Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Frank and Rupert Show

Hate, like evil, is a strong word. It should not be used lightly. But I hate you, Rupert Murdoch. And I hate the stupid hacks who do your evil bidding, because they force me to sit up at night writing reality-checks like this when I could be doing far more enjoyable things.

I also hate Frank Lowy. He's a man who is feted as an Australian hero because he has a lot of money, his family survived the horrors of Auschwitz, and he supposedly likes football. But he treats his Westfield tenants like rubbish, he aids the Israeli persecution of Palestinians, and he doesn't pay his taxes. In fact he goes out of his way to avoid paying taxes. And the Murdoch media helps ensure that nobody in Australia worries too much about that.

But of course, sometimes there's a story. A story that cannot be ignored. So what are you going to do? Let your enemies break the news first and frame the story to suit their interests? Or get the jump, frame the story to suit your own interests, and sell a few newspapers?

OK. The answer is obvious. So how does the Murdoch press frame the story that keeps me awake tonight? The first paragraph reminds us what a great bloke Frank Lowy is. The second para explains that our hero "is in the midst of a mammoth battle to protect his rights against tax authorities". Well, we can all relate to that,right? But if YOU refused to pay your taxes in full, would the Murdoch press frame YOUR story that way? Again, the answer is obvious.

The third para gives us the "back story". Thanks to a whistle-blower named Heinrich Kieber, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) has evidence that Lowy has been using Liechtenstein banks to avoid paying his taxes. But of course they don't call Kieber a "brave whistle-blower". He is framed as a criminal who "stole the details of 1400 LGT Bank clients" then "SOLD OR GAVE THEM to tax authorities around the world."

Well, wait a minute. Did he sell the data, or give it away? Surely that's a big clue to his motives? The answer appears to be a mixture of both. Kieber knew his life was in danger as soon as he leaked the data, and he may have solicited money as part of deals with those who most wanted the information, including the US government and the ATO.

(Never mind that Kieber has since handed over all the data to Julian Assange's Wikileaks. Or that Kieber apparently now lives in Australia, where some kind of witness protection scheme was presumably part of the deal. But more of that anon...)

Paragraph four tells us that Kieber was due to give evidence in a Brisbane court last week. But - horrors! - it seems he could now "give evidence in closed court - protecting the man who gave away the secrets of so many." So Australian courts are protecting this dangerous villian, eh?!

Even worse, as para five highlights in a single sentence: "The move would also avoid public scrutiny of the tax office's dealings with him." Now there's your frame! Got it? Murdoch and Lowy want to know exactly what the ATO is up to!

So what do we have so far, people?

A crazy psycho who stole personal data from a reputable bank and sold it for personal profit to the ATO, who are now scheming to bring down a great Australian hero? Or a brave man who leaked details of widespread global criminal activity and is now struggling to bring it to light without being assassinated?

I will let you decide for yourself. Go read the article, for starters. But don't assume the Murdoch media is giving you the full story. The internet is your friend, if you just give it enough attention.

Frank Lowy's lawyer, Abbe Lovell, is a former counsel to American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and disgraced US lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He knows exactly how he wants this story framed, and the Murdoch media is clearly there to help him.

According to para twenty, Lowy sent a two-page letter to the ATO on July 3, 2008, with 1100 pages of attachments. Abbe Lovell wants to know if the ATO forwarded Lowy's entire dossier to the Internal Revenue Service. A US judge recently ordered the IRS to provide more information on this.

Meanwhile, just quietly, the Murdoch media wants everybody involved to know that they have "obtained the transcript of interviews between Mr Kieber and three high-ranking members of the tax office, as well as a letter sent by Mr Kieber in 2006." Not that they are taking sides or anything. Just letting you know. Before the court case on Tuesday. And that.

Oh! And importantly: "neither Frank Lowy, nor any of his family members, are named in the documents." Well, of course not! Perish the thought!

Kieber's own chilling words are buried in the penultimate paragraphs:

"Looking at your country's files, the key data of my material include: around 60 names of individuals (Australian citizen or NON-Australian citizen living in Australia) as Beneficial Owners of over $110 millions AU$ on offshore bank accounts with indication of much more Millions in other Banks/Offshore countries."

"My original e-documents ... provide more than enough details to identify each individuals and his/her chosen legal entity (i.e. Foundation, Trust, Ltd, Company or Establishment)."

PS: (final para) - there's no proof the ATO paid Kieber anything more than an airfare and accomodation. Oops.

MORE on Lowy's Liechtenstein connections here.

MORE on ATO's Project Wickenby here.

UPDATE: The Murdoch media's previous form on this story: "THE Liechtenstein snitch" is a "cunning adversary" in the outback on the run from Russian and Balkan organised crime gangs.

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