A secret money laundering system inside Tower Hamlets town hall being used to funding Islamist extremist groups? To be fair the extremist funding was only part of the system we understand. So it’s not all bad, is it?
Oh ok then, it is.
In July 2015 the Wapping Mole was told that there was a covert money laundering computer system inside Tower Hamlets town hall.
Even by Tower Hamlets standards this was (note use of past tense) an outlandish claim which is why Moley has not made this allegation public.
The answer is YES – what’s the question?
The reason Mole is going on the record now is that yesterday, by some fluke, he found three little letters in the Poplar Papers. Those three little letters are YES which is an acronym for Youth Empowerment Scheme.
In fact YES was not even in the main Poplar Papers statements or evidence bundle, they were in a contemporaneous note of evidence of Andy Bamber which was the Examination in Chief questioned by counsel to defendant Francis Hoar.
Here’s the text.
“to give an example of what you agree with – in an interview by mr edmunds why asked if the YES had applied for council funds – they were in receipt of prevent funds from the government – “
Hardly earth shattering, is it?
(For those of you unfamiliar with Mr Bamber he worked for LBTH for ten years in a very senior role as Head of Safer Communities and also Head of the Youth Service for a time. He left LBTH in 2017. But this is not important for the Genesis story.)
To be honest the what, why and whatever of YES doesn’t really matter – what matters is that it is an entity. A thing.
The meat of the story
So here is the really meaty thing with extra gravy and of course some lovely sprouts!
In 2015 Moley had only been digging into what really went on in Tower Hamlets town hall for a couple of years, in fact I think he still had a normal life, lived in a lovely little flat on the Green Bank and had no idea he was going to end up homeless pretty soon. (Another detail that doesn’t matter for the moment.)
So when a trusted source told him that there was a covert money laundering computer system inside Tower Hamlets town hall he was more than a little dubious. (To maintain the safety of the source Mole cannot give full details of some aspects of this particular event but this does not change the basic facts as told to him which he is now telling to you.)
And ‘IT system’ sounds a bit grand really. It could be just a couple of PCs networked together. Or it could be a part of the wider London Borough of Tower Hamlets (LBTH) council IT system that has been hijacked.
Either way it would need insiders to operate, natch.
Genesis, the secret IT system
Long story short one day a council officer was going about their normal business doing admin on an ordinary computer in the town hall when they came upon something odd.
They wanted to update the records of Organisation X, a third-sector entity they were very familiar with, but as they scrolled through the records on the computer screen they saw several records which they had never seen before. What is more these records were for organisations that were either no longer functioning, were organisations that were no longer receiving council grants or organisations that did not exist, or organisations that were having money transferred into their accounts which were not of the normal type.
Some (but not all) of the organisations were:
- Osmani Trust (well charity known in borough)
- The Rooted Forum (well known charity in borough)
- Ensign Youth Club
- Our Base Limited
- PYO (Progressive Youth Organisation)
- Brick Lane Women and Girls Projects
- YES (which Mole now knows to be the Youth Empowerment Scheme, a LBTH Youth Service project)
An obvious question is why an internal council project such as YES need a grant?
(Please remember that inclusion in this list does not mean that any of these organisations or their personnel have committed anything untoward. These real names were probably used as placeholders to mask the real accounts and the ultimate destination of the cash.)
Money laundering in the town hall? I’ll have a tenner!
Our source said that at the time some of these organisations should not have been receiving council funds but despite there were multiple recent financial transactions shown.
Our baffled source asked colleagues what the records were and what they were being used for but the enquiries were casually dismissed along the lines of “oh you don’t need to worry about that” so our source went about the rest of their business.
Remember that the computer on which this information was seen was not hidden in some secure room, it was just another anonymous council computer no different from the thousands of others in Mulberry Place.
Intense scrutiny. But of the wrong things.
