POLICE were called to remove around over 20 people from the Glasgow offices of one of the U.K.'s "Big Four" accounting firms, Deloitte, at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the company's offices on the 9th floor of a building in the city's central George Square.
The protesters included disabled people and one Letisha McGavary, 80, a former Nursing Sister in the N.H.S., and a young school student of 16.
They said they were there to allege a corrupt 'tax-dodging' relationship between the firm's Chairman David Cruikshank and David Hartnett, Chairman of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and to assert that its existence was "destroying people's lives".
The also alleged a cover-up of accusations of alleged corruption between the firm and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Minister Chris Grayling and demanded an immediate investigation.
David Churchley, a member of the Scottish-based Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights said "We are here today today to expose what, to us, appears at best a compromised and inappropriately cosy relationship between "The Two David's" - Britain's top tax-doging guru David Cruikshank and HMRC boss David Hartnett - and at worst a corrupt one."
"Either way, the outcome for us little disabled people is the same. While these two men cut deals in secret that translate into tens of billions of pounds in tax being "avoided" we disabled are being absolutely hammered and forced to carry the can for the financial crisis. If these big companies would simply pay what they owe there would be no need to cut anything, and disabled people would not be getting spat at in the street - or worse - as being "fakers" and "benefit cheats" who are "swinging the lead" he said.
Asked to explain further, Churchley said "On the one one hand, we are being systematically defamed, scapegoated and demonised by a hate campaign in the tabloid media that is instigated, aided and abetted by the DWP's Chris Grayling and which brands us as a burden on society's scarce resources and a drain on "hard working taxpayers" during this time of crisis; and on the other, we're having the benefits we need to survive and to which we are lawfully entitled withdrawn through a completely discredited "Work Capability Assessment" régime administered by French multinational IT firm Atos Origin on behalf of the DWP. In the words of Dr. Dylan Murphy of Marsden reported this week, the assesments are making life a misery for thousands of people who suffer long term health problems.
"Basically, if Atos find a pulse they'll pass you off as fit for work. The assessment centre down at Cadogan Street has been nicknamed "Lourdes" because their decisions are so incredible, he said."
Churchley continued "Our campaign also wishes to highlight that while the Wirral Resource Centre, a charity in Birkenhead that provides physiotherapy and play therapy for around 90 children with special needs and lends toys and equipment to families is whacked with a £16,000 tax bill because of an accounting error made in the early 90s when the centre was run by completely different people, multinationals like Vodafone are having billions of pounds of unpaid tax written off completely in secret deals brokered by these two."
Private Eye reported in its latest issue that the charity has been given a year to find the cash, which it reported would have to be raised by eating up the proceeds of dozens of the raffles, sponsored walks and coffee mornings that usually keep the service afloat.
Churchley said that "Black Triangle Camapign condemns the ditching of "sound governance arrangements" at HMRC (under which tax investigations should be concluded by people with the requisite technical and legal expertise) in favour of "specific governance arrangements" which involve "signing off by the commissioners without prior reference to the Programme Board"."
A "Programme Board" is made up of a panel of HMRC senior officials.
"This translates to Vodafone style deals being done privately between the two Davids without correct clearance" he said.
The insiders are reprted by the Eye as having said that under the "specific governance arrangements" Hartnett cannot be criticised for his failure to consult HMRC's own specialists and lawyers over on the merits of the Revenue's case and that, had he bothered to do so, they would almost certainly have advocated a harder line. It transpires that Hartnett himself approved three deals that he himself had negotiated as HMRC commissioner.
Churchley continued by saying that "According to Richard ????? of Tax Research UK and the Tax Justice Network, the difference in the amount of tax owed to the public purse by these corporations and individuals and the amount that is collected is in the region of £120 billion. Additionally, according to the Sunday Times Rich List, 10 of the 11 richest individuals in our country have an estimated combined net worth of £85 billion pounds and £0.0005 billion is all they pay in fees for the privilege of being classified as "non-domiciled" by HMRC. Deloitte has operations in seven of these offshore tax havens and is instrumental in enabling this racket that means that the poorest and most vulnerable in our society are forced to suffer to go continue."
Sean Clerchan of Glasgow's Citizens United Against Public Sector Cuts and Privatisation said that the impact of tax avoidance on individuals and communities in Glasgow was intolerable and must not be permitted to continue a day longer.
He said "Citizens United condemns the secrecy and lack of transparency at HMRC and the practices of 'Big Four' accounting firms, such as this one, which mean that the public purse is being defrauded to the tune of £120 billion pounds. This is money that, if it were paid, would be enough to cancel out the need for any cuts to public services, whether we are talking about social care, the disabled, the elderly, schools and universities or the National Health Service".
"If they would only paid what they owe, we would be able to reverse all these policies attacking our communities. Not a single cut would have to be made. We demand an immediate end to this absolutely disgraceful and immoral situation between Deloitte and HMRC, whereby the poorest and most vulnerable people in society are neglected and left to die in circumstances such as we have seen in the Southern Cross homes scandal because of lack of funding and the privatisation of public services"
Clerchan called for an investigation into corruption allegations made by Glasgow MP Jim Robertson in April accusing DWP Minister Chris Grayling of seven breaches of the Ministerial Code of Conduct in awarding the maximum of seven "provider" contracts to Deloitte Ingeus for the Department's "Work Programme" over other local social enterprises. Grayling had received a political donation £27,000 and had had three members of Deloittes staff seconded to his office in the recent past.
Clerchan said "No matter where we look today we see inappropriate relationships between the business, power and media élites of our society. We are are all being stitched-up. Until these problems are addressed the future for us all is very bleak indeed. These allegations have simply been swept under the carpet."
He continued "In other cases we see the appointment "safe pairs of hands" to investigate workings and wrongdoings of public and private organisations, whether that be the people who constitute the House of Commons Select Committees on Taxation or Work and Pensions, who both published lame reports last week that can only be described as traditional 'whitewashes'; or the appointment of Judge Leveson to head up the Judicial Inquiry into the phone hacking scandal, where the relationship between the judge and Elisabeth Murdoch is such that he, like Grayling, should have recused himself from the matters before them."
"All these matters, taken cumulatively, signify the death of democracy and the notion of the public accountability of our élites, whether at Westminster, the Civil Service, in this company or anywhere else. We have slept-walked as a society into one, great big stitch-up. Everyone needs to wake up and smell the coffee before it's too late to do anything about it!" he said.
The occupation lasted an hour and a half and a senior partner at the firm listened politely to what the protesters had to say before asking them to leave, which they eventually did peacefully at 1.30 p.m.
Before police arrived the partner refused to comment on their allegations but thanked them for "not smashing the place up" to some mirth from all those present.
There was more mirth exchanged between the protesters and the police when one elderly protester told one of the two constables "Don't forget, you're next for the chop, pal!"