Tag Archives: Tim Spicer

BristolBloggerGate: Craig’s list of libel lawyers who bottled it

By way of a follow up to the recent NewbyGate (né BristolBloggerGate) furore, I notice that former British ambassador-turned-anti-Establishment blogger and all-round troublemaker Craig Murray has posted something which may be of interest to anyone concerned about getting sued for libel

  • Number of letters received from lawyers threatening legal action 47
  • Number of lawyers involved: 11
  • Number of lawyers told to go ahead and sue or prosecute: 11
  • Number of suits/prosecutions brought: Nil
  • Number of apologies and retractions issued: Nil
  • Damages Paid: Nil
  • Number of falsehoods published: Nil

Who says it is not fun running a blog?

[Slightly edited for clarity]

Craig Murray, you might remember, was threatened by big hitter libel lawyers Schillings on behalf of hired killer/mercenary/’private military contractor’ Tim Spicer for writing a book which spilled the beans on all sorts of juicy things that many people would have preferred to have remained hidden from public view. Murray’s publisher was scared off, but he stuck to his guns and published it online himself anyway – and was not sued.

For those who were wondering, The Bristol Blogger has been hidden from public view by its author with a view to finding a more robust host than WordPress.com has proved. In the meantime TBB is acting as a guest blogger on Bristol 24/7.

Meanwhile, a crack team of bloggers and journalists is working hard to discover exactly why University of Liverpool legal eagle Kevan Ryan demanded that WordPress.com censor two-and-a-half year old blog posts about his boss Sir Howard Newby – watch this space!

The last word for now goes to Craig Murray again:

Britain’s notorious libel laws are designed to inculcate fear in those who would publish the truth. But, as with most situations in life, a lack of fear makes things much less fraught.

When Craig met Tim

When on my second day in my new office I received a friendly phone call from Lt.-Col Tim Spicer saying he wished to come and see me, it rang no alarm bells with me. The defence industry is full of newly retired military personnel, and we provide military training to governments all around the world. I should confess that I didn’t yet on 6 January 1998 mentally attach the word “mercenary” to Sandline, and I did not connect Sandline with Executive Outcomes during that initial telephone conversation with Spicer.

As Spicer briefly explained it, Sandline were involved in providing security to expatriate companies in Sierra Leone and training to forces loyal to the legitimate government of Sierra Leone. Spicer asked if he could come to see me and brief me on what his company was doing, and I readily agreed. I felt I could do with all the briefing I could get.

The next day I mentioned Spicer’s call to John Everard, my predecessor as Deputy Head, who was engaged in a week’s handover with me. John asked if I was sure I wanted to meet Spicer. He said that as our policy was to avoid further military conflict in Sierra Leone, he had thought it best to avoid direct contact with Spicer, and to have only telephone contact with him.

It had not occurred to me that there could be a problem, and I was a bit taken aback by what John had said. But it would be difficult now for me to cancel the appointment I had agreed.

I thought it through, and decided that I really couldn’t see the moral difference between having a conversation on the telephone, as John Everard did, and having it face to face. Indeed you could sum someone up much better if you could see their body language rather than just hear their voice. I spoke to Tim Andrews, head of the section which included Sierra Leone, who told me that it was indeed very sensitive, but that Spicer had been chasing a contract to train forces loyal to President Kabbah. Tim agreed with my suggestion that we should see Spicer, as we needed to know what was happening. But Tim did mention he believed Sandline were connected to Executive Outcomes. That put me on my guard.

Perhaps I should have researched further. But I was in just my second
day in a big new job. I had 21 new countries to update myself on, involving thousands of pages of material to read through. I worked over a hundred hours that first week. I decided Spicer could wait until I met him. I didn’t particularly see him as a danger to me.

I underestimated Spicer. That was a bad error of judgement. 19 January, the day that Tim Spicer arrived, was extremely busy. We had ministerial briefings and parliamentary questions on Sierra Leone and a consular crisis in Nigeria. So when I was informed that Colonel Spicer was here to see me, it took me a few seconds to recall who he was.