Bear in mind that at the time Mole was informed of this Mayor Lutfur Rahman had just been kicked out of office for corrupt practise related to the inappropriate allocation of grants to influence votes, Mayor John Biggs had been elected on a ‘Mr Clean’ ticket and the council was controlled by the Department for Housing Communities and Local Government who were investigating all sorts of dodgy things going in Tower Hamlets. The scrutiny must have been intense.
Though moles have very long memories even the Wapping Mole cannot remember if this system was active while Mayor Biggs was in office, but he thinks it was.
However it did seem that this ‘IT system’ was being protected and whoever was doing so was doing a very good job indeed. A case of hiding in plain sight.
So the source told Moley and Moley started digging. And digging. And digging. Then dug some more. But to no avail. He had just spent the last two years analysis the spending and grants data of LBTH and so knew how to hunt down odd financial transactions but the Genesis system (the name means nothing, just chosen at random) did not make any sense – if it existed at all.
Mole got nowhere. And took a long time doing it too. It was only with the publication of the Poplar Papers that it was clear that various council officers made frequent use of fictious companies and organisations.
Sound familiar? Genesis.
Between the Mole being told about the secret ‘Genesis’ system and you reading this story the only people who Moley has told about the purported existence of this system were the DHCLG Commissioners at a meeting on Tuesday 5th April 2016 and two others.
Even when talking to the Commissioners Mole was ultra cautious about claiming that Genesis was a real thing. Sometime companies and organisations did not exist but they were given funds while companies and organisations that were seemingly the work of someones imagination did receive funds? All within a secret IT system inside Tower Hamlets town hall?
Wild conspiracy theories is not something we do. I mean, money laundering, on a secret computer system in the town hall? Nah!
Here is a part of the document Moley gave to the Commissioners with some parts redacted. Well, all of it really. Note that even in April 2016 Moley thought that the clean-up was a cover-up.
The reason for informing the Commissioners of something that may well not exist (30% likelihood it was real in our estimation at the time) was that if Genesis was real there was something very serious and very illegal going on. It was too risky too ignore.
Our friends in the north
An illustration of this is given in a rather good article by Tom Harper of the Sunday Times published in March 2019 ‘Taxman kept quiet while $8bn fraud helped fund bin Laden‘ where he explains how a gang infiltrated multiple UK government agencies and corrupted local politicians. “Some of the information, which highlights the role of an accountant in a provincial English town, was discovered on a discarded laptop in Afghanistan by CIA and MI6 officers during their search for bin Laden after the 9/11 attack in 2001.”
The method of operation described is very similar to the way people operate in Tower Hamlets. It would be unsurprising if there were links between the groups in East London and those further north.
Siphoning council money to fund extremism
Definitely worth a read because the possibility has to be considered that Tower Hamlets council funds were being siphoned off to fund extremism.
For possibly read almost certainly. Why does Mole think this? Because this is what he has been told by an ex-member of the organisation doing the siphoning. Below is a slide from the presentation I gave to the Commissioners.
The bit you need to worry about is top left. Scary, huh?
Apology for it being heavily redacted but I quite like being alive, even in a pandemic, and anyone with knowledge of extremist activity in Tower Hamlets will easily fill in the blanks.
Is this where money from Genesis was going? To fund terrorism in Bangladesh? No idea. Maybe it is just used for nothing more exciting than buying stuff from Amazon like the credit card money?
Over the years Mole has been informed that money given to certain organisations in the borough by the council in the form of grants eventually does fund extremism – no surprises there. And please remember this is probably only a handful of people amongst 380,000. While not good this is not as sophisticated as the Genesis approach which is on a different level.
Funding extremist groups is fascinating stuff but not the main subject of the latest episode of the Poplar Papers and no doubt the security services are all over this sort of thing like a nasty rush.
Let’s hope so anyway, huh?
Mole’s excitement of yesterday was not just because he had finally found reference to YES (other than a prog rock group) but that the organisations in the Genesis system overlapped with various organisations mentioned in the Poplar Papers as being used ways to siphon off money from Tower Hamlets council.
