Friday, June 10, 2022

Web Summit chief calls Irish government a crime cartel

In November 2021 the annual Web Summit event opened in Lisbon with 4 Irishmen (Cosgrave and 3 witnesses that had come from Dublin) trying to persuade about 40,000 international delegates that the Irish government was irredeemably corrupt. Besides, it was a lie that Ireland was the most corrupt country in Western Europe. At the time the Web Summit firm was relying on the government of Portugal for almost half its annual revenues while Portugal was the most corrupt country in Western Europe. Cosgrave's showcase of alleged Irish corruption was in effect hypocrisy on a grand scale.

Paddy Cosgrave, the main shareholder of the Web Summit, tweeted on March 29, 2022 "Ireland amongst most corrupt countries in Western Europe." He well knows that it's Portugal, the Web Summit's biggest government funder, that leads the corruption stakes.

In 2015 Ernst & Young, a Big 4 accountancy firm, placed Portugal as the fifth most corrupt country among 38 global countries.

The Salazar dictatorship (1932-1974) was the longest since World War 1 in Western Europe and Portugal held slaves in Africa into the 20th century. In recent times the elite has conspired with the kleptocrats of the oil-producing former colony of Angola.

Transparency International ranked Ireland 13th for corruption in 2021 compared with the 32nd rank for Portugal — on recent baby steps on reform the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) said Portugal's “fight against corruption needs to intensify,” while the president of Transparency International Portugal, Susana Coroado said, “Political corruption is left out, high positions are left out, and this does not convey an image of good leadership, of leadership by example and, on the other hand, it ends up leaving out problematic areas when it comes to preventing corruption.”

In October 2021, the Financial Times reported on a study by researchers at Lisbon’s Institute of Social Sciences (ICS) which showed that, on average, people surveyed thought more than two-thirds of politicians and 51% of business executives were corrupt. Patrícia Calca, a researcher involved in the ICS study, said movements such as Chega (a right-wing group) aimed to use corruption to discredit mainstream parties as a whole. “When there’s no effective distinction between individual wrongdoers and the political system, every new case of corruption becomes a nail in the coffin of democracy.”

The golden visa scheme to attract non-EU nationals and give them visa-free access to most of the EU has been riddled with corruption including money laundering. Property could be bought by spending at least €500,000 (but €350,000 for a home needing renovation, with the price falling to €280k if also located in a low-density area.) Citizenship could be awarded after 5 years of residency.

About 10,000 visas have been issued, mainly to Chinese since 2012, yielding €5.3bn of investment. In March the European Parliament voted to abolish such visas.

Portugal's ambition to become tech hub

The poor country [Real per capita national output in 2021: Portugal €17,900; Denmark €50,200; Ireland €35,000 (after most multinational distortions are eliminated) and Switzerland €62,600] has the ambition to become a significant tech hub.

However, Ireland shows that a small economy that has not an indigenous innovation base gets little transfer of knowledge from big FDI (foreign direct investment) firms. Irish-owned indigenous digital firms account for 1.4% of employment.

It's an alluring prospect for a country but it's seldom realised. Startups that have potential typically are bought by bigger firms from other countries with no opportunity for scaleups.

'The Technology and Innovation Report 2021' is a United Nations publication issued in 2022 by the United Nations' Conference on Trade and Development. Ireland has an 8th ranking (flattered by FDI); Portugal at 32 is behind Malaysia and ahead of Slovenia.

Patents filed at the European Patents Office 2021

The Web Summit's annual event in Lisbon dovetailed with the Portuguese government's tech hub aspiration.

The Irish Times has estimated that 50% of the Web Summitt event company's revenue for 2020 came from government sources including the European Commission and industrial development boards.

A 10-year agreement with Portugal provides for annual payments to the Web Summit of €11m and about €9m in additional yearly benefits.

The Times has also said that an assessment related to 2016-2019 carried out "by the Gabinete de Estratégia e Estudos on behalf of the Portuguese finance ministry shows revenue and job gains were both lower than predicted."

The vendetta

Sworn statements by the two minority shareholders of the Web Summit firm to the Irish Commercial Court refer to vendettas and that appears to be also driving the animus towards Leo Varadkar.

This month (June 2022) Cosgrave said Fine Gael (one of the Irish government parties) "is a party of thugs desperately clinging to a veneer of respectability," comparing ministers to professional assassins who travelled in gangs throughout British India.

In a separate tweet, he wrote that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil — the two leading parties in the Irish government — "operate as a white-collar crime cartel...like the Italian mafia."

Cosgrave is in effect saying that Fine Gael officers including Varadkar are engaged in a criminal enterprise which involves violent activity. These lies should be challenged in the courts. His beloved Sinn Féin would not leave similar charges unanswered.

In April 2022 Cosgrave's bucket of bile was not directed at the Web Summit's benefactor — the ruling Portuguese Socialist Party (PS). The former Socialist prime minister (2005-2011) José Sócrates was put on trial following a long-running case involving alleged theft of up to €34m.

Ireland has had periods of corruption in the past including two massive economic busts. However, with respect to Leo Varadkar who has been in office as minister, taoiseach (prime minister) and tánaiste (deputy prime minister) since 2011, the only "crime" Cosgrave can latch onto is the leaking of the draft of a labour contract to a friend who was establishing a new Irish medical trade union.

This is small beer compared with the corruption in Portugal that Cosgrave says nothing about. Maybe there is no cronyism / clientelismo in Portugal!

From 2010-2015 both FF and FG-led governments gave the startup Web Summit significant help.

The first Web Summit was held in Dublin in 2010 at a time when the government was focussing on promoting Ireland as a base for a European Silicon Valley. This was a pipedream but nevertheless, the Web Summit got cash — €700,000 in 2012-2014 — and significant support from state enterprise agencies.

From 2011 Enda Kenny, the FG taoiseach, attended the conferences in Dublin.

The Web Summit moved the annual event to Lisbon in 2016, attracted by a bigger venue and more government cash.

While Cosgrave can call Irish ministers thugs — evoking professional assassins who travelled in gangs throughout British India — the back office functions were kept in Dublin, to avail of the Irish headline corporate tax rate of 12.5% compared with 21% in Portugal.

Eaten bread is soon forgotten and the ferocity of the invective from such a business person is strange while much of the company revenue comes from Portugal — Western Europe's most corrupt country. 

The Web Summit seems to have become a one-man show following the disputes between the shareholders.

There is no one to tell the emperor that he has no clothes!