Mayday: Crown Agents exposed
- Mayday protest at Victoria exposes Crown Agents' role in war
author: worthing anarchists
Friday 02 May 2003
Protesters staged an autonomous Mayday morning picket of Crown
Agents' London office, holding a banner across its front entrance and
handing out 300 leaflets in one hour to passers-by in Buckingham
Palace Road, between Victoria rail and bus stations.
The main text of the leaflet was as follows:
Agents of War and Greed
THERE is more than one kind of looter operating in Iraq at the
We've all heard about desperate, impoverished masses grabbing
whatever they can for themselves and their families under cover of
the chaos and destruction caused by the illegal US/UK invasion.
But you won't have heard so much about a very well established and
well connected British organisation which is basically helping big
greedy multinational companies to cash in on the riches of a country
that has now been forcibly 'opened up' to western business interests.
The firm is called Crown Agents and its London office is at 150
Buckingham Palace Road, Victoria. It also has a big office in Sutton
and an International Management Training Centre in Worthing.
Crown Agents' usually low profile has been raised over the last month
or two by its role in the take-over of Iraq.
A report on the BBC website on March 11, before the war was launched,
commented: "A fairly narrow coterie of international firms has
developed a reliable sideline in post-war clean-ups. Construction
firms such as the US's Fluor and Bechtel, Britain's Costain and
Balfour Beatty, and France's Spie are usually the first in; service
providers such as British Crown Agents and Swiss SGS are rarely far
behind. Sometimes, this results in a sordid scramble or stitch-up."
This prediction of Crown Agents' involvement quickly proved spot-on.
The Independent reported on March 31: "Crown Agents, a privatised
development assistance firm, has become the first British company to
win a contract in the American programme to rebuild Iraq. It will be
a subcontractor to International Resources Group (IRG), a US
professional services firm providing technical assistance for
planning and management of the reconstruction and rehabilitation
activities in Iraq."
So what exactly does Crown Agents do? If you want a straight answer,
the one place not to look is the firm's own website,
www.crownagents.com, which projects a predictably rose-tinted view of
the organisation and its role in the world. It claims: "We help
countries and public sector entities and businesses within those
countries, to grow. We do this by working in partnership with our
clients to confer the skills, ideas and material resources each needs
at every stage of their development."
But you can begin to understand what all this 'help'
and 'development' might really all be about by glancing at the
history section on the Crown Agents site. This reveals that its
beginnings were in oiling the cogs of the British empire in the 19th
century: "Crown Agents originated in 1833, when the Joint Agents
General for Crown Colonies were appointed by H.M. Government. The
Agents' remit was to reduce costs and increase efficiency in the
procurement of goods and services to the Crown Colonies."
Exactly 170 years later, Crown Agents is still busy facilitating
imperialism, though these days the global greed machine prefers the
Stars and Stripes to the Union Jack as its flag of convenience.
Privatised in March 1997, Crown Agents lurks in that murky area
between state and business that has become so central in the new age
of corporate government. Its board boasts some notable links to the
world of big business and banking - and these are just the ones
actually declared on its own website! Chairman Peter Berry is "a
director of listed investment trusts and Kier Group plc". Deputy
chairman Francis Summer is "a non-executive director of the Bankers
Investment Trust plc". Chief executive Jack Garvey has enjoyed a
career with Unilever, Proctor and Gamble and Pepsico.
Its holding entity is The Crown Agents Foundation, whose membership
includes token 'worthy' organisations such as Christian Aid and
British Overseas NGOs for Development. But the vast majority of names
of both permanent and elected members hail, once again, from the
world of business. There is the International Chamber of Commerce,
for instance, and the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders
Forum, not to mention Barclays Bank, British Telecommunications plc,
Securicor plc, the Securities Institute, Standard Chartered Bank,
Tate and Lyle plc and Unilever plc, for whom Crown Agents chief exec
Mr Garvey put in such good work over the years.
The British Government is also still very much involved with Crown
Agents and is a Special Member of the Foundation. Indeed, it is
important to remember that without governments to help them on their
way, the sharks of multinational business would not be able to
operate. Big companies can't wage wars to take over 'new markets'
across the world. They need governments to do that for them. Big
companies can't tax the population to pay for the wars or
the 'rebuilding'. They need governments to do that, too. That's why
it's so vital to these interests that political parties like New
Labour are `business friendly'. Together, these partners in crime
form a double act of con merchants ripping off the rest of us in the
most lucrative scam you could imagine. Every year, more and more of
our tax money is redirected by our corrupt central government
straight into the pockets of the big business fat cats.
We have been victims of this in the UK for years, with the constant
privatisation of services that used to be under public ownership. Now
it's the Iraqi people's turn to enjoy the wonderful world of
business `democracy', as author Naomi Klein explained in The Guardian
on April 14.
She wrote: "Rather than rebuilding, the country is being treated as a
blank slate on which the most ideological Washington neo-liberals can
design their dream economy: fully privatised, foreign-owned and open
for business... What is being planned is not reparations,
reconstruction or rehabilitation. It is robbery: mass theft disguised
as charity; privatisation without representation."
There may still be some readers out there who think the war on Iraq
was fought because of breaches of UN resolutions or the weapons of
mass destruction that were strangely never used.
But the Crown Agents' involvement in Iraq, and the way it is linking
government with big business in a greedy scramble to strip Iraq bare,
is yet another factor pointing towards an entirely different agenda
behind the whole sordid, bloody affair.