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The corridors of power...

There are some implausible stories out there - such as the Nigerian astronaut who is stranded on a Russian space station and has $15m in back pay owing to him. With your help (i.e. bank account details, sort code) he can unfreeze the money and arrange a Soyuz flight home.

I wonder what the 419 scamsters would make of Dame Shirley Porter and the ‘homes for votes’ scandal? This rivals BCCI as one of The UK’s longest running legal sagas. After years of stonewalling, Dame Shirley has agreed to settle her case with Westminster City Council for a respectable £12.3m, close enough to the original £27m surcharge.

BCCI’s creditors have made 75p in the pound back, with the promise of more to come. Contrast that with Peter Phillips’ pursuit of Robert Maxwell’s private assets, where it cost £1.6m to recover £1.6m, give or take £40,000.

Phillips’ fees were entirely justified, but it shows how expensive this sort of work is.

I wonder what John Magill makes of the Porter deal? Magill was the Touche Ross partner who audited the Westminster books in the 80s, when Dame Shirley was council leader. His provisional report, published in January 1994 after four years’ work, provided Westminster with the ammunition to recover some of the funds it missed out on by selling flats to yuppies at knockdown prices.

Dame Shirley continues to protest her innocence, saying she was repeatedly advised that Westminster’s policies were lawful. But, at 73, she wants to draw a line.

Her father, Sir Jack Cohen, the founder of Tesco, came up with the slogan ‘Pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap’. I don’t think council flats was quite what he had in mind.

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