G3 Systems Ltd must have been very proud when Tony Blair visited the logistics base it built in Afghanistan for the British Army a few months ago, and again when Defence Secretary Des Browne came calling. Their website boasts of offering a wide range of services to the armed forces, especially the supply of various vehicles, the construction of field hospitals, and various logistics services. They’ve been working in Afghanistan since 2002; back then their business was to set up the first British field hospital there.
The board of directors is an impressive catalogue of military-industrial bigwigs from companies such as Thales and BAE, and from the Army; it includes a brigadier and a major-general. It also still includes Roy Ashurst and Mike Ford, founders of the company back in 2001.
You don’t need to be an expert to remember the case of Lincoln Fraser and Julian Brook’s spectacular Imperial Consolidated Group, a financial company that went bust in 2002 with the loss of an estimated £200 million in its customers’ savings. Fraser and Brook were already facing disqualification as company directors before that over their disastrous purchase of the Midland Grand Hotel in Blackpool, which ended with guests being turned out in the street as bailiffs seized the linen.
During the administrators’ efforts to recover the cash, they discovered an incredibly complicated network of companies engaged in doing much the same thing in the UK, various Caribbean tax havens, Hong Kong, Canada, and South Africa. Imperial indeed. Some of the victims of the original fraud were bilked twice over, as Fraser and Brook reappeared with something called “Matrix Investigations” based on the same property as several other businesses of theirs, which promised to make inquiries in return for a fee. Specifically, it targeted Imperial’s original client list, which Fraser and Brook had taken with them. It also conducted an Internet propaganda campaign against the administrators, the Financial Services Authority, and various other parties.
You might be a little surprised, then, to discover that while Imperial Consolidated was collapsing, the same people were in charge of G3 Systems. In the administrators’ report to creditors, G3 Systems and a second firm, G3 Strategic, are described as part of the Fraser-Brook Partnership. As well as Ashurst, Fraser and Brook were directors, as was Hugh Allen, who claims to be an SAS officer and was also part of another Fraser-Brook venture, Alpha Toronto Series Inc, which itself was ordered to stop advertising investments by the Canadian government. You don’t need to take my word for it; you can read all this in the liquidators’ report to creditors (pdf). Much more documentation is available from the liquidators here. Fraser and Brook left the board in February, 2002, but the company was still owned by them in May when Ashurst and Pond appear as directors. The relevant facts are on pages 58-62 of the report.
Fraser and Brook’s financial activities were based on the old RAF fighter base at Binbrook in Lincolnshire, but they also owned the nearby Faldingworth facility, originally built as a high-security nuclear bomb store for the RAF but used since 1972 for a variety of semimilitary functions, for example explosive and weapons tests for HM Forces. More dubiously, it appears in the Scott Report as the site where Jonathan Aitken’s company, Alpha Defence Systems, was based. Inside the site, there is a complex of bunkers and a weapons testing range, surrounded by the owners’ security precautions. You can see the place, thanks to the guys from Subterranea Britannica; loads of photos are here.
Matrix Investigations and G3 Strategic both had their registered addresses at Faldingworth. G3 Systems is based elsewhere, in a business park in Royston and on the old Portland naval base, and is now under new management, being part of a US company. But its website’s “facilities” page still shows a photograph of what is clearly the entrance to Faldingworth. (Compare the left-hand photo with this SubBrit photo.)
When the Sloman Traveller arrived in Immingham with its 7,639 pallets of arms – pallets whose contents were not specified to either the Croatian or British authorities, and which were neither sealed before shipment nor opened on arrival – it was only a few miles from the Faldingworth site. Now, if you look up the ostensible recipients’ address, you’ll notice that it’s a basement unit in a shared building in the middle of a housing estate. Seven thousand pallets?
What they wanted with the arms is an interesting question. The arms that went to Iraq were flown direct from Tuzla to Baghdad, or as Shazia Mirza might have said, at least that’s what it said on the flight plan. So why bring them to Lincolnshire? Perhaps the fact that a director of Matrix Investigations, was seen in Liberia about this time could explain it.