Category Archives: UK

When Journalism Works

One year ago, a group of financial and political journalists put their heads together to tackle a very onerous task: raise awareness about what is happening on the highly influential island of Jersey – the largest of the Channel Islands, a global tax shelter of some stature and a so-called “peculiar possession” of the British Crown known for its sailing and golfing, as well as hiding money and committing unspeakable crimes against children.

The goal was threefold: restore my U.K. visa, eliminate a travel ban initiated by Jersey to keep me off the island and, most importantly, see to it that the children who were victimized for decades at the Jersey children’s home Haut de la Garenne – nearly 200 of whom are still alive to tell their tale – were no longer willfully ignored.

Today, I am very happy to report that all three of those objectives have been reached, thanks to a group of intrepid journalists whom I am honored to call colleagues.

Because of them, I have just returned from my first trip to the U.K. and Jersey since my 500-day travel ban and warmly welcomed by U.K. Parliament.

Journalists from The Guardian, BBCSunday Express and VICE magazine, in addition to Jersey’s Team Voiceled by citizen journalist-cum-bloggers, Neil McMurray and Rico Sorda, contributed to my pieces on this blog and in CNN/Fortunepaving the way for the first glimmer of real hope for Jersey’s victims and the start of what may soon be some palpable changes on this idyllic island – a place that, while living in London, was my home away from home.

Politicians in both the U.K. and on the island also have put in long hours to bring these issues to the forefront.

Journalists for Jersey

Right after arriving in London on my visit, I was able to meet and personally thank the Member of Parliament most responsible for restoring my visa, John Hemming. Because of him, I received the first “writer visa” to be issued by Great Britain in years.

While the reasons for my travel ban remain under investigation (this is rather awkward, as it consists of the U.K. government effectively investigating itself) the MP and I had a chance to catch up at the Palace of Westminster, sit out on the back terrace overlooking the Thames and film this. 

My trip to Jersey brought me a still warmer welcome. Many of the islanders stopped to ask questions, the politicians had news to share and, dining out, some of the restaurant owners came by my table to shake my hand. It was a truly humbling experience.

Hope For Jersey

As for the promising changes on the island of Jersey: this week, members of Jersey’s parliament voted unanimously for a senior U.K. judge to lead a £6 million Committee of Inquiry into the island’s legacy of atrocities against children. The significance of this cannot be overstated. One year ago, it looked as though the inquiry would never get off the ground. The fact that Jersey’s legislators were unanimous in casting their votes after years of infighting and objections means they finally realize the island must give this matter a proper airing.

The reason the inquiry has taken some time is somewhat understandable. Jersey’s economic position is delicate… Continue reading When Journalism Works

We Did It!

Before: Banned from the UK - The Official Stamp
After: Unbanned from the UK - Work Visa Restored

 

 

 

 

 

This past week, I received my UK visa — a visa that will last me two years.

After 500 days to the day (including leap year) of being banned in the UK, my time in visa purgatory has ended, allowing me to re-enter the UK Common Travel Area to continue my investigative work. I will certainly have a fish pie to celebrate.

Here it is: the before and after photos of my visa status. Above to the left, you will see what is known among international travelers as the “black stamp of death,” typically issued to criminals and other unsavories if they try to enter Great Britain. (The last American who I could find banned from the UK was Martha Stewart in 2008 after she was convicted of insider trading. Others have included Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg, Pablo Neruda and President Obama’s half brother, “Abo.”  In my case, a clean legal and travel record were enough. I have found no record of any journalist banned from the UK inside the past decade.)

Above to the right, you will see my fully restored visa, valid for two years. While the UK no longer offers visas under the “Writer” category, this is an Offshore Worker visa that has been repurposed by Jersey Immigration to fit my intentions as a professional writer doing work in the UK and Channel Islands. (For those of you unfamiliar with Jersey, it is what is referred to as a “peculiar possession” of the Crown and the largest of the Channel Islands. For more see here and previous posts.)

I want to confide that, at the final moment, this visa was held up by unseen hands, but Member of Parliament for Birmingham Yardley John Hemming put in a parliamentary question to Immigration Minister Mark Harper about the delay and my new visa arrived a few days later. (The magic of ministerial questioning.) This, after MP Hemming filed a parliamentary motion in my defense last September.

