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Author: Sonia Gable
Date: November 2006
A finger in too many pies
The British National Party’s attempt to move into life insurance has collapsed as a result of an investigation by Searchlight. But the man who set it up has plenty of other horses in his stable. Sonia Gable looks at the diverse interests of the BNP’s internet master.
A vituperative notice placed on Albion Life’s website on 2 October announced that it was “unable to accept any more requests for quotes which we would normally pass on to the firm of life insurance brokers with whom we have hitherto been working”. Albion Life, the BNP’s life insurance company, had been in business for less than a month.
Albion Life blamed an article by Martin Shipton in the Welsh newspaper, the Western Mail, which named the broker whom Searchlight had uncovered. It seems the brokers, Financial Solutions Unlimited of Bridgend, had not realised that doing business with the BNP was guaranteed to attract opprobrium and quickly severed the relationship.
The life insurance operation was an attempt to raise money for the BNP, which according to its 2005 accounts is bankrupt. Albion Life tried to persuade BNP members to name the party as a beneficiary of the policy so that the BNP would benefit on the member’s death. What it did not tell members was that, whether or not the party was a beneficiary, the BNP would receive an introduction fee paid out of the member’s premiums.
Searchlight had questioned whether Albion Life was com-mitting a criminal act by carrying on a regulated activity without authorisation. Under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 selling insurance is a regulated activity unless the firm does no more than introduce clients to an authorised broker.
Albion Life’s website portrays the firm as a life insurance company, encourages customers to fill in an online quotation form and says its own sales team would be in touch. If this is the case the firm would need to be fully regulated by the Financial Services Authority. “I would have thought this is something that the FSA should take a keen interest in as its job is to maintain consumer confidence,” said Jason King, managing director at Torquil Clark Life Insurance, one of the UK’s largest brokers.
The man behind Albion Life was Steve Blake, the BNP’s website editor. Blake, 42, works as an IT consultant in Stirling, Scotland, where he has registered the domain names for the BNP’s other front organisations such as the Christian Council of Britain and Civil Liberty.
Websites for these two are barely maintained. Apart from a brief “mission statement” the rest of the CCB’s website has been “under development” for several months. And Civil Liberty’s site still informs its readers that Nick Griffin, the BNP chairman, and Mark Collett, whom it describes as head of the party’s graphic design, will face trial on Monday 16 January 2006.
Civil Liberty’s apparent lack of interest in the many other criminal proceedings and tribunal hearings involving BNP members only rein-forces the suspicion that its main purpose is to act as a conduit for donations from the USA, which the BNP could not accept directly because of UK laws on the funding of political parties.
Another domain name that Blake has registered, using his trading name digitalscotland, is for Solidarity. This is the trade union “for British Workers”, which the BNP launched triumphantly last January. Searchlight immediately exposed it as a BNP front.
It certainly does not have much prospect as a trade union. Its president, Patrick Harrington, cannot handle his own affairs let alone anyone else’s. In August Harrington, a railway worker, failed in an appeal against his expulsion from the RMT union for misconduct because he had brought the proceedings too late. A former National Front “political soldier” in the late 1980s alongside Griffin, Harrington had been expelled for deceiving the union by applying for membership under a false name.
Solidarity was primarily another attempt to raise money for the BNP, which thought it could set up a trade union political fund. Since January no more has been heard of it and it has no website.
Perhaps Blake is finding it hard to juggle his BNP work with his non-political ventures. Under the links to the BNP and bits of health education advice on Albion Life’s website is the heading “home improvements”. The single entry is for “brightahomes”, described as “the No.1 UK site for energy saving double glazing suppliers and conservatory installers”.
Brightahomes turns out to be no more than a list of links to commercial conservatory suppliers arranged somewhat imperfectly by town. For example a search for businesses in Ilford, Essex, threw up just one name, the rest being listed under neighbouring Barking.
The site also offers “other services” but only one is offered: a similar listing site for skip hire businesses. That one claims it includes 1,700 companies across the UK and says that if any company is not on the site it will “add your details to our listings for free”.
Both sites turn out to be registered to Steve Blake, one under his own name, the other as digitalscotland.
The businesses listed on these sites have no connection with the BNP or Blake and do not pay to be included. But Blake is not in the business of offering free advertising. Where he makes his money is the “pay per click” Google ads that appear on both sites. Google automatically places advertisements related to the website’s content and every time somebody clicks on the advertisement, the site that hosted it receives a fee.
Searchlight does not know whether the money made by these sites stays with Blake or ends up with the BNP. Both are in need of it. Blake’s last company, Heimdall Communications Ltd, was struck off in November 2003 after trading losses left it unable to pay its debts. According to the last accounts the company filed, for the year ending on 30 June 2001, Blake had given a personal guarantee for £6,000 to the Royal Bank of Scotland as security for a loan to the company. This means that if the company was unable to pay up, the bank would have come to Blake for its money. The company also owed him £5,521 of his own money that he had put into his business.
Perhaps the company’s secretary, Anthony Cyril Blake, a 55-year-old former bookmaker living in Ipswich, helped bale him out.
Despite the demise of Heimdall Communications Ltd, named after one of the gods of Norse mythology revered by nazis the world over, its website lives on. Its registration was last updated, apparently by the non-existent company, in September this year. Digitalscotland’s domain registration also remains in the name of Heimdall Communications Ltd and was last updated in March.
Doing business in the name of a non-existent limited company is, of course, illegal.
The Heimdall web space acts as the host for two other businesses. One is a holiday let in Wester Ross. The other is a man who sells his paintings of racing cars. A Persian carpet repair business also lists a website hosted by Heimdall but it no longer exists.
Heimdall Communications also appears as the company responsible for maintaining the website of Aiton & Co, its erstwhile accountants. This is another job Blake appears to have neglected: the site’s tax information is all for the year 2002/03.
Heimdall’s business was website design and general personal computer support. To make such a large loss as Heimdall did in this type of business seems unusually incompetent. Or may-be Blake spends too much of his time on doubtful ventures on behalf of the BNP or childishly bombarding Searchlight’s email address with spam.
Albion Life says it is “working to secure a replacement broker” and that “nothing will stop Albion conducting business to raise funds for the BNP”. Anyone thinking of helping the BNP should be prepared for public scrutiny.
© Searchlight Magazine 2006
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