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If we're going to have a fecking boring USA thread then we might as well have a fecking boring Scotland thread (except that nothing can be as boring as USA threads :whatever: ).


Weir Group fined £3m over Saddam sanctions breaches


One of Scotland's largest companies has been fined £3m for breaching UN sanctions on Iraq by doing business with Saddam Hussein's regime.


Glasgow-based engineering firm Weir Group admitted paying kickbacks to the dictator's government a decade ago to secure lucrative business contracts.


The High Court in Edinburgh heard this had contravened the Oil For Food programme aimed at helping Iraqis.


Judge Lord Carloway also confiscated £13.9m of illegal profits from Weir.


The court was told that Weir Group Plc admitted two charges of breaching United Nations sanctions, imposed on Iraq before the 2003 invasion.


Charges centred on contracts entered into under the Oil For Food programme between 2000 and 2002.


The programme was introduced by the UN to enable exports of Iraqi oil to take place, provided the cash was used for food, medicine and other humanitarian needs.


The engineering group made payments to the tune of £3.1m to the dictatorship through an agent in order to secure contracts worth about £35m.


The court heard the agent was also paid "substantial" sums of money for his services, amounting to £1.4m.


On Tuesday, an apology on behalf of the directors of Weir Group was read out in court.


In his judgement, Lord Carloway said it was appropriate that the firm should face "a substantial financial penalty" for busting UN sanctions and to "deter future offences".


He said he had taken into account "a number of mitigatory factors" such as Weir's acceptance that it had to repay illegal profits of almost £14m and "the remorse shown at current group board level in relation to their betrayal of the confidence of the company, its shareholders and the general public".


The judge said that had it not been for Weir's early guilty plea, he would have imposed a fine of £4.5m.


Speaking outside court, Weir Group chairman Lord Smith said the company had been "transformed" since the time of the offences.


He said: "What happened back in 2001 was wrong and we accept full responsibility. Today's decision finally draws a line under the Crown Office's Oil For Food investigation, which we believe is in the best interests of shareholders.


"Since 2001, Weir has been transformed. We have a different board and we have a different management team, all of whom are committed to doing business at all times in an ethical manner.


"Today, we have in place robust ethical policies and procedures and we operate a zero-tolerance approach to any behaviour that contravenes them.


"The board regards it as an absolute priority ensuring that we operate with integrity. I am personally confident that we have in place the right culture with the necessary policies and procedures to ensure that it does."


The confiscation order for £13.9m of the firm's illegal profits, made under proceeds of crime legislation, is the biggest ever made by a Scottish court.



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Scottish soldier's letter home suggests Christmas truce of 1914 was no one-off


16 December 2010


By Frank Urquhart



STORIES of British and German troops playing football and exchanging gifts in no man's land during a Christmas ceasefire are among the most enduring images of the First World War.


After the 1914 truce, incensed High Commands of both armies are said to have issued strict orders preventing future ceasefires during the Great War.


But now a leading Scottish historian claims to have uncovered fresh evidence challenging the held belief that the truce was a one-off phenomenon and pointing to a series of others throughout the war.


Thomas Weber, a historian at Aberdeen University who published a book on Hitler in the First World War, claimed yesterday that festive truces took place every Christmas along the front but had been downplayed in official war records.


Dr Weber said: "The suggestion is that after the first Christmas there was no repeat because of the circle of violence and its ensuing bitterness that then set in. In fact, soldiers never tried to stop fraternising with their opponents during Christmas."


He stressed: "I'm not saying that brutalisation did not occur at all, but more commonly what happened was that soldiers in the heat of battle fought ferociously but, after the battle and after the adrenaline had gone, remorse tended to set in and there are many incidents recorded where soldiers tried to help injured soldiers from the other side. It is because of this kind of sentiment that continued Christmas truces were possible."


[color:red]Dr Weber said he also believed that the key factor in whether a ceasefire took place lay with who was facing German troops in the trenches. Festive truces were far more likely to occur with British soldiers than with French troops.[/color]


[color:red]He said: "The existing popular version of why truces occurred says that what was ultimately important was whether Allied troops were facing 'good Germans' like Bavarians or 'bad' Germans like Prussians and Saxons.[/color]


[color:red]"But actually it seems it doesn't matter whether the Germans were northern, southern, Catholic or Protestant - the influential factor was whether they were facing British - including Canadian and Australian units - rather than French troops."[/color]


Dr Weber revealed that his recent discovery of a letter written by a soldier of Scottish origin serving with a Canadian regiment had helped provide further proof of the extent of the Christmas truces held during the First World War.


He came across the letter when he travelled to Canada last month to talk about the research behind his book Hitler's First War and spoke of the attempted Christmas truce between German and Canadian troops at Vimy Ridge in 1916.


Dr Weber was approached after his lecture by a member of the audience whose uncle, Ronald MacKinnon, originally from Fauldhouse in West Lothian, had been deployed at Vimy Ridge at the time. The official version of events, according to the war diary of MacKinnon's unit, states that the Germans tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a Christmas Day truce. Dr Weber said: "The letters Private MacKinnon wrote home to his sister tell a rather different story."


Dr Weber added: "The letter was a fantastic find and clearly demonstrates that there was an attempt to downplay these small-scale Christmas truces when they happened. Officers had to report to a higher chain of command so had an interest in downplaying events in the official version in their war diaries."







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