As part of a lengthy over-view of the Malaysian Government’s interesting ties with SCL, the company behind the scandal-torn ‘deep data election agency’ Cambridge Analytica, Sarawak Report last week highlighted connections between the role of Brtish peer Lord Marland as a “great supporter of Malaysia” and the work of SCL, of which he is a shareholder.
Marland, a businessman and Conservative Party Treasurer and donor, whom the party nominated to be a working peer, spent a short time as a government minister and then as David Cameron’s ‘Trade Envoy’, before returning to private business.
However, as Sarawak Report has pointed out, the private company he now heads bears a title that might confuse the unitiated into thinking that he retains some form of official government role as an envoy of the Commonwealth. Marland’s Wikipedia page describes him as having become Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council Limited (CWEIC) after stepping down as Trade Envoy.
In fact, Marland incorporated CWEIC as a £2.00 limited company, of which he was a joint shareholder together with a farmer named Oliver Everett, in July 2015 shortly after leaving political office. He therefore effectively appointed himself to the official sounding role.
Yet the confusion to an extent continues, since CWEIC’s website explains that the organisation is a ‘not for profit membership organisation with a mandate from Commonwealth Heads of Government to promote intra-Commonwealth trade, investment and the role of the private sector across the 52 member countries…”
The impression, therefore, is that Marland has decided to engage in a charitable role on behalf of the Commonwealth, which has been approved by Heads of Government and the Secreatariat based in the major public building, Malborough House, London.
So, is this outwardly rather strange arrangement with the Commonwealth Secretariat being conducted purely on a charitable basis or is there any danger that CWEIC’s voluntary role might play advantageously into the members’ other active business interests?
The incorporation documents of the company indeed make plain that the purpose of the company is not for profit:
“The income and property of the Company shall be applied solely towards the promotion of its objects as set out at Article 4.1. and no part of such property and income may be paid or transferred, directly or indirectly, by way of dividend bonus or otherwise howsoever by way of profit, to members of the Company”
On the other hand, the constitution of the company goes on to make clear that such strictures do not preclude ‘reasonable remuneration’ of ‘members’ (shareholders) who are also ‘office holders’ (including presumably that of the Chairman) or indeed the coverage of expenses: one would assume these would include the costs, for example, of travelling about the world organising conferences and hob-nobbing with key political leaders in Commonwealth countries.
Marland is well connected in current government circles and the not for profit CWEIC has been apparently provided office space in the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Malborough House from which it organises its trade boosting events, which have been regularly held at Malborough House.
We have asked both the Commonwealth Secretariat and CWEIC for the details governing their arrangement. We have asked the following questions:
“Could you provide the terms of the ‘mandate’ [given to CWEIC] and explain the circumstances under which Heads of Government executed it?
Can you also explain the parameters under which the CWEIC conducts its voluntary role and occupies a space in Malborough House and holds events there? Are those events sponsored or subsidised by member governments and are there ticket prices or any other payments required of attendees?
Finally, are there any agreed rules governing the relationship between the members of CWEIC and the Commonwealth Secretariat regarding this not for profit role in boosting intra-Commonwealth trade? In particular, for example, are there any agreed caveats with respect to possible conflicts of interest regarding the company members’ other business activities linked to Commonwealth countries involved with their Malborough House events?
As indicated in our previous article, Sarawak Report is anxious for these clarifications in light of the fact that a separate company, of which Lord Marland is a shareholder, has been pitching for election winning contracts that favour the present Malaysian Prime Minister and his ruling party. Malaysia is described as a ‘Strategic Partner’ of CWEIC and the company has just opened a “hub” in KL.
SCL, which is the parent company of the disgraced outfit Cambrige Analytica, recently exposed for a plethora of dirty tricks, including the abuse of stolen Facebook ‘big data’ to secretly influence unwitting voters, also has an office in KL. Sarawak Report has received extensive details of the company’s proposal before the past Sarawak State Election to use their covert techniques on behalf of the BN Government, to be paid for by Petronas.
Petronas has flatly denied any engagement in this contract or negotiations with SCL by their Group Strategic Communications department, even though this cooperation is referred to as being extensive in the documents.
SCL’s KL office has also denied involvement, as has the BN Government in a separate statement last week. All sides are trying to blame former BN Menteri Besar instead, for allegedly engaging SCL for a poster campaign in Kedah in 2013.
Yet, Sarawak Report has received assurances via inside sources from Cambridge Analytica, many of whom have now spoken to the UK media, that the US$2.1 million contract did go ahead. There are concerns that SCL’s continuing active operation in KL is therefore also engaged in voter manipulation exercises paid for by the BN government or its agents with an eye to the upcoming GE14.
A clear and obvious strategy for such a contract would for example be the mysteriously widely promoted and coordinated ‘Undi Rosak’ campaign, recently unleashed on young Malaysian voters through new media and the established BN dominated mainstream news outlets. The purpose of Undi Rosak is to encourage the youth vote to stay at home and not cast their ballot for either side.
BN polling has shown that it has a very low following amongst young voters, however the Prime Minister has come forward to claim he would rather encourage them to vote none-the-less.
Lobbying Abroad – Banning ‘Fake News’?
The effectiveness of such campaigning and of SCL’s ‘scientific strategies’ to secretly influence the electorate on behalf of their clients can be questioned. However, there is no doubt that one crucial element of Najib’s fight back against corruption allegations has been to seek opportunities to present himself on domestic TV as a leader who continues “accepted” on the international stage.