As he was shown up, I asked Tim Andrews to come and sit in with me and take a note of the conversation. You would normally only do this for important visitors – otherwise you would just make a brief note yourself after the meeting – but given John Everard’s words of caution, I thought it was probably wise to have Tim Andrews present. Besides, he knew the subject much better than I yet did.

Tim Spicer was short for a soldier, but well built and exceedingly well manicured and coiffured. His conventional good looks were marred by a slight hooding of the eyes or squint. He wore the thin, inch apart pinstripes that seem to be universally favoured by the British military out of uniform. He smelt of expensive after-shave.

Spicer told us that Sandline now had a contract to provide training to the Kamajors, a militia force loyal to Sam Hinga Norman and currently prepared to fight for President Kabbah. He said that the aim was to prepare the Kamajors for a quick campaign, in support of the Nigerian-led ECOMOG forces, to retake Sierra Leone from the RUF and military junta. The contract covered training and “non-lethal” equipment. Spicer used the phrase “non-lethal” several times, and I took it as his intention to stress that he was not providing weapons and was therefore acting legally.

I told him that we did not favour a military solution and that any armed intervention by ECOMOG would require prior agreement from the UN Security Council; it was essential that any such military action be as quick and limited as possible. The laws of armed conflict and the human rights of civilians must be respected.

I asked Spicer, who was funding the Sandline contract, and why? He replied that he was not free to tell me who was funding it, but that it related to the securing of some mineral assets within the country. I asked him who Sandline were? I had heard that they were related to Executive Outcomes, whose reputation in Africa was not good. Were Sandline related to Executive Outcomes, and was Mr Tony Buckingham involved in Sandline?

Spicer replied that he did not have authority to discuss Sandline’s corporate structure or confidential business matters. He was here to brief me on the wider situation with regard to their strategy on Sierra Leone.

Spicer then said that he had intelligence that the junta may be attempting to acquire Eastern European weapons, shipped via Nigeria. I said that we could ask the Nigerian government to intercept any such weapons shipments under UN Security Council Resolution 1132. I asked Tim Andrews to show him the relevant passage.

Tim Andrews did not have a copy of the resolution on him, so he went back to his own office to get one. He took it down from where it was pinned, on the cork board behind the desk officer Linda St Cook’s desk. He returned to my room and read aloud the appropriate clause:

Decides that all States shall prevent the sale or supply to Sierra Leone, by their nationals or from their territories, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of petroleum and petroleum products and arms and related matériel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment and spare parts for the aforementioned, whether or not originating in their territory;

Spicer responded to this by saying that he had understood that the UNSCR applied only to the RUF, and not to the government. I said that this was wrong, and that it was a geographic prohibition covering the whole country.

Spicer then asked whether the prohibition applied to ”dual-use” items, which could have either a military or a civilian application. He gave the example of night vision equipment, which he said could be used by the military or in mining. I said that such “dual-use” items would be subject to export control licensing by the Department of Trade and Industry, who would consult other departments including the FCO and MOD.

Spicer then asked if military items could be exported to a neighbouring country such as Guinea, and then on to Sierra Leone. I said no, they couldn’t.

While it was now obvious to me that Spicer was really considering the potential for himself to export arms to the government of Sierra Leone, I felt that Tim Andrews and I had made it plain that this was not allowed. The language of the Resolution which Tim Andrews read out to Spicer is admirably plain. I was surprised that a former British Army Lieutenant Colonel, who must by training have been familiar with UN Security Council Resolutions in conflict situations and how to interpret them, appeared to be quite so ignorant of the basic rules governing his operations in a theatre in which he was already involved. But I took it that this was because his existing contract covered only training and non-lethal equipment, as he had stated, and he was just making preliminary enquiries about the possibility of expanding this to include arms.

I am quite certain that, when Tim Andrews read Spicer the Security Council Resolution, he did not say anything like “Well, that’s awkward, because the contract we expect to sign does include the sale of weapons”.

It was not only to Tim Andrews and I that Spicer went out of his way to stress that his contract was for “non-lethal” equipment. My first day in the Department had been 5 January, but as is FCO practice I had a few days “handover” from my predecessor who was still doing the job for the first few days. On 5 January John Everard had sent a minute to Ann Grant to say that Spicer had told Everard that his contract would include medical and communications equipment “and nothing higher profile”.

