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UK Foreign Secretary Continues Gibraltar Smear Campaign

by Jason Gorringe,, London

21 June 2002

UK Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw this week relaunched what is seen by many in the UK and Gibraltar as a deliberate smear campaign.

Responding to questions from the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Mr Straw accused the Rock's current and previous administrations of failing to ensure transparency, and of covering up 'unacceptable practices'.

'In one of the harshest and most damning criticisms of both the present and past administrations in Gibraltar, the Foreign Secretary accused the government of keeping details away from the British government, in particular over past government owned companies and the pensions scheme,' the Iberia News service reported on Thursday.

Responding to a question posed by MP Andrew Mackinlay over Minister for Europe, Peter Hain's suggestion that the Gibraltar government was practising a 'pensions scam' by paying Spanish workers in the territory a lower pension than Gibraltarian pensioners, the Foreign Secretary defended Mr Hain's remarks, and revealed that the British government was disclaiming responsibility, and would be making Gibraltar responsible for any potential liability which occurs as a result:

''By common definition a scam is something that is opaque, not transparent and potentially unlawful which I am afraid to say both apply,' Mr Straw told Mr Mackinlay.

However, although the FCO is this week hinting at governmental misdoings with regard to pensions, and to companies set up during the previous administration allegedly involving a minister taking a seat on the board, the fact that a previous broadside attacked the jurisdiction's government for lack of transparency in public finances, money laundering, tax laws, economic statistics, the number of offshore companies, the absence of VAT, gift tax and wealth tax and estate duties, suggests that an air of desperation is creeping into the proceedings as the Anglo-Spanish talks continue to stumble, a fact which has not been lost on the GSD government.

Responding to media slurs alleged to have stemmed from the Foreign Office earlier this month, the authorities announced that:

''The Gibraltar Government notes with disgust the stories that have emerged in the UK press relating to transparency in public finances in Gibraltar. These appear to be motivated by a combination of malevolence towards Gibraltar and ignorance.'

The statement continued: 'The desire to smear Gibraltar is demonstrated by the clear attempt to mix up all sorts of unconnected issues,' and concluded that: 'The fact that several UK newspapers carry the same story at the same time, containing the same mistakes of fact and confusion of issues, proves beyond doubt that this is an orchestrated smear campaign.'

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