I also want to thank Trevor Pitman, the courageous member of Jersey’s Parliament who launched the petition that helped restore my visa on Change.org — and did so in spite of harsh political headwinds.

Lastly, I’d like to acknowledge… Continue reading We Did It!

Q: A Journalist Traveling to the UK Should Use Which Visa?

A: In my case, the answer is one of these. Can you guess which?

Overseas domestic worker – private household £270
UK ancestry £270
Fisherman operating inside UK waters (dependent on contract of employment) £270
Off-shore workers £270
Sole representatives £270
Van der Elst Free
Swiss posted worker Free
Turkish national to establish in business Free
Fishy is a relative term

DECEMBER 8, 2012 AT 1:50 PM

PH SAYS:

How are things progressing? It appears to be taking an exceptional amount of time to complete some simple form filling !!

LEAH MCGRATH GOODMAN SAYS:

To PH – and everyone else who has followed my misadventures:

If only it were that simple! Because of the bizarre way in which I was given the heave-ho, my return has been anything but a straightforward process. Those involved in my case have had different goals and — from what I can glean — not all of them aligned with my wish to return to Jersey.

The main problem: Jersey objected last year to my entering the UK on a Business Visitor’s visa. This is why I was thrown out.

Unfortunately, this visa is what journalists typically use for trips of 6 months or less. (For the record, I have only used this visa for trips of approximately 5 weeks or less.)

Once Jersey forbade me to enter the island on the Business Visitor’s visa (initially, it approved it, but then changed its mind a few times) my list of options for entering the country narrowed — greatly.

The UK has heavily restricted writers from entering the country in recent years (to be fair, this seems to be in response to the U.S. doing the same to Britons). This means I have been forced to comb through a netherworld of obscure visas that may or may not allow for my return. Remember, other journalists may travel to the UK on the Business Visitor’s visa, but I was denied the ability to do this.

And, yes, I feel I was targeted. Finding another way to the goal of visiting the UK has been a yearlong process.

Now for the good news… Continue reading Q: A Journalist Traveling to the UK Should Use Which Visa?

Celebrating One-Year Anniversary Of My UK Ban

Last picture in Jersey (before being banned)

Feeling grateful for supporters in the UK and around the world who have demanded my UK travel ban be overturned. Because of you — and the help of UK Member of Parliament John Hemming, it expires today.

To mark the ban’s one-year anniversary, Trevor Pitman, member of the parliament of Jersey (the British Crown dependency where I was conducting research before I got the boot) launched a petition on Change.org, urging the UK government to restore my UK Tier-1 visa.

Without this, it is unlikely I will be able to finish my work. Please, if you believe in defending a free press, take 10 seconds to sign this petition. Surrounded by ocean, Jersey has been isolated in its struggle for a free and fair democracy for far too long. It should be able to welcome journalists, not ban them.

Part I: How To Harass A Journalist

My close friends — Jonathan and Vahni — flew from London to Jersey this winter to oversee the packing of my things, mostly personal belongings and papers, after the Jersey authorities flagged me for removal at the UK border following my research into the Haut de la Garenne scandal.

These things also included fancy dress shoes, which were of apparent interest to the authorities.

The boxes arrived in the U.S. many weeks later, slashed open by X-Acto knives and in some cases (such as the box pictured below) ripped open by human hands. The boxes arrived with a form stating that a “contaminant” was found inside, but it did not say what that contaminant was. Frankly, it’d be nice to know.

Below, a transcript between Vahni and the United Parcel Service, which was entrusted with my packages, hinting that the possibility of poisonous UK-Jersey soil on my dress shoes had established grounds for a lengthy search of my belongings. All of which makes one wonder why we are allowed to walk off planes in street shoes after taking international flights?

Based on the fact all the boxes were opened and the shipment arrived weeks late, we can only deduce someone had a very strong interest in going through my stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FEBRUARY 2012

Initial Question: Receiver [Leah McGrath Goodman] has just told me that ALL packages opened/damaged. Things actually spilling out of them. They were just left at side door without knocking. They were delivered after the promised delivery date.

UPS Sammy A.: Hi, this is Sammy A.. I’ll be happy to assist you!
Vahni: As you can see – not happy!