It has been put to me, not least at the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, that I must have realised that a £10 million contract included arms. But in fact such contracts, not including arms, were an established feature of the region. In particular, the Nigerian-led ECOMOG forces which were occupying Liberia, and which we believed might be going on to invade Sierra Leone, received their supplies, training, transportation and logistic support from the United States government via a company called Pacific and Atlantic Engineering. Their role specifically excluded the provision of weapons. Their funding, totalling some US$40 million a year, included contributions from the German and Dutch governments.

I presumed that Spicer was indicating a prospective contract with Kabbah that would be similar in scope to the Pacific and Atlantic contract, and took that to be what he meant when he kept emphasising the term “non-lethal”. [Spicer gives a quite different account of this meeting. See Tim Spicer, 'An Unorthodox Soldier', pp198-200]

Nonetheless, I felt worried by my meeting with Spicer. He had refused to clarify Sandline’s ownership, and his repeated questioning on the possibility of sending arms to Sierra Leone led me to think that he was looking to add arms to training in the future. All in all, I had found him not straight. I therefore nipped three doors along the corridor to see Ann Grant, and told her that, having met Spicer, I was worried about his intentions and didn’t trust him, and that I proposed to tell the Department to break contact with him. Ann agreed with my proposal, and I went immediately to let Tim Andrews and Linda St Cook know of my decision.

Spicer later claimed that he informed the FCO at our meeting that he was exporting arms, and that the FCO (i.e. I) gave approval. But both Tim Andrews and I were to make formal, independent statements to Customs and Excise in which we both stated that Spicer had emphasised that he was exporting non-lethal equipment. We both also independently stated that, when Spicer raised questions over arms exports, Tim Andrews read him the Resolution to show that any arms exports would be illegal. John Everard had minuted that Spicer had told him that he was supplying medical and communications equipment “and nothing higher profile”.

Yet much of the media and most of the political establishment preferred to take the unsupported word of a mercenary – that he had told us about supplying arms – against all three of us.

Why would that be?

Well, the Conservative Party saw the “Arms to Africa affair” as their first real chance to hit the Blair government – still only seven months old – with a scandal. They desperately wanted Spicer to be telling the truth and the FCO to have connived at breaking the law, preferably with ministerial knowledge. Conservatives were comforted in this view by the fact that Tim Spicer was a public schoolboy and a former Lt Colonel of a Guards regiment. He was a gentleman, and socially very well connected, with friends in the royal family. Such people never tell lies, while John Everard, Tim Andrews and I were all irredeemably middle class.

This struck me forcibly when I was talking to a friend of mine, an officer in the Ministry of Defence. I told him that Spicer was not telling the truth when he said that I had approved of the shipment of arms. My friend (I believe it was Colonel Andrew Jocelyn, but it may have been another) winced and said “But he’s godfather to one of my children.” To many influential people in Britain, the idea that a senior Guards officer might lie was unthinkable – it struck at the root of their entire belief system.

Support for Spicer from Conservatives was predictable. But I had not realised that influence would be exerted on behalf of Spicer from 10 Downing Street. Our policy on Sierra Leone was to seek a solution by peaceful means. I am sure that was what Robin Cook favoured; I discussed it with him several times. But in No. 10 and in parts of the FCO, particularly the United Nations Department, they were starting to formulate the Blair doctrine of radical military interventionism that was to lead Tony Blair to launch more wars than any other British Prime Minister. [See John Kampfner; 'Blair’s Wars']

A fundamental part of this new Blair doctrine was to be the ultimate privatisation – the privatisation of killing. Mercenary troops were seen as having many advantages for quick aggressive campaigns in third world countries. Regular government forces had been configured to fight huge battles against other regular forces. Mercenaries were more flexible and less constrained by regulation.

If you consider what “less constrained” really means in terms of shooting up civilians, it is remarkable that this was viewed as an advantage. Still more remarkably, this policy of military intervention in the developing world had many adherents in DFID, where it was being promoted under the slogan that “Security is a precondition of development”.

