Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Sins of Liam Fox

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The Sins of Liam Fox

Article excerpt

The forced resignation of Britain's defense minister, Liam Fox, has opened up a window into the way foreign policy in the "free world" is made-and a very revealing window it is.

At the center of the scandal that led to Fox's ouster is his "best man," and "very good friend" Adam Werritty, a 33-year-old man-about-town who went around handing out business cards informing recipients that the bearer was an "adviser" to Fox, although he held no such official title. In reality, however, Werritty was (and is) far closer to Fox than any of his official advisers: they met, apparently, when Werritty was a mere teenager in the Young Conservative organization, and have been virtually inseparable ever since. So inseparable that young Werritty met Fox at dozens of locations throughout the world, from Dubai to Israel, when the defense minister was on official business: they traveled together, as if they were a married couple (not that there's anything wrong with that). The problem for the former defense minister is that the tab for Werritty's high-flying lifestyle (luxury hotels, expensive meals, drinks all 'round) was picked up by a group of businessmen, lobbyists, and others with a keen interest in influencing the Ministry of Defense (MoD).

The influence of lobbyists is hardly an unknown danger to the integrity of democratic institutions, but in this case there is also a national security angle, one which made it imperative that Fox step down. As the Daily Mail reports:

"A web of overt and covert backers, some with close links to Israel, are revealed in the bank records of Pargav Ltd., a company that did little else than fork out more than £150,000 in a year to pay for Mr. Werritty's first-class flights, hotels and nights out at New York strip clubs.

"Backers include tycoon Poju Zabludowicz, chairman of the pro-Israel lobby group Britain Israeli Communication Research Center (BICOM), and millionaire Michael Lewis, BICOM's former deputy chairman."

In addition, Werritty's company, Pargav, received donations of "nearly £13,000 anonymously in cash deposits." In the course of his longstanding impersonation of an important "adviser" to Fox, Werritty had access to all sorts of classified information, including details of sophisticated weapons and other systems utilized by MoD, and there is concern that this may have been compromised. The Daily Mail has the scoop:

"Adam Werritty used his relationship with Liam Fox to obtain highly sensitive, technical details of a military communications system used by Coalition special forces in Afghanistan.

"Dubai-based venture capitalist Harvey Boulter said last night he only disclosed the information about the system because Mr. Werritty had told him he was an official Ministry of Defense adviser. Mr. Boulter said: 'I assumed he must have been security-vetted.'"

Boulter is a venture capitalist and chief executive of the Porton Group, which specializes in funding companies developing new applications of technologies discovered in government labs. The meeting between Werritty and Boulter was set up by Lee Petar, who heads up a lobbying firm known as Tetra Strategy. Petar is BICOM's former director of communications.

"'I am speaking hypothetically,' Mr. Boulter said, 'but the Israelis are known to be good at reverse engineering other people's technology. What would we do if an Israeli firm started pirating our technology or selling it to our enemies?'"

Complain to Bicom? Ask Werritty for a refund? Cry? All these are options, with only the last one a real possibility.

With this much money, and this much access to national security secrets, in the mix, talk that Werritty has been-consciously or otherwise-acting as an agent for Israeli intelligence is more than mere speculation. Two top officials of BICOM, the Britain Israeli Communication Research Center, contributed to the Werritty slush fund: BICOM's chairman, the billionaire Poju Zabludowicz, and Michael Lewis, CEO of fashion retailer Foschini, formerly BICOM's deputy chairman. …

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