Exclusive:Are London’s fire engines to be owned by a firm whose advisers advocate jihad?

Arcapita's swish Bahrain hq: Picture courtesy:http://thebigprojectme

Just when the appalling story of the near bankrupt company,AssetCo, which owns London and Lincolnshire’s fire engines, nears its conclusion,  there is a new and extraordinary twist to the tale.

AssetCo in desperation to stave off bankruptcy on Monday is negotiating a take over with Arcapita Bank, a Bahrain based but Arab and Indonesian privately owned company. This firm because it is owned by Saudis is governed by Shariah law and any transaction must be approved by a special committee of  Sharia advisers.

 Now an investigation by me has come across extraordinary information about their advisers and their views and connections with militant Islam. Enough for me to contact the company in Bahrain and ask for an explanation. Which is more than Brian Coleman, chair of the London fire brigade and Bob Neill, the fire minister, can do- because they have rendered themselves  powerless to do anything  under the terms of the contracts in selling off the fire engines and recruiting auxilliary staff to AssetCo in the first place.

Here are the details and the company’s response. They are three allegations, that they employed an adviser considered so dangerous by the government that he is banned from entering Britain; that they currently employ an adviser who advocates aggressive military jihad and there were involved in a big controversy in the United States over allegations that  their top man had secretly funded Osama Bin Laden.

The first case involves  Yusuf Al-Qaradawi , a man banned from entering Britain since 2008, after advocating the abduction and killing of US soldiers in Iraq and the killing of Israeli citizens. On other matters he is  tolerant, including allowing Muslims to consume a very limited amount of alcohol . He condones wife-beating as a last resort so long as it done lightly and thinks homosexual acts should be punished by the death penalty. He was chairman of  Arcapita Shariah Advisory Board.Ironically he came to Britain in 2004 and Ken Livingstone, the Labour mayorial candidate who approved the original AssetCo contract, shared a platform at City Hall which was condemned by Bob Neill, then a London Assembly member.

The company confirm his former employment: A spokesman said: ” He was an adviser only on aspects of shari’ah law and our relationship with him ended inFebruary 2002. ”

But since he has left he was had been replaced by another adviser Muhammad Taqi Usmani , a senior Pakistan Muslim scholar, and former judge who has recently advocated ” aggressive military jihad.” According to an article in The Times see http://thetim.es/pcASva– he believes Muslims should live peaceably in Britain,”  only until they gain enough power to engage in battle”. He has since corrected this impression suggesting a more ambivalent attitude to jihad.

He also as a former Pakistani sharia judge argued against the women’s protection law which made rape a criminal offence.

The company said ” We believe the report to be a mistranslation of what he actually said. He did not advocate aggressive military jihad.”

The final area involves a row in the US when Arcapita took over Cypress Communications – a company which manufactured a state of the art computer security kit. There was an allegation that the chairman of Arcapita,Mohammed Abdulaziz Aljomaih – was discovered on the ‘Golden Chain’ list of Bin Laden supporters and financiers which was seized in 2002 during an anti-terror raid in Bosnia.

There followed an inquiry by the Committee for Foreign Investment in the US  on whether the company -like the take-over of  US ports by a Dubai firm- and it ended with the company being allowed to run the company but not allowing non US national access to sensitive computer software. See:http://www.nationalcorruptionindex.org/pages/profile.php?profile_id=325

The company’s response is: “This claim was thoroughly investigated by the US authorities at the time and they found that Al Jomaih, chairman of Arcapita, was not the same person named in the list. Restrictions on non US citizens  were applied at the time, like any other foreign company buying a US company in a sensitive area , but these have since been lifted.”

The only person so far to raise this issue of Arcapita has been Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union. In a letter to Bob Neill he says: ” I am sure you will appreciate the importance of this at a time when we are still considering the outcome of the inquest into the 7/7 terror attacks.

“The simple truth is that this privatization has been a complete and utter disaster for all concerned. The complacency and lack of foresight of those responsible is an utter scandal as is the continuing attempt to pretend there is nothing wrong”.

My conclusion is that the arrangements which could lead to Arcapita taking over London’s fire brigade prove there is a major flaw in the government’s privatisation agenda .

If a firm that cannot be vetted can take over such a sensitive area- particularly as London Fire Brigade plays a major role in protecting the capital for future terrorist attacks, there is something seriously wrong.

 I cannot prove that Arcapita is not a fit and proper company to run the operational side of the London fire Brigade ( they own other less sensitive things like Freightliner and Viridian, N Ireland’s electricity). They also point out that their advisers are not employees of the company and they do not have any say in the operation of the company. Nor having just done a blog about the media misrepresenting Muslims, do I want to create scare stories.

But as a citizen I would want my elected representatives to guarantee that in such a sensitive area, they are safe to do so, and there is no hidden agenda behind this take over.

Anything less would be grossly irresponsible and playing with the lives of everybody who lives in London- whether they be Muslim, Jew, Atheist, Christian or whatever. I hope Mr Neill and Mr Coleman are listening.

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