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Dublin Opinion >>
Sark and the Barclays Brothers
Sark is a tiny island, with a population of around 600 people of the coast off the coast of Normandy which operated a feudal system of government until 2008 when it was forced to comply with the EU convention of human rights. It is held as a fief on behalf of the Queen of England and while it is a part of Britain it is not part of the UK and sets its own tax rates which is set at an extremely low rate.
Most people would never have heard of Sark until it recently made the news headlines in Britain due to the bizarre practices of the two Barclays brothers David and Frederick who live in the nearby island of Brecqhou and are seeking political independence from, and corporate dominance of, the island of Sark. The reason they are seeking independence from Sark are largely due to the brothers demanding that they be exempt from any tax legislation that Sark implements. The brothers even had a memorandum of understanding drafted, which Stark rejected, which had asked that Sark not "impose or seek to impose any other or any new taxes, charges, licence fees or fiscal measures of whatsoever kind upon Brecqhou". The brothers currently pay less than £30,000 Tax on the island. The Barclay brothers are estimated to be worth £1.8 billion.
They own the Telegraph Media group and have extensive business interests extending from property to brewing and shipping and even home shopping. Their holding companies are located in Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands, where international companies pay no corporate taxes, and in the Channel Island of Jersey, where international companies pay a 0.5 percent tax on profits of more than 10 million pounds. The brothers have also recently been involved in controversial dealings with NAMA and certain failed Irish property developers. In 2011 NAMA transferred the debts in 3 hotels of failed property developer Paddy McKillen to a company owned by the Barclays brothers, Maybourne Finance Limited amid accusations of unfair prejudice and conspiracy. The Barclay brothers received support in their bid to take over the debts by one of McKillens former partners Derek Quinlan. It later emerged in court that Quinlan, who supported the Barclays brothers successful attempt to take over the debts, had received £740,000 from the Barclays brothers. Quinlan continues to live a lavish lifestyle despite owing NAMA over €600m.
The brothers bought Brecqhou in 1993 for £2.33m and built a castle complete with a helipad despite the laws of Sark stating that the only transport allowed is horse-drawn vehicles, bicycles, tractors and battery-powered buggies. The brothers successfully used their money to get changes to the laws of Sark and its outdated feudal laws, however some residents claim this is to aid their corporate take over of the island rather than a fondness for democracy. The brothers own 35% of the land of the island of Sark and four hotels and other businesses on the island. Some islanders claim that the Barclays brothers are trying to take over the island and turn it into an exclusive tourist attraction, shipping wealthy tourist in to the island by helicopter. When the island held its first democratic election in 2008 the brothers threatened to withdraw their investment if the residents didn’t vote for their candidates. They published a newsletter called Sark News (still published to this day) where they attacked some of their opponents calling one a "feudal talibanist" and another of having a "socialist streak". http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/dec/11/sark-democracy-election-votes
The Barclay brothers candidates, including Kevin Delaney the editor of the Stark Newsletter, were defeated. The brothers response to the loss of the election was to close down their business operations on the island which includes two hotels, shops, and at least one restaurant. This result was the laying off of 140 people in retaliation for not getting what they wanted.
While they have since reopened some of the business the message was clear: toe the line or you are out. A local fisherman who is a member of the parliament lost a contract to supply the Barclays hotels because he wouldn’t follow their line. The Stark Newsletter continues to be used to attack the opponents of Sark. The islands last GP resigned due to being attacked in the Newsletter. The doctor in question refused use of the Barclay brothers personal helicopter to transport a woman who had taken a stroke. Instead he used a fully equipped Marine Ambulance, manned by a team of fully trained Paramedics, provided by St. John Ambulance & Rescue Service (Guernsey). Due to this attack and resignation Sark has no GP. http://www.theweek.co.uk/people-news/sark-row/46071/democracy-risk-sark-bbc-takes-telegraph-owners
The resignation of the doctor caused the outbreak of the first demonstration on the island that any resident could remember.
The Newsletter’s editor Kevin Delaney has hired a personal security team to ‘protect’ him on the island. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/jun/27/barclays-sark-newsletter?newsfeed=true Yet there are accusations from residents that he uses the newsletter to bully and intimidate the islanders and silence any opposition to the Barclay brothers. Any criticism that Delaney or the brothers receive is swiftly met by legal letters as they use their obscene wealth to try to bully the islanders. In one instance the local post mistress Caroline Langford “received a legal letter from Gordon Dawes, lawyer to both the Barclays and Delaney, after she posted on the Post Office noticeboard a spoof news item from Private Eye lampooning the Barclays. The letter threatened a defamation suit if Langford did not write a written apology to the Barclays” Langford complied with the request. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/jun/27/barclays-sark-newsletter?newsfeed=true
Sarks system of governance shouldn't be defended nor its taxation system which benefits the wealthy such as the Barclay brothers. However an attempted economic dominance of a small island by capitalists who use their media to abuse and attack their opponents and then threaten economic ruin if they don't get their way. I'm sure I have heard that somewhere before.