UPS Sammy A.: I need to connect you with a representative who can track your international package. Can I connect you now?
Vahni: yes please
UPS Sammy A. has disconnected.
UPS Ursula P.: Hi, this is Ursula P.. I’ll be happy to assist you.
Vahni: can you see my prior chat? Very unhappy with the condition of shipment.

UPS Ursula P.: Yes, I can see the prior chat. Just a moment while I review your tracking information.
Vahni: there are 7 packages in that shipment. ALL were opened and not reclosed securely.
Vahni: And were left at side door without knocking to see if anyone was there to receive them.
UPS Ursula P.: Please give me a couple of minutes to check what happen with your packages and i will also find out about the delivery.                                                                                                                                                         Vahni: We’ll be checking carefully through the items to see if anything is damaged or missing.
Vahni: if so, what is the procedure for filing a claim?
UPS Ursula P.: I understand that you need to know about this packages. I would need a couple of minutes to find all the information for this packages. Would that be okay with you?
Vahni: Yes. Basically I need to know why they arrived in such bad condition
UPS Ursula P.: Thanks, Just give me a moment.
UPS Ursula P.: Thanks for your patience. I review all the information of this tracking number in the system. The system shows that your package was held by the U.S. Customs Agency. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) required the package to be cleaned and disinfected the 11 pairs of shoes. Soil from another countries is not allowed to enter the USA. the customs inspector cleaned and disinfected the shoes. Then the package was back to UPS for delivery.

Vahni: Yes. but all the shoes were in one box. All the boxes were opened, and not reclosed properly.
Vahni: Things were poking out of them.
Vahni: Why?
UPS Ursula P.: I am sorry.

 

 

Anarchy In The UK?

Haut de la Garenne, Jersey, 2011

The following story was commissioned by The Guardian after I was detained, questioned and banned from the United Kingdom in the wake of research for my next book in the Channel Islands, a $1 trillion tax haven off the coast of England. Many of you have asked what I have been working on — this is what I have been working on. My misadventures, along with those of several others whose names I am honored to see mine beside, are cited in The Guardian’s print edition today. I am fine, although I may now be the only member of the London Speaker Bureau not allowed to speak in London. I will truly miss the UK’s savory fish pies.

When I was 29 and first embarking on my writing career in London, I discovered a beautiful island off the coast of England that I would return to many times in the years to come. Jersey not only has heavenly beaches and culinary delights, but the people of the island are some of the loveliest I have known. After a busy week in the City, a puddle-jump flight could see me there in less than an hour, soaking up the sun on the white sands under wildflower-draped cliffs. The island’s locals would sometimes hint that Jersey’s pristine exterior belied a dark side. But I couldn’t imagine it. How could a place with such warm people have a dark heart?

When I returned to the U.S. in late 2008 with my first book contract, it came as a shock when I witnessed, from a distance, Jersey’s horrific child abuse scandal. Day after day for weeks, I watched the deputy chief of police, Lenny Harper, give interviews to a crush of international press outside the shuttered orphanage of Haut de la Garenne. Harper seemed increasingly alarmed over the human remains his team was finding inside, although what to make of them was hotly debated by the media.

The islanders, who are quiet people, were quietly devastated. The notion that, for decades, their children’ homes might have been used as a sexual cafeteria for the rich and privileged – as hundreds of the victims contended – was distasteful in the extreme. During the probe government officials repeatedly stated that they fully intended to run a thorough investigation. Yet, within months, Harper and his boss, the island’s head constable, Graham Power, had been smeared by the local newspaper, The Jersey Evening Post, as unfit for their jobs and driven from the island. Their main advocate, Senator Stuart Syvret – then-health minister and one of the island’s most popular politicians – also found himself under siege, eventually sacked and jailed twice. The cases made against each man were as flimsy as the headlines were flashy.

It seemed that anyone who attempted to stand up for Jersey’s underprivileged or conduct a proper investigation into their treatment soon found themselves in the fight of their lives.

Evidence found at Haut de la Garenne – including bones that were “fresh and fleshed” before being burned and dozens of children’s teeth with the roots still on them in the furnace area – was turned over to a new police chief who downplayed its significance but also admitted to throwing some of it out. As an investigative journalist, I found it hard to understand how this could possibly inspire confidence. It seemed the situation needed to be looked at by someone without an axe to grind or an ass to save.

