From 2011: Information Tribunal Casts Doubt on Suitability of Infrormation Commissioner after BCCI Cover-Up

In their issue for the 30th September-13th October 2011, Private Eye also had an article on the questions raised about the performance of the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, after he sided with the government in refusing to disclose information about some of the people involved in the BCCI scandal. That was the bank, which was at the centre of a massive web of corruption and whose collapse in the 1980s caused a huge scandal. It was so corrupt, that it was at one point nicknamed The Bank of Crooks and Conmen International. The articles runs:

Freedom of Information

FoI-led Again

A recent decision by the Information Tribunal, which forced the Treasury to hand over previously concealed details of a 20-year-old report into the BCCI banking scandal, code-named Sandstorm, raises serious questions over whether the current Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, is the man for the job.

Two years ago he had to rule on the Treasury’s non-disclosure of material including the names of people running the fraudulent bank and organisations propping it up. Its stance was based largely on the unlikely grounds that divulging the names would harm international relations or that the names constituted personal data (which can still be disclosed in the public interest).

Among the names concealed as “personal data” were BCCI founder Agha Asan Abedi, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Royal Bank of Scotland and an entire country in the government of Cameroon. Amazingly graham agreed completely with the Sir Humphreys (who also happen to hold his purse strings). But when lefty accountant Professor Prem Sikka from Essex university challenged his decision and took it to the Information Tribunal, it was dismissed out of hand.

“we were surprised to see that the Treasury sought to extend the protection of the data protection principles,” said the tribunal judges, “to information about some individuals who exercised ultimate control over the whole of BCCI’s operations and were the architects of a group-wide programme of fraud and concealment.”

When it came to countries and companies, the Treasury had made the most basic error of treating their names as “personal”. The judges must have been even more surprised to find that an Information Commissioner who is supposed to understand the subject endorse this., On the concealment of Abedi’s name, they concluded with some understatement: “the legitimate interest of the public …justifies disclosure of the identity of the man in overall charge …”

Mike and a number of other bloggers have had their attempts to obtain the true figures of the numbers of people, who have died after being assessed as fit for work under the Freedom of Information Act, turned down. Mike himself was told by the Information Commissioner that his request was ‘vexatious’ by the Information Commissioner after he challenged the decision. This case, unfortunately, shows that Mike and the others are not alone in having their requests turned down under what may be considered highly questionable grounds. Mike’s case is due to go before the Information Tribunal, and I hope they will decide in favour of Mike and the other people wishing to obtain the information. THi

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