Mayday: Crown Agents exposed

tliouk office at
Fri May 2 11:37:36 BST 2003

Mayday protest at Victoria exposes Crown Agents' role in war 
author: worthing anarchists 
Friday 02 May 2003 

Protesters staged an autonomous Mayday morning picket of Crown 
Agents' London office, holding a banner across its front entrance and 
handing out 300 leaflets in one hour to passers-by in Buckingham 
Palace Road, between Victoria rail and bus stations. 
The main text of the leaflet was as follows: 

Agents of War and Greed 

THERE is more than one kind of looter operating in Iraq at the 

We've all heard about desperate, impoverished masses grabbing 
whatever they can for themselves and their families under cover of 
the chaos and destruction caused by the illegal US/UK invasion. 
But you won't have heard so much about a very well established and 
well connected British organisation which is basically helping big 
greedy multinational companies to cash in on the riches of a country 
that has now been forcibly 'opened up' to western business interests. 
The firm is called Crown Agents and its London office is at 150 
Buckingham Palace Road, Victoria. It also has a big office in Sutton 
and an International Management Training Centre in Worthing. 
Crown Agents' usually low profile has been raised over the last month 
or two by its role in the take-over of Iraq. 

A report on the BBC website on March 11, before the war was launched, 
commented: "A fairly narrow coterie of international firms has 
developed a reliable sideline in post-war clean-ups. Construction 
firms such as the US's Fluor and Bechtel, Britain's Costain and 
Balfour Beatty, and France's Spie are usually the first in; service 
providers such as British Crown Agents and Swiss SGS are rarely far 
behind. Sometimes, this results in a sordid scramble or stitch-up." 
This prediction of Crown Agents' involvement quickly proved spot-on. 
The Independent reported on March 31: "Crown Agents, a privatised 
development assistance firm, has become the first British company to 
win a contract in the American programme to rebuild Iraq. It will be 
a subcontractor to International Resources Group (IRG), a US 
professional services firm providing technical assistance for 
planning and management of the reconstruction and rehabilitation 
activities in Iraq." 
So what exactly does Crown Agents do? If you want a straight answer, 
the one place not to look is the firm's own website,, which projects a predictably rose-tinted view of 
the organisation and its role in the world. It claims: "We help 
countries and public sector entities and businesses within those 
countries, to grow. We do this by working in partnership with our 
clients to confer the skills, ideas and material resources each needs 
at every stage of their development." 
But you can begin to understand what all this 'help' 
and 'development' might really all be about by glancing at the 
history section on the Crown Agents site. This reveals that its 
beginnings were in oiling the cogs of the British empire in the 19th 
century: "Crown Agents originated in 1833, when the Joint Agents 
General for Crown Colonies were appointed by H.M. Government. The 
Agents' remit was to reduce costs and increase efficiency in the 
procurement of goods and services to the Crown Colonies." 
Exactly 170 years later, Crown Agents is still busy facilitating 
imperialism, though these days the global greed machine prefers the 
Stars and Stripes to the Union Jack as its flag of convenience. 
Privatised in March 1997, Crown Agents lurks in that murky area 
between state and business that has become so central in the new age 
of corporate government. Its board boasts some notable links to the 
world of big business and banking - and these are just the ones 
actually declared on its own website! Chairman Peter Berry is "a 
director of listed investment trusts and Kier Group plc". Deputy 
chairman Francis Summer is "a non-executive director of the Bankers 
Investment Trust plc". Chief executive Jack Garvey has enjoyed a 
career with Unilever, Proctor and Gamble and Pepsico. 

Its holding entity is The Crown Agents Foundation, whose membership 
includes token 'worthy' organisations such as Christian Aid and 
British Overseas NGOs for Development. But the vast majority of names 
of both permanent and elected members hail, once again, from the 
world of business. There is the International Chamber of Commerce, 
for instance, and the Prince of Wales International Business Leaders 
Forum, not to mention Barclays Bank, British Telecommunications plc, 
Securicor plc, the Securities Institute, Standard Chartered Bank, 
Tate and Lyle plc and Unilever plc, for whom Crown Agents chief exec 
Mr Garvey put in such good work over the years. 

The British Government is also still very much involved with Crown 
Agents and is a Special Member of the Foundation. Indeed, it is 
important to remember that without governments to help them on their 
way, the sharks of multinational business would not be able to 
operate. Big companies can't wage wars to take over 'new markets' 
across the world. They need governments to do that for them. Big 
companies can't tax the population to pay for the wars or 
the 'rebuilding'. They need governments to do that, too. That's why 
it's so vital to these interests that political parties like New 
Labour are `business friendly'. Together, these partners in crime 
form a double act of con merchants ripping off the rest of us in the 
most lucrative scam you could imagine. Every year, more and more of 
our tax money is redirected by our corrupt central government 
straight into the pockets of the big business fat cats. 

We have been victims of this in the UK for years, with the constant 
privatisation of services that used to be under public ownership. Now 
it's the Iraqi people's turn to enjoy the wonderful world of 
business `democracy', as author Naomi Klein explained in The Guardian 
on April 14. 

She wrote: "Rather than rebuilding, the country is being treated as a 
blank slate on which the most ideological Washington neo-liberals can 
design their dream economy: fully privatised, foreign-owned and open 
for business... What is being planned is not reparations, 
reconstruction or rehabilitation. It is robbery: mass theft disguised 
as charity; privatisation without representation." 
There may still be some readers out there who think the war on Iraq 
was fought because of breaches of UN resolutions or the weapons of 
mass destruction that were strangely never used. 
But the Crown Agents' involvement in Iraq, and the way it is linking 
government with big business in a greedy scramble to strip Iraq bare, 
is yet another factor pointing towards an entirely different agenda 
behind the whole sordid, bloody affair. 


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