Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Don't just book it, Thomas Cook it. So runs the slogan. Would you

Posted On 12:56 by El NACHO 0 comments


Don't just book it, Thomas Cook it. So runs the slogan. Would you? Here's interim (that's reassuring) chief executive Sam Weihagen doing his safe-as-houses routine: "It's business as usual. We are trading within all our covenants. We have all the protection in place like any other travel company, and customers should not worry at all." Well, not quite like any other travel company. Thomas Cook of course holds an Air Travel Organisers' Licence from the Civil Aviation Authority which means customers should get their money back in the event of calamity. But the simple fear of being stranded a week after passengers of Austria's Comtel Air had to bribe pilots with £20,000 just to return to Birmingham is bound to unsettle would-be customers. There's a circle at work here and it is vicious. Given the choice between a similarly priced holiday with Thomas Cook or, say, Thomson, why would you risk the former? To counteract this, Thomas Cook might have to slash prices. That will eat into margins, cut profits and put banking covenants at risk. It might very quickly find it needs to borrow even more money. The company insists: "This is a robust business that has a strong future". We'll see.

Police were in dark over foreign axe killer living in UK

Posted On 11:56 by El NACHO 0 comments


COPS did not know an East European axe murderer was living in the UK until he caused a killer car crash, a court heard yesterday. Intars Pless, 34, hacked through a friend's throat in his native Latvia, then moved to Britain after he got out of jail. But Lincoln Crown Court heard police can only check a foreign national's record if they break the law here. So Pless's horrific crime came to light only after he drove into moped rider Valentina Planciunene, 37, while over twice the limit. Stuart Lody, prosecuting, told the court: "On the night of Valentine's Day he decided it would be a perfectly good idea to drink a very large quantity of whisky. Surprised "He and a friend spent a considerable period of time drinking whisky and driving around. "During the driving he was possibly drinking whisky as well. An empty whisky bottle was found in the boot of the car. "At the time of the collision he was heavily under the influence of alcohol. His ability to drive would have been severely impaired." Pless was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving after the jury heard he left her dead in the road in Wyberton Fen, Lincs. He was told he faces a long jail term. The judge also called for his deportation.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

private jets waved through customs and immigration checks

Posted On 12:22 by El NACHO 0 comments

Home Secretary Theresa May (Pic:PA)

Home Secretary Theresa May (Pic:PA)

THERESA May was fighting for her job last night after damning new documents fuelled the scandal of lax security at our borders.

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Leaked emails showed that thousands of private jet passengers were allowed into the UK without going through immigration or customs.

They also revealed the Home Secretary relaxed checks at airports on at least 2,500 occasions this summer.

And the Mirror can reveal passport applications are being secretly subjected to a controversial new “postcode lottery” trial scheme.

The High Risk Applications scheme is based on fraud statistics. Staff were given a list of postcodes to check against every new passport application or renewal. Applicants in areas deemed to be higher risk face several weeks additional delay in getting their passports.

In London, the only areas which get virtually no checks are postcodes that begin with WC and EC – the most central and prosperous areas. Meanwhile applications from women aged 50 and over are often waved through.

A source said: “It’s a classic Tory policy, and it discriminates against those they deem to be living in ‘poor’ areas.

“The whole thing smacks of elitism and snobbery. A lot of people are very unhappy with the process.”

These revelations come on the day ousted Border Agency official Brodie Clark gives evidence to MPs on how he was pushed out by Mrs May.

Brodie Clark (Pic: DM)

Borders boss Brodie Clark

Labour yesterday released the leaked emails showing UK Border Agency staff were told NOT to check passengers arriving in the UK by private jets – at the instruction of the Home Office.

From March 2, 2011, anyone on a private charter did not have to show their passports and could avoid customs. Figures show there are between 80,000 to 90,000 private flights each year, carrying two to three passengers.

The emails show an unnamed official at Durham Tees Valley Airport warned the UK Border Agency that the policy was putting the UK’s security at risk.

He said that staff “continue to feel uneasy about an instruction that is at odds with national policy and is creating an unnecessary gap in border security which, if exploited by the unscrupulous, could bring the Agency into disrepute”.

He also warned there was no way of checking if the number of people arriving in the country was the same as they had been advised.

His manager at the UK Border Agency’s Border Force said the “no checks policy” was part of a “new national strategy”.

In a further blow to Mrs May, other leaked documents showed how Britain’s borders were abandoned on hundreds of occasions over summer.

The Home Secretary ordered a pilot scheme, which ran from July to October this year, under which Border Agency staff could relax checks on passengers. It meant people arriving from the European Economic Area did not have the biometric chip in their passport checked, while children under 18 could be waved through.

These “level 2 checks” were used on at least 2,600 occasions. The relaxed regime was used to speed up queues at immigration control.