The “Sandline” or “Arms to Africa” affair has been presented by its proponents as a noble attempt to restore democratic government to Sierra Leone, hampered by pettifogging bureaucrats. In fact, it was nothing of the kind, but a deeply squalid plot to corner the market in Sierra Leone’s blood diamonds.

pp19-25 of Craig Murray’s new book, The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known, the full text of which he has just posted on the internet. You may download a 226 page PDF of it here, or, indeed, here. (It’s only 1.1Mb big.)

It is a book which libel lawyers Schillings managed to persuade original publishers Mainstream to drop after flexing its muscles on behalf of client Tim Spicer, the freebooting mercenary boss. Murray insists the book is not libellous and has stood firm, offering both the free PDF and a privately printed physical version in defiance of the lawyerly intimidation.

I look forward to reading the whole thing.

Mainstream too bland for taste of Spicer

Remember that whole thing about upscale lawyers Schillings putting the squeeze on the publishers of former ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray’s forthcoming book, which promised to dish the dirt on the profiteering activities of mercenary Tim Spicer and others?

Well, it appears to have had the desired effect:

My former publisher, Mainstream, have finally pulled out of publishing The Catholic Orangemen of Togo, intimidated by libel threats made by notorious mercenary commander Tim Spicer.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/Schillings.pdf

I have therefore decided to release the full text free on the internet on 12 January 2009. I do hope more people will learn about the truth about Spicer that way, than they would if Schillings had not intervened. I am very much hoping that I will be able to make some copies of an actual book available at the same time. But you should of course be aware that if you read it you will cause Tim Spicer “profound anxiety and distress”, according to Schillings. Possibly less, however, than that caused to the families of those killed by his mercenaries over the years.

Meantime, here is the epilogue to the book. You don’t get the full force of it unless you have read the history of British involvement in Sierra Leone in the book, but you still might find it interesting.

Download file

ETA:

Craig is looking for volunteers to host the book!

Spartaci Wanted

You’re chance to shout “I’m Spartacus!” Volunteers are wanted to post a PDF of “The Catholic Orangemen of Togo” on 12 January. UK volunteers are very welcome, but as many jurisdictions as possible are helpful.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/Schillings.pdf

The downside is that you may have your collar felt by Schillings, and be disliked by some rather unfriendly mercenaries. OK, that’s a big downside. The upside is that you’ll get to read the book before everybody else.

Volunteers please email athollpublishing@googlemail.com

If you don’t have the facility to host the PDF, be ready to post a link to one on the day.

“If you see him, punch him in the face for me”: Scratcher a rent non-paying little mummy’s boy!

There’s a great little piece in English language Andalucian newspaper The Olive Tree about Mark Thatcher facing eviction from his Spanish bolthole in the wake of Fighting Mann’s EG coup trial:

MARK THATCHER is hiding out in a gated community on the Ronda-San Pedro road in fear of being kidnapped.

He fears an international snatch squad has been ordered to extradite him to Equatorial Guinea to face trial in an overthrow plot, he allegedly helped to fund.

This week fellow plot leader Simon Mann was found guilty and sentenced to 34 years in jail.

The son of former UK PM Margaret Thatcher rarely leaves his £3million bolthole in exclusive El Madronal, which has round-the-clock security.

He has installed a series of high-tech security systems in the home, that is owned by a former school friend Stephen Humberstone.

But now his days are numbered after Humberstone ordered him to leave the home he has rented since 2005 over unpaid bills.

Claiming he is three months in arrears to the tune of over 20,000 euros, Mr. Humberstone this week reportedly plans to serve court papers on him via the San Pedro courts.

“I want him off my property as soon as possible. If you see him, punch him in the face for me.

“I have absolutely no idea why a man as wealthy as him, who can still drive a Porsche, cannot pay his rent.

“All I can think is that he has no money. After talking to Mark I get the feeling he is receiving an allowance from his elderly mother.

“He always likes to pay in cash and even though the villa had maximum security he has fitted even more alarm systems. That shows how scared he is because he is a nasty piece of work and he is not liked.