And the reason Mole is now convinced of this is something he found while reading the Poplar Papers evidence bundle again. This is a grab of #1979 of the Edmunds evidence bundle where someone (we have no idea who ‘the subject’ is) is being interviewed in November 2015 about the strange ways the Youth Service (YCS) manages funds.
Sound familiar? Yep, same as Genesis.
It seems that some funding ‘routes’ are setup for political purposes to make sure that money goes into safe pair of hands and then it goes to… somewhere.
Other funds goes into organisations within Tower Hamlets to facilitate other people to act as political recruiters and they in turn will have their own routes for passing the money along to… somewhere else.
Makes a mockery of the last council budget, doesn’t it?
Don’t forget the Rapid Response Team!
If the unexpected should happen and someone in authority mount an investigation into these funding routes they would be well advised to start off with the Rapid Reaction Team (RRT) which seems to have been answerable to no one apart from Lutfur Rahman when he was Mayor.
Moley wrote about the RRT back in July 2016 ‘How Lutfur Rahman used Youth Services to steal an election’ when he was on the staff of Love Wapping. This features a statement by Crissy Townsend who personifies the type of person Tower Hamlets needs – unlike many Labour councillors.
The existence of the Genesis system has yet to be proved beyond reasonable doubt and that is way beyond the investigative abilities of a rather handsome Mole from Wapping E1W. But if Moley can find this sort of stuff then the big boys and girls in the Met Police, Counter Terrorism Command and security services can find it.
The good news is that there are no more secret IT systems within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets administration.
Well, apart from one.
As we are talking about this sort of thing might as well get this out of the way too, then we can get on with the really fun stuff!
This has come to light purely due to a very good source who is a normal law-abiding citizen who wrote about some problems the source found with council run facilities and published it on the interwebs.
I will not be naming this source because the source, like me, quite enjoys the whole living thing.
The sports facility booking system
The funny thing is that this has been publicly available on the web for quite some time and Moley had stumbled upon it by accident. Which happens a lot to be honest. Must be a mole thing.
It was only after a conversation with this source and another completely independent person that Mole was informed of another secret IT system within Tower Hamlets council.
Makes you wonder how many there are.
This system arose from the widespread (and almost certainly continuing) abuse of numerous council properties such as sports and recreation facilities across the borough. The account was written in 2016 but the events described started in 2009.
Simply put certain third-sector organisations in Tower Hamlets slowly but surely took over sports and recreation facilities for the use of their friends and colleagues, despite the facilities being paid for by LBTH. And of course these organisations have also been generously funded by LBTH over the years.
The takeover of these public sporting facilities for a chosen few developed to such an extent that there eventually came a need for a computerised system to manage bookings.
Let’s be clear, this was not an official council system, it was a rogue system for some people to monopolise sporting facilities to the detriment of young people who desperately need this sort of diversion.
It is a reasonably safe assumption that the money generated by this scam never entered into the finances of the council.
Like many other misuses of council property and personnel described in the Poplar Papers nothing was ever done to take back the council’s own properties because the people and organisations were too influential and controlled too many votes.
Additionally once this system had been running for some time without any interference by those in power it’s existence could be used to perpetuate its use. Politicians knew that if this system was exposed in the media (oops!) they would be called to account for turning a blind eye.
But then that rarely happens in Tower Hamlets so maybe they have nothing to worry about.
Residents must ensure that when simple democratic principles are violated, funding misused and opportunities ruined, we have a way of holding the people involved accountable.
Related Internet Links
- Draft Impact Assessment Training courses for Youth and Community Services – Tower Hamlets March 2009
- Note of Evidence of Andy Bamber
- ‘Taxman kept quiet while $8bn fraud helped fund bin Laden‘ – Sunday Times
- BME: LONDON ACADEMY OFFERS VOICE TO YOUNG MUSLIMS
- Youth Opportunity Fund Youth Capital Fund
- Book of Genesis – Vatican