According to an email from a Border Agency Border Force official, the checks were relaxed 100 times in the first week of the trial and more than 260 times in the sixth week.

We revealed last week that officials warned Mrs May the easing of border checks could lead to a rise in child trafficking.

Mrs May admits to bringing in the pilot scheme without informing MPs. But she claims that Mr Clark went further by extending it to include passengers from outside Europe.

Mr Clark, who resigned last week, denies he acted without ministerial authority. His testimony to the Commons select committee could prove very damaging to Mrs May.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said last night: “This is startling new information about the scale of the borders fiasco.

“Ten days on there are even more questions than answers about what on earth was going on at our borders.

“Last week the Home Secretary told us no one had been waived through without checks. But these documents show passengers on private flights weren’t even seen.

"Last week the Home Office wouldn’t admit to having figures about how often checks were downgraded. Now we know those figures exist and that checks were downgraded 260 times in one week alone.

“The Home Secretary needs to show she is capable of sorting this fiasco out rather than making it worse.”

Last night, the Home Office refused to comment on the trial.

The UKBA said: “It is not true that we don’t carry out ­passport and warnings checks on private flight passengers and will deploy officers to airfields where we have concerns.”

Sunday, 13 November 2011

UK border checks are 'a bad joke', whistleblower claims

Posted On 22:39 by El NACHO 0 comments


Under-pressure staff are said to be relying on false data and "massaging" official figures to mask the full extent of the immigration chaos at Britain's borders. The whistleblower, a middle manager who does not want to be identified, said UKBA staff lack the resources to track down asylum seekers. As a result, it is claimed, complicated immigration cases are being abandoned to save time, while detention centres employ a "one in, one out" policy that sees low-risk detainees released to allow more dangerous foreigners to be locked up. The whistleblower said British border checks had become "haphazard" and "a bad joke". "The whole place is a basket case," he told The Sunday Times (£). "Asylum seekers run rings around us and we are virtually powerless to do anything about it. It is depressing."

Friday, 4 November 2011

Italy government hangs by thread as coalition crumbles

Posted On 15:29 by El NACHO 0 comments


Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's fate hung by a thread Friday and desertions from his crumbling centre-right coalition may have already robbed him of the parliamentary numbers he needs to survive. Berlusconi, caught in the crossfire from European powers and a party revolt at home, agreed at a G20 summit in France to IMF monitoring of economic reforms which he has long promised but failed to implement. But this may soon be irrelevant for the Italian leader, who will return to Rome later Friday to face what looks increasingly like a deadly rebellion by his own supporters. With financial markets in turmoil over the situation in Greece and Italy viewed as the next domino to fall in the euro zone crisis, calls are mounting for a new government to carry through reforms convincing enough to regain international confidence. Berlusconi has consistently rejected calls to resign and says the only alternative to him is an early election next spring, rather than the technocrat or national unity government urged by many politicians and commentators. Yields on 10-year Italian bonds reached 6.36 percent by early afternoon, creeping closer to 7 percent, a level which could trigger a so-called "buyers' strike" where investors take fright and refuse to buy the paper. Two deputies from Berlusconi's PDL party this week defected to the centrist UDC, taking his support in the 630-seat lower house of parliament to 314 compared with the 316 he needed to win a confidence vote last month. But at least seven other former loyalists have called for a new government and could vote against the 75-year-old media magnate. "The (ruling) majority seems to be dissolving like a snowman in spring," said respected commentator Stefano Folli in the financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore. Other commentators spoke of an "inexorable" revolt against Berlusconi. Even Defence Ministry undersecretary Guido Crosetto, a Berlusconi loyalist, said on television: "I don't know how many days or weeks the government has left. Certainly a majority relying on a few votes cannot continue for long." PATRONAGE Berlusconi, one of Italy's richest men, still has significant powers of patronage and he and his closest aides are expected to spend the weekend trying to win back support for a parliamentary showdown Tuesday. Some rebels have already threatened to vote against Berlusconi in the vote to sign off on the 2010 budget. Berlusconi faced concerted calls to resign when he lost a previous vote on this routine measure, which was almost unprecedented. Although it is not a confidence motion, he would come under huge pressure if he suffered a second defeat. "Unpopular prescriptions are necessary and this challenge cannot be faced with a 51 percent government," said UDC leader Pier Ferdinando Casini, in a reference to Berlusconi's weakness and a widespread feeling that the reforms can only be passed with a broad consensus. The premier has promised European leaders that he will call a formal confidence motion within 15 days to pass amendments to a budget bill incorporating new measures to stimulate growth and cut Italy's huge debt. That will be in the Senate where he has a more solid majority but it could still bring him down. Berlusconi, beset by a string of sex scandals and court cases, has consistently resisted pressure from groups ranging from a powerful business lobby to the Catholic Church to stand down.

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