After I passed in my first book, which also focused on cultures of corruption (The Asylum: The Renegades Who Hijacked The World’s Oil Market, HarperCollins 2011) I began to travel to the UK on a regular basis to conduct interviews with the victims, senators and law-enforcement officials.

This is where my own troubles began… Continue reading Anarchy In The UK?

Zombies, Freewill and the Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse

A reader requested I write about the inevitable zombie apocalypse.

Very well then.

I do not ascribe zombies to the rise of the Tea Party, the Gang of Six, or today’s call by euro-zone chiefs for a “selective default” on the Greek debt.

Although that would be entirely conceivable.

However, it is worth noting that respectable bastions of academia are taking seriously the zombie question. This has been evidenced by such mounting bodies of work as: Why Zombies Are Inconceivable (Eric Marcus); Zombie Killer (Nigel Thomas); Zombies and the Case of the Phenomenal Pickpocket (Michael Lynch); Zombies Support Biological Theories of Consciousness (Andrew Bailey); and Zombie Mary and the Blue Banana (Tillman Vierkant).

Ordinarily, this might be dismissed as so many starving philosophers jumping on the Max Brooks “Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead” bandwagon and its many spinoffs since the book’s release in 2003.

Except the term “zombie,” it seems, was first introduced and popularized by a philosopher and professor back in 1974. Continue reading Zombies, Freewill and the Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse

Good News About Unmitigated Awfulness

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So there’s this small issue of the world being debt-ridden and nobody hiring and the delicate financial machinery of our country breaking down in a way that can only be called utterly embarrassing.

This is not altogether bad news. For those who have long been looking for their moment to escape a lifetime of professional drudgery, it is a chance to hit the reset button. Go back to university, take a master class in sculpture or become a Cordon Bleu chef. Our favorite course of late is this one.

Go to the desert and paint your masterpiece knowing you will be unmolested.

The great thing about no opportunity is this: if you remove yourself from the world to do what you want to do, as opposed to doing the fake thing you’re pretending to want to do, it comes with no opportunity cost. You will not be missing out on all the good jobs. There are no good jobs!

The best part is, after taking a year or two out to reposition yourself, the odds are you’ll be returning to a world of renewed opportunity. Maybe not of the milk-and-honey variety, but certainly superior to what you see today.

How can we presume this? Continue reading Good News About Unmitigated Awfulness

Oh Roop, It Didn’t Have To Be This Way

In happier days...

I remember when I first read about Rupert Murdoch as a kid, how he barnstormed the British media in the 1960s and published anything that might put the nation’s panties in a bunch: its journalistic establishment, its finance establishment, its trade union establishment, its royal establishment. You name it, if it was a pillar of something-or-other, he wanted to chop it down. Then I learned about his blackheartedness, his don’t give a damn attitude and total lack of self-awareness and accountability. God help me, I thought, I love a psychotic.

While I worked at Dow Jones, we all watched as Rupert Murdoch outfoxed the utterly dundering Bancroft family, owners of The Wall Street Journal. Somehow he managed it so that the family’s only representative on the board was a 27-year-old aspiring opera singer. Even then I reckoned, well, if the family that owns this paper doesn’t realize what a jewel it has, maybe they don’t deserve to own it.

We were also sick of the Bancrofts doing things like selling off all their Dow Jones stock while insisting on keeping their controlling power. It seemed dysfunctional and cheap. Despite his faults, Murdoch was never cheap with the paper — in fact, he’s been spending on it  like a drunken sailor — and he seemed to genuinely love and covet it. With Murdoch, coveting is the most you can ask for.

Since then, many have left the Journal, as not everyone favors Murdoch’s rarefied brand of journalism. And while he used to go after the establishment, it seems now what he has always desired was to become the establishment. Continue reading Oh Roop, It Didn’t Have To Be This Way

‘Bogged Down In A Pseudo-Religious, Ideological War Over Whatever’

Not my words, just something an observant Canadian living inside the U.S. had to say today about our country’s death match over the debt ceiling — before remarking that it might be wise to, uh, “back-migrate.”

Instead of an espresso shot this morning, take a gander at our impressive U.S. Debt Clock. If that doesn’t jolt you awake, nothing will.

Remember, no one on this planet even has $1 trillion. Yet, somehow the U.S. has found itself on the hook for more than $54 trillion. Continue reading ‘Bogged Down In A Pseudo-Religious, Ideological War Over Whatever’