“Despite all this he can still afford a driver and a cook – so why can he not pay his rent?”

Sir Mark, 54, who is estimated to be worth £64million, denies that he is behind in his rent and insists he has received nothing in writing from his landlord.

The piece goes on to talk about Scratcher’s fears of being kidnapped and sent to Equatorial Guinea to face trial, a theme which TOP covers in salacious detail:

Alarmingly for Thatcher there are an estimated 120 international mafia gangs operating on the Costa del Sol, each capable of undertaking kidnap plots.

In 2005 there were a reported 50 plus kidnappings and “settling of accounts” on the coast.

In 2004 a Lithuanian gang kidnapped British businessman Frank Capa in broad daylight on the Ronda-San Pedro road.

The gang released him after nine days when the family paid a reported £1m
ransom.

A police source told the Olive Press: “There are quite a few groups of former soldiers from the Eastern Bloc, highly-trained with no money, and prepared to carry out these sort of crimes.

“There have been an alarming number of kidnappings over the last few years, most of them going unreported.”

Fret not, Scratcher! I’m sure you’ll be fine!

EG coup blog posts:

Sugaring Spicer: the sensitive side of a professional gun

Tim Spicer <3 blue shirts and big shiny guns

Tim Spicer <3 blue shirts and big shiny guns

Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray is being threatened by lawyers representing the globetrotting mercenary Tim Spicer.

The full text of the letter to Murray’s publishers Mainstream from Spicer’s solicitors Schillings (as taken from the PDF of the letter as hosted on Craig Murray’s blog) is as follows:

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL
Mainstream Publishing Company (Edinburgh) Limited
7 Albany Street
Edinburgh
Scotland
EHl 3UG

BY POST AND FAX: 0131 556 8720

Our Ref: SMS/JXR/ww/A131/3

ON THE RECORD
NOT FOR PUBLICATION

08 July 2008

Dear Sirs

The Road to Samarkand – Craig Murray

We represent Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Spicer OBE, C.E.O. of Aegis Defence Services Limited (“Aegis”).

We are instructed to write to you with regard to ‘THE ROAD TO SAMARKAND- INTRIGUE, CORRUPTION AND DIRTY DIPLOMACY’ (“the Book”) written by Craig Murray and due to be published in September 2009 by you
(http://www.rbooks.co.uk/search results.aspx) to be sold in England and Wales by Random House Sales Department.

We have reason to believe that the Book may contain serious, untrue and damaging defamatory allegations about our client.

Please confirm by return whether the Book is due to be published in England and Wales in September 2008 and if so, the exact date. please also confirm whether the Book is due to be published in any other jurisdiction, setting out each jurisdiction, together with the publication date and publisher concerned in each case.

lmportantly, we require you to confirm by return whether or not the Book contains any reference to our client, and if so, we require you to set out in full each and every reference to our client in its entirety to give our client the opportunity to take legal advice and to respond to any allegations in good time prior to publication.

Any widespread publication of the Book containing defamatory allegations concerning our client would be deeply damaging to our client’s personal and professional reputations and would cause him profound distress and anxiety. We remind you that you would be responsible for that damage and any subsequent republication of the allegations. We also put you on notice that you will be liable for any special damage or loss suffered by our client as a result of the Book and we reserve all our client’s rights in this regard.

We note from your website http://www.mainstreampublishing.com/news_current.html that Mr Murray is due to speak about the Book at a ‘Mainstream author event at the Edinburgh lnternational Book Festival’ entitled ‘Lived Lives’ on 12th August 2008 at 4.30pm in the RBS Main Theatre, Edinburgh. We hereby put both you and Mr Murray on notice that all our client’s rights are reserved in relation to any defamatory comments or publications made by you or Mr Murray in relation to that event.

Please immediately take into your possession all drafts of the Book pre-publication, all notes, emails, correspondence, memos, images and oiher documents relevant to the publication of this Book, and preserve them safely pending the outcome of this dispute. They will need to be disclosed in due course if litigation has to be commenced. Also, you will need to disclose the financial arrangements for the sale and licence of the Book to other publications.

