Stately or shameful?

An article in the Indie at the weekend has – almost certainly unwittingly – added to our recent discussion about how far back to go with due diligence enquiries, and in particular into a client’s original source of funds.  You can read the article yourself, but in short it reveals something that, had we thought much about it, we could probably have guessed: “More than 100 country houses and estates across the country benefited from the millions of pounds given in compensation to slave owners in the 19th century.”  So as you wander around Harewood House (saying to your spouse, “Of course, it all looks lovely, but just imagine the upkeep – I’d rather stay where we are” – that’s known as a juicy rationalisation), you are looking at the fruits of a most distressing trade.

I’ve been talking quite a bit about slavery in recent AML training sessions, mainly because of the recent criminal emphasis on people trafficking.  (Indeed, only yesterday morning on Radio 4’s “Today” programme they were interviewing people affected by people trafficking and kidnapping in Sinai.)  One of the issues facing those who work to relieve the problem of slavery in the world today is one of terminology.  We (quite rightly) laud William Wilberforce, and (quite wrongly) call him an abolitionist.  He might have wished to abolish slavery, but he did not succeed: he abolished the legal trade in slaves, but not slavery.  And yet the name of his movement (the Abolitionists) and the Act that they worked to pass (the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833) suggest that the whole concept of slavery has been removed.  Sadly, as demonstrated by the continuing work of campaigning organisation Anti-Slavery International, this is far from the truth: it is estimated that today there are 30 million slaves around the world – far more than at the height of the famous slave trade that brought us Dodington Park and Alton Towers.

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4 Responses to Stately or shameful?

  1. Roy McCarthy says:

    It’s an horrendous issue Susan, and – compared with drugs & arms trafficking – woefully short of resource to even begin to combat it. The figures involved cast severe doubt on the maxim that everyone is essentially good. There are many, many thousands of career criminals exploiting human misery to line their nests.

  2. That is an excellent way of putting it, Roy: “exploiting human misery to line their nests”. I may well quote you in training.
    Best wishes from Susan

  3. Claire says:

    Slavery is horrible. I am quite anti- Made in China, as they have no respect whatsoever for human rights or product safety. I am not perfect (who is?) but I do try to think about what I buy, and not to support too often those countries that exploit people. I remember some years back reading an article in the UK Marie Claire (such a wonderful magazine!) about this rose farm in some African country. The women who worked there were poisoned by the chemicals used to grow the roses. But they accepted to work there anyway, as they were so poor already. I have never bought a cheap flower bouquet since. Jut imagine if everyone did the same? That is how easy it is…

  4. Dear Claire
    I’m with you on this. Here in England we have a shop called Primark (you may have it in Europe as well) and it sells the cheapest of clothes. Teenagers love it, of course – they can update their wardrobes every Saturday for less than the price of a coffee. But every time I walk past it I think of the terrible conditions being endured by so many workers in order to keep those prices down.
    People just don’t do the maths: if you’re winning (getting a bargain), someone else is losing (being paid/treated terribly).
    Best wishes from Susan

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