Cameron in trade offensive amid India graft scandal

Updated 18 February 2013
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Cameron in trade offensive amid India graft scandal

MUMBAI: British Prime Minister David Cameron flew into India yesterday promising to try to revive Indian interest in the Eurofighter even though New Delhi has chosen a French-made rival and as a graft scandal is engulfing an Anglo-Italian helicopter deal.
Cameron said the two countries enjoy a “special relationship,” a term usually reserved for Britain’s ties with the United States, but it is a relationship undergoing profound change. For now, Britain’s economy is the sixth largest in the world and India’s the 10th. But India is forecast to overtake its old colonial master in the decades ahead. In a nod to how the relationship is evolving, Britain will stop giving India aid after 2015.
Making his second visit to India as prime minister, Cameron’s trip comes days after a similar trade mission by French President Francois Hollande, underlining how Europe’s debt-stricken states are competing to tap into one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
Cameron’s delegation, which includes representatives of more than 100 companies, is the biggest taken abroad by a British premier and includes four ministers and nine MPs.
But the timing of the trip is not ideal. India said on Friday it wanted to cancel a $ 750 million deal for a dozen helicopters made by AgustaWestland, the Anglo-Italian subsidiary of Italy’s Finmeccanica, over bribery claims.
That will not make Cameron’s job of persuading India to buy more civil and military hardware easier, and Indian officials have told the local press they intend to press Cameron for “a fully-fledged report” on what Britain knows about the scandal.
Britain has said it wants to wait until the end of the Italian investigation before commenting in full, but has given India an interim report on the subject. “This is something for the Italian and Indian authorities to deal with and I’m sure they will,” Cameron told reporters yesterday, saying issues had been raised that needed to be settled.
Meanwhile, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said yesterday the government had nothing to hide in the $ 750 million deal for AgustaWestland helicopters. The ministry has asked AgustaWestland to show by Friday that no bribes were paid in the deal and says it is ready to cancel the purchase outright. The helicopter company says it will comply with the request. In his first comments on the affair since Italian police arrested Finmeccanica head Giuseppe Orsi last week, Singh said the government wanted to debate the issue in parliament, which begins a new session tomorrow.


"Parliament is the appropriate forum to discuss all issues raised by the opposition. We are ready for any discussion," Singh told reporters. "We have nothing to hide."
The furore over the helicopter deal follows a string of graft cases that have buffeted Singh's government, which is nearing the end of a second five-year term and faces elections due in early 2014. The opposition is expected to raise the issue once parliament opens.
Cameron said he would tell the Indian government that the Eurofighter jet, which is partly built in Britain, remains an attractive option if India decides to review a multi-billion dollar deal to buy 126 French-made Rafale fighters. New Delhi rejected the Eurofighter last year.
Cameron told his hosts they should open up their economy because Britain had done the same for Indian firms. He said he was proud of the fact that Indian companies like Tata group, the owner Jaguar Land Rover, had such a strong foothold in the British economy, but said he expected a reciprocal arrangement.
“Britain is an open economy and we encourage that investment,” he said. “I think, in return, we should be having a conversation about opening up the Indian economy, making it easier to do business here, allowing insurance and banking companies to do more foreign direct investment.”
India still had outdated rules and regulations, Cameron complained.
Cameron’s visit to India, which won independence from Britain in 1947 and whose colonial history remains a sensitive subject for many Indians, will take in Mumbai and New Delhi.
His office said business deals that will be announced during the trip would create 500 British jobs and safeguard a further 2,000.


More than 70 countries commit to combat terror financing

Updated 32 min 56 sec ago
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More than 70 countries commit to combat terror financing

  • Participants at an international conference in Paris agreed to “fully criminalize” terror financing
  • The two-day event was convened by French President Emmanuel Macron

PARIS: More than 70 countries committed Thursday to bolster efforts in the fight against terrorism financing associated with Daesh and Al-Qaeda.
Participants at an international conference in Paris agreed to “fully criminalize” terror financing through effective and proportionate sanctions “even in the absence of a link to a specific terrorist act.”
The two-day event was convened by French President Emmanuel Macron to coordinate efforts to reduce the terror threat in the long-term.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, IMF chief Christine Lagarde, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Abdel Al-Jubeir and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani were all present.
Macron, who has returned to France from a state visit to the United States, is expected to close the conference later with a call for the necessity for multilateral action.
Daniel Lewis, executive secretary of the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force, said he is hoping that words will be put into action.
“When we have information — for example the UN list of individuals and entities financing terrorism — we need to make sure measures like asset freezing are implemented fully and quickly,” Lewis told The Associated Press.
Participants called for better information-sharing between intelligence services, law enforcement, financial businesses and the technology industry. They also agreed to improve the traceability of funds going to non-governmental organizations and charity associations.
Participants included countries that have accused each other of funding terrorism, notably in the Arabian Gulf.
France has pushed for international coordination and more transparency in financial transactions. But it has recognized how sensitive the issue is, and saw the conference as a first step for coordinated action.
The French organizers noted that Daesh military defeats on the ground have not prevented the group from pursuing its terrorist activities, along with Al-Qaeda — especially in unstable regions of Afghanistan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Yemen, Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa.
Terror groups don’t only rely on the cash economy — they’re using increasingly hard-to-track tools like prepaid cards, online wallets and crowdfunding operations.
Daesh has also invested in businesses and real estate to ensure its financing. Daesh revenues alone were estimated at $2.5 billion between 2014 and 2016, according to the French president’s office.
Though most of the attacks in Western countries do not cost a lot of money, a French official said terror groups “behave like big organizations” in that it “costs a lot to recruit, train, equip people and spread propaganda.” The official was speaking anonymously under the presidency’s customary practice.
The French counterterrorism prosecutor Francois Molins told FranceInfo radio that Daesh uses micro-financing techniques to collect a great number of small amounts of money.
Work with the financial intelligence unit helped identify 416 people in France who have donated money to Daesh over the last two years, he said.
Money, he said, went to “320 collectors mostly based in Turkey and Lebanon from whom jihadis in Iraq and Syria could receive funds.”
In recent years, the US and other Western nations have encouraged Middle Eastern nations to close off such sources.
However, allegations over extremist funding in part sparked a near-yearlong boycott of Qatar by four Arab states.
Qatar denies funding extremists, though it has faced Western criticism about being lax in enforcing rules.
Participants agreed to hold a similar conference next year in Australia.