In the circumstances, we require that you confirm immediately that you agree to undertake on behalf of Mainstream Publishing Company (Edinburgh) Limited not to publish any libels regarding our client in any editions of the Book or at all.

We require the above undertaking by 4pm on Friday 11th July 2008, failing which we will have no option but to advise our client with regard to making applications to the High court for an injunction to restrain publication and/or for pre-action disclosure. You are on notice that we will seek to recover the costs of any necessary applications from you.

We await your response by return. In the meantime all our client’s rights are reserved, including the right to issue proceedings against you without further notice.

Yours faithfully

SCHILLINGS

cc. Craig Murray Esq.

Not bad, eh? Psychic libel lawyers who can predict what might be in an as-yet unpublished book!

Murray’s response to the threat is unequivocal:

Schillings are a firm of libel lawyers dedicated to prevent the truth from being known about some deeply unlovely people. They managed temporarily to close down this blog (and several others) to keep information quiet about the criminal record of Alisher Usmanov. Now they are attempting to block the publication of my new book in the interests of mercenary commander Tim Spicer, one of those who has made a fortune from the Iraq War. It is sad but perhaps predictable that private profits from the illegal Iraq war, in which hundreds of thousands of innocent people have died, are providing the funding to try to silence my book.

Libel law in the UK is a remarkable thing – Schillings can go for an injunction when I haven’t published anything about Spicer yet and they haven’t seen what I intend to publish. People might conclude that Spicer has something to hide. You will see that they also are attempting to censor not only the book, but what I say at the Edinburgh Book Festival on 12 August. I can assure you that they will find it impossible to affect what I say about Spicer at that event.

Nor will they prevent me from publishing the truth about Spicer, one way or another.

In a subsequent blog post, he adds:

Among the incidents I cover in my new book are the murder of Peter McBride, the Aegis Trophy Video, the Papua New Guinea coup, the Equatorial Guinea plot, Executive Outcomes’ muder of civilians in Angola and the Arms to Africa affair. I do hope that other bloggers will generate another Streisand effect through blogging on these subjects.

Lest we forget, Spicer – currently running extensive private military operations in Iraq and elsewhere with his company Aegis – has a history of working as a gun-for-hire in places like Papua New Guinea and Sierra Leone, and via connections at mercenary outfits like Executive Outcomes and Sandline has long been a colleague of fellow former Scots Guard the recently convicted coup plotter Simon Mann.

Definitely one to keep your eye on, this’un…

Fighting Mann’s lawyer cries Guinea foul over coup ‘extradition’…

Zimbabwe has extradited Briton Simon Mann, a leader of alleged mercenaries, to Equatorial Guinea to face coup plot charges, his lawyer says.The ex-SAS officer was jailed in Zimbabwe on arms charges in 2004, and rearrested after his release last May.On Wednesday the High Court turned down an appeal against his extradition – his lawyers argued he could face torture.

He was flown out of the country without his legal team’s knowledge before they could lodge a final appeal, they said.

There has been no official confirmation of the extradition from the Zimbabwean government.

BBC News

Mann, you might remember, was the British mercenary captured in Zimbabwe along with a planeful of former 32 Battalion soldiers, $130,000 in cash and a shitload of weapons en route to Equatorial Guinea. The general gist of things was that Mann was hired to overthrow the dictator of Equatorial Guinea, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, by a group of businessmen wanting control of EG’s oil exploitation rights. Mann himself was in for a slice of the black gold pie.

Except it all went pear-shaped: South African, Zimbabwean and EG intelligence all knew about the plan, and it’s suspected so did MI6. Mann’s main pack of dogs of war were captured in Harare, whilst a forward group, including South African Nick du Toit, formerly of 32 Battalion, was arrested in EG capital Malabo.

Ex-SAS soldier Simon Mann has extensive previous in the field of ‘private military operations’, having been involved in the setting up of companies such as South African mercenary company Executive Outcomes and the British-registered Sandline International (most famous for its gun-toting asset stripping in places like Sierra Leone and Bougainville).

Am cooking me tea (roast pork & veg), so more later. I’m drawing diagrams an’ everything!

Linkies: