Conrad Black: The government has nothing to do with the nation’s bank accounts

The Russians have little to do with the insatiable ambition of all governments to interfere in our personal lives in ways that governments have no right to do.

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The imposition of sanctions on Russia is cited as an excuse for another massive assault on the last shreds of privacy for people across the politically organized world. Officially, we are all invited to acquiesce to public revelations of every conceivable connection we might have with assets of any kind that could be linked to the Russian oligarchs, but this is the pretext for a thickening of the gigantic cloud of self-righteous unofficial smugness that turned routine banking into the financial equivalent of frequent, compulsive colonoscopies. In fact, the Russians have little to do with the insatiable ambition of all governments to interfere in our personal lives in ways that governments have no right to do. No trustworthy authority can claim that what a bank is required to learn about our financial transactions is necessary for governments to fulfill their fundamental duties to ensure the proper functioning of civil society.

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To these ends, we can safely dismiss the fact that the sanctions against Russia are a farce, a pseudo-virtuous posture as a substitute for giving the Ukrainians what they need to expel the Russian army and air force from Ukraine, and the sanctions against friends of the Russian regime are, in terms of due process, an outrage. We do not have to seize foreigners’ property unless a certain burden of proof has been met that they have committed offenses which would be subject to such penalties in the seizing country, and that these standards are equivalent to ours. China, India, South Africa, Brazil and many other countries, including Israel, are not cooperating with anti-Russian sanctions, and Western Europe has been steadily buying Russian natural gas, which puts sanctions under scrutiny. The Russians are already pocketing the profits from their own credit cards which immediately replaced the Western sanctions cards, and the ruble has fully rebounded from its dramatic early erosion against the dollar.

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The immediate problem is that NATO recognizes that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is illegal and potentially threatening to it and that it must oppose it, having started out by resignedly assuming that the Russians would win within five days. . But NATO wants to oppose Russia without offending Russia, so it doesn’t really allow Ukraine to protect its own airspace because that could, in the words of Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, be ” escalator”. The result has been anti-Russian rhetoric, empty gestures of economic warfare and valuable aid to the Ukrainian military, but nothing that will allow Ukraine to prevent the Russians from continuing to reduce civilian areas to rubble. Ukraine. In their aversion to approaching the issue with integrity, Western leaders claim to resist those eager to engage in ground combat with Russia, although there are no such people, and US President Joe Biden tediously recites that he defends “every square”. square centimeter of NATO territory”, although, since none of this is threatened, he might as well shake his fist at the Kremlin like King Lear and announce that he will defend every square centimeter of Paraguay and Sri Lanka.

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A byproduct of all the fuss around Ukraine has been embraced by the international fraternity of governments and regulators to wave the incense pot around the ever-repeated opportunity for unlimited “transparency.” Transparency in itself has no merit. It is no one else’s legitimate business what individuals or corporations do in private, unless they violate valid laws or regulations. What we need is a fiscal equivalent of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s famous statement that “there is no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation” . Nor is there room for it in the nation’s wallets or bank accounts, other than what is needed to verify the justifiable collection of taxes. Governments, let alone anyone in the world with access to the Internet, have no right to know exactly what a Canadian owns. As anyone with the occasional banking transaction of $50,000 or more knows, our banks are required to discover the exact purposes of such transactions under the Know Your Client rules. It has nothing to do with know-your-customer and is rather the conscription of bank staff to be assistant tax auditors and faultless, versatile snoopers and spies for governments that claim to fight international crime but actually only invade our privacy. for pleasure.

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Transparency in its current role began with a reasonable demand from shareholders of public companies to learn more about the operations of those companies and in particular matters in which senior executives had a financial interest. As so often happens, a legitimate public ambition soon turned into a regulatory Frankenstein monster, which now demands that everyone and every business open their financial kimonos to the world. As usual, most of our sleepy media fell into this outrage. It is one of many government initiatives that have gathered seemingly unstoppable momentum, but which, if examined, are illegitimate, absurd and offensive. My bank’s private wealth manager answers my occasional questions with Job’s patience and exquisite courtesy that this information is needed because I am a legislator, member of the UK House of Lords. There’s no reason lawmakers should be subject to more scrutiny than anyone else and in my case, I haven’t been a very active peer for many years (although that may change soon). There is nothing mildly controversial about my financial activities, but official curiosity about it is boring.

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This attempt to suffocate financial privacy must be resisted, and our legislators must understand that it offends the public they serve. Canada should go even further and take the initiative to reverse this pervasive official madness that afflicts us. Many other countries would soon follow suit. We should not seize the property of a foreign national in Canada unless the competent court can demonstrate that under Canadian law the seizure would be upheld. Criminals should be prosecuted at the scene of the crime, not subject to seizures of foreign assets without due process. We should not be concerned about money laundering unless the launderers are convicted of crimes that produced the proceeds allegedly laundered under forensic criteria equal to Canadian standards for protecting the rights of accused persons. We should not have extradition treaties with countries that do not meet these standards, including the United States which, with a conviction rate of over 95% in federal prosecutions, does not operate a court system but a treadmill to their corrupt prison system. The Ontario Securities Commission is one of the most abusive and incompetent public institutions in the country and it and other securities commissions should limit themselves to approving public financial offerings and, where applicable, Recommendations to Crown Prosecutors in Cases of Fraud or Oppression of a Legitimate Shareholder Interests” are reasonably suspected. The Roman Emperor Vespasian invented the pay toilet and, criticized for this supposed indignity, correctly answered that “money has no smell” (in France, they are still called “vespasiennes”). If we accompanied these measures with increased incentives in our tax system, Canada would become the most popular place in the world for investment and savings. The resulting prosperity would eliminate the fashion for obsessive transparency of its misery and ours.

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Shawanda H. Saldana