Airports International (AI) und Power International (PI) heißen, als Selbstbedienungsladen betrachten. Even the new masters should consider the two companies, which are now called Airports International (AI) and Power International (PI), as a self-service store.

Klage eingebracht Action introduced
Aus einer Klage des ehemaligen Boardmitglieds Björn Pirrwitz (im Bild links) , die FORMAT exklusiv vorliegt, lässt sich dies jedenfalls ableiten. From a lawsuit by former board member Björn Pirrwitz (pictured left), which is present exclusively FORMAT, this can in any case be derived. Pirrwitz, der im April dieses Jahres aus den Gesellschaften – nicht ganz freiwillig – ausschied, fordert von PI 700.000 Euro und von AI 600.000 Euro „Exit Payment“. Pirrwitz that in April this year from the companies - not entirely voluntary - retired calls from PI 700,000 euros and 600,000 euros from AI "exit payment". In der Klage beruft sich Pirrwitz auf ein Agreement mit dem ebenfalls letzte Woche ausgeschiedenen Chairman Wolfgang Vilsmeier. The lawsuit cites Pirrwitz an agreement last week with the also retiring Chairman Wolfgang Vilsmeier. Dieses legt die Summen fest, die bei Abwahl oder Ausscheiden eines Boardmitglieds ausgezahlt werden. This sets out the amounts that are paid for deselection or resignation of a Board member. Im Falle von Pirrwitz also insgesamt saftige 1,3 Millionen Euro. In the event of a total Pirrwitz hefty 1.3 million euros. Und das für gerade einmal neun Monate Tätigkeit in den Gesellschaften. And for a mere nine months of activity in the companies. Damit aber nicht genug: In zwei weiteren Klagen fordert Pirrwitz beim Gericht in Jersey Überstundennachzahlungen für März 2009, seinen letzten Arbeitsmonat. But that's not all: In two other lawsuits Pirrwitz asks the Court in Jersey overtime payments for March 2009, his last month of work. Der AI verrechnet er insgesamt 106 Überstunden, davon 30 am Wochenende. The AI ​​he netted a total of 106 overtime hours, including 30 on the weekend. Macht 30.250 Euro. Makes 30,250 euros. Bei der PI begnügt er sich mit 89 Überstunden, davon 32 am Wochenende. When he is satisfied with 89 PI overtime, including 32 on the weekend. Saldo: 26.000 Euro. Balance: € 26,000.

Fürstliche Entlohnung Princely reward
Die Anzahl der Überstunden resultiert aus einem Anfang März 2009 neu festgelegten Vergütungsschema für beide Firmen. The number of overtime resulted from a early March 2009 redefined compensation scheme for both companies. Dieses sieht für jedes Boardmitglied eine monatliche Vergütung von 12.500 Euro vor – pro Gesellschaft, versteht sich. This provides for each Board member a monthly salary of 12,500 euros - per company, of course. Ergibt also ein Fixum von 25.000. Therefore results in a fixed amount of 25,000. Chairman Vilsmeier kassierte noch etwas mehr, nämlich insgesamt 30.000 Euro pro Monat. Chairman Vilsmeier conceded something more, namely a total of 30,000 euros per month. Für diesen Betrag mussten die Rebellen allerdings nur fünf Tage pro Monat arbeiten. For this amount, the rebels had to work only five days a month. Für jeden Wochentag darüber hinaus kassierten die Herren zusätzliche 2.000 Euro, für jeden Tag am Wochenende 3.000 Euro. For each day beyond conceding Messrs. additional 2,000 euros for each day on the weekend 3,000 euros. Wobei in diesem Schema ein Tag nur mit genau acht Stunden berechnet wird. And in this scheme, a day will be charged only with exactly eight hours. Allein im März 2009 hätte Pirrwitz also mehr als 81.000 Euro für 243 Arbeitsstunden verdient: ein Stundenlohn von 330 Euro, der so manchen Vorstand österreichischer Großkonzerne alt aussehen lässt. Only in March 2009 Pirrwitz would thus earn more than 81,000 euros for 243 hours of work as an hourly wage of 330 euros, which can look like some old Board of Austrian corporations. Auf 243 Arbeitsstunden kommt ein fleißigerer Abteilungsleiter in einem normalen Unternehmen auch, aber nur auf ein Zehntel dieser Gage. To 243 working hours fleißigerer Head comes in a normal business, but only a tenth of this fee. Geht man davon aus, dass die anderen Boardmitglieder ähnliche Arbeitsleistungen wie ihr Kollege Pirrwitz erbringen (bzw. erbrachten), ergibt das Jahresgehälter in der Größenordnung von rund einer Million für die Manager von AI und PI. Assuming that the other board members to provide similar kinds of labor as their colleague Pirrwitz (or services), the annual salary is in the range of about one million for the managers of AI and PI. Aber die Aktionäre können sich trösten: Im Oktober hat das Schauspiel ein Ende, die Gesellschaften werden dann aufgelöst. But the shareholders can console themselves: In October, the drama is over, the company will then be dissolved.

Von Andreas Lampl und Angelika Kramer By Andreas Lampl and Angelika Kramer

Im Bild (vl): Björn Pirrwitz, Hans-Peter Dohr und Wolfgang Vilsmeier In the photo (from left): Björn Pirrwitz, Hans-Peter Dohr and Wolfgang Vilsmeier