Photo-shoots arranged with foreign leaders and trips abroad have made it easier for him to claim that the pending criminal charges over the grand kleptocracies of 1MDB and the Scorpene cases, amongst other issues, are all ‘Fake News’.
Time and again he has been exposed for hiring lobbyists to facilitate such ‘photo-ops’ and today he forced so-called “Anti-Fake News” legislation throught Parliament to ban all mention by Malaysians of the global corruption mega-scandals and investigations concerning him.
It is on this level that SCL’s Malaysia ties and its connection to the high profile Commonwealth activities of Lord Marland’s not for profit CWEIC becomes a potential matter of concern. Just last November Lord Marland (the man who takes credit for bringing Malaysia’s investment in London’s Battersea Power Station development) undertook a visit to KL where he was hailed as a ‘great supporter of Malaysia’.
It was not pointed out at that time that he is also a shareholder of a company that has been paid to promote BN’s electoral chances.
Earlier, in 2016, Marland equally spearheaded the Malaysian Trade Conference at Malborough House, shortly after the DOJ had fingered Najib as ‘MO1′ [Malaysian Official One]. When questioned by British media over the inappropriate nature of the conference the peer claimed that there was no evidence to show Najib had anything to answer for.
He did not mention that his company SCL had been pitching for a US$2.1 million contract linked to boosting Najib in the Sarawak elections in the coming weeks.
Malaysia with Malta – ‘Strategic Parners’ of CWEIC and clients of the election winning consultancy SCL
Likewise, a key ‘partner’ of CWEIC is the State of Malta, whose tarnished Prime Minister is also a client of SCL’s, according to information received by Sarawak Report.
Lord Marland has copiously praised Malta for its support in establishing CWEIC’s Commonwealth trade initiatives, along with five other ‘strategic partners’, one of which is also Malaysia. Lord Marland was awarded the Order of Merit of Malta in 2015, but SCL’s contract appears not to have been mentioned in the Annual Review of CWEIC Limited.
Last year CWEIC Ltd went so far as to set up what it describes as a “Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council Hub” in Malaysia, headed by a full time Director Malaysia, a former trade official, Tony Collingridge.
Event was described as a ‘Love In’ with Malaysia at Malborough House by Marland
Although the Malaysia Trade event (above) was described as “unofficial” by the British Government in 2016, several ministers none-the-less attended including Hugo Swire, then minister at the Foreign Office for South East Asia. It provided a massive image boosting filip for the then beleagured Prime Minister fighting the Sarawak election, for which SCL had pitched for a million dollar contract to support him.
Last year Hugo Swire was dropped from the government and he now taken up a new post as the CEO of CWEIC Ltd.
Sarawak Report asks, therefore, if the relationship which CWEIC Ltd has developed with the Commonwealth Secretariat, by staging trade events at Malborough House, has the potential to promote tainted political clients of SCL who are seeking re-election in their own countries?
For there is little doubt that the potential effectiveness of SCL’s ‘big data’ campaigns, which have the stated purpose of tricking voters to support its clients, bears little comparison to the importance of the image boosting value of a Trade Event at Malborough House to a tainted leader like Najib.
There is another planned CWEIC Trade event due there next month, at which ‘Malaysia’ is scheduled to send a delegation, just before the 14th General Election.
Sarawak Report suggests there is a valid concern that whilst the CWEIC Ltd work is not for profit, SCL sells its services for money and that its members are connected.
“A highlight of Lord Marland’s visit was his meetings with Malaysian Minister of Finance II, Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani and the Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. Both were delighted to meet with us and be briefed on CWEIC’s activities in advance of CHOGM 2018. They expressed support for the goals of the CWEIC in Malaysia and more widely, and spoke encouragingly about our plans for the Commonwealth Business Forum.
We were also pleased to be able to meet with the Secretary-General of the Malaysian Ministry of International Trade & Industry (MITI) and his team, to discuss their strategic partnership with the CWEIC.
Overall it was a hugely worthwhile visit for both myself as Malaysia Director and Lord Marland, who is a great supporter of Malaysia. There is a great deal of follow-up to be done as the CWEIC is clear that Malaysia holds a key role in the region and will be integral to economic growth in south-east Asia. [Tony Collingridge, Director Malaysia, CWEIC Malaysia Visit November 2017]
There is a final concern, relating to SCL’s other capacity as a ‘private intelligence gathering company’ working for governments with military grade advisors on the collecting of evidence.
In late 2016 SCL’s Geneva operative, one Nicolas Giannakopoulos, invited the Editor of this blog and several Malaysian opposition politicians to a ‘seminar’ supposedly officially hosted by the University of Geneva. In fact, as Sarawak Report exposed, the event was paid for by Giannakopoulos’s private businesses, which included his agency for SCL.
Sarawak Report and the opposition members of parliament found themselves pumped for information by Giannakopoulos about the progress of the 1MDB investigation and relationships between opposition groups. The event was also attended by documentary film makers, whose project Sarawak Report also exposed had been infiltrated by Najib’s intelligence gatherers.
Sarawak Report is therefore concerned that the ties between this company, of which Lord Marland is a shareholder, and the BN government are potentially very extensive and relate not just to election consultancy but to the gathering of intelligence and the harassment of opposition folk and independent journalists targeted by Najib.
Given CWEIC’s high profile links to the Commonwealth Secretariat and quasi official status full disclosure on all potentially related or conflicting interests of the members of this private company is deemed appropriate.