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Sensemaker: Odey accused

Sensemaker: Odey accused

What just happened

Long stories short

  • France said condoms would be free at pharmacies for 18-25 year-olds.
  • South Korea’s parliament ended a convention that South Koreans are aged 1 at birth, meaning they are now all a year younger. 
  • Bob Seely, a British MP, said he planned to submit a private members’ bill to strip Harry and Meghan of their royal titles.

Odey accused

As reported in this week’s Slow Newscast, four women have come forward to Tortoise with allegations that Crispin Odey, one of Britain’s richest and most powerful men, sexually assaulted them. A major donor to the Conservatives and the Brexit campaign, Odey was cleared of assaulting another woman last year. 

  • The five women who allege Odey assaulted them do not know each other. They live in different places, work in different fields and their accounts span more than two decades from 1998 to 2021. The last allegation dates from a few months after Odey’s acquittal for assault.
  • Odey says the allegations contain “very many falsehoods and inaccuracies”, yet it’s striking how much they overlap. The women allege that Odey lunged at them, groped at their breasts and legs, and tried forcing his tongue into their mouths before they were able to wrestle him off.

So what? Odey’s inappropriate behaviour towards women has been described as an “open secret”. As such, the allegations of assault against him raise questions for some of his powerful associates.

  • Kwasi Kwarteng, the former UK chancellor, worked for Odey before he went into politics. He then worked for Odey as a consultant after he’d been elected as an MP. Kwarteng went to Odey’s house for a private lunch a few weeks before he was appointed chancellor and announced the mini-budget that generated huge profits for Odey’s funds. In a series of WhatsApp messages this week, Kwarteng didn’t say whether he had prior knowledge of Odey’s behaviour but did say: “I last received a payment from him in 2011,” ending with: “you’re clearly a muckraker of the worst kind!”
  • The Conservative party received more than ÂŁ355,000 in donations from Odey over the period of the alleged sexual assaults. The company he owns and runs, Odey Asset Management, donated ÂŁ20,000 to the party in 2011. The Conservative party didn’t say whether it would continue accepting donations from Odey or whether it knew about the allegations against him.

The law. The one allegation of assault against Odey that was tested in court resulted in an acquittal. The judge pointed to what he described as “troubling inconsistencies” in the woman’s evidence. She always accepted the case would be hard to prove given memories fade and the alleged assault happened in 1998. But, as she wrote to prosecutors when they were still deliberating whether to charge Odey, “the chance to be heard is a victory in itself” (her emphasis).

Few women even get that chance. While the number of sexual assault allegations is growing in the UK, the rates of charging are among the lowest on record. 

More. During the reporting for the podcast, other women came forward with accounts of Odey’s behaviour that could amount to sexual harassment. Their allegations include crude, sexual jokes, unwanted massages, and propositioning. In a diary entry from her time at Odey Asset Management, a former receptionist alleged Odey returned from a “boozy lunch”, came across her alone in a corridor at the office and told her “I could attack you”. She replied: “Please don’t”. He said: “You could sue me for that”.

The women who came forward said they wanted to protect women in the future. Many said they were emboldened to speak out because they felt the world, after #MeToo, was ready to listen. Cautiously, they feel like that may be the case.


Big bang  2.0

Jeremy Hunt, the UK’s finance minister, hopes people won’t think of the banking reforms he’s announcing today as Big Bang 2.0 because his predecessor, Kwasi Kwarteng, used the phrase to promote his mini-budget and that ended very badly. Hunt’s “Edinburgh reforms” will nonetheless include 30 measures to prop up London’s status as a world financial centre as Paris, Amsterdam and Dublin nibble away at it. A bankers’ bonus cap will be removed (as floated by Kwarteng). The EU’s Solvency II rules will be abandoned to show there really is such a thing as post-Brexit freedom and to give the insurance sector more leeway to invest. Ringfences round some investment banks will be taken down so they can gamble with lower capital ratios, and regulators set up to police bad behaviour will be given a new remit to promote competitiveness. Lord Adair Turner, who helped pick up the pieces after the 2008 crash, thinks that’s a “mistake”. He’s not alone. 


Precision grind

Musk is hiring 30 engineers for a top secret military project at SpaceX. Italy, Japan and the UK have plans for a new 5th generation fighter jet. But of more seasonal interest is the TechCrunch gift guide, expanded since we last looked to cover non-tech categories including coffee. It’s aimed at US readers but how can there not be global interest in the Fellow Ode Brew Grinder 2, which holds cups in place with magnets and grinds to a tolerance of 250 microns? A snip at $345, although still not recommended for espresso. For that, try the Breville Oracle Touch, which does everything for $2,800. 

The 100-year life health, education AND GOVERNMENT

About that Knight

Julian Knight, the British Conservative MP, has claimed he’s the victim of “explicit threats involving blackmail”, after being suspended from the Conservative party following a complaint against him. The nature of the complaint, made to the Metropolitan Police, is not known but in a letter published on Thursday, Knight said he had been linked with a “serious but unspecified offence”. He also said he was innocent. Knight, chair of the House of Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said he’d heard nothing from the police, party or parliament and that the removal of the whip was “wrong and unjustified”. He claimed he had been at “the centre of a campaign of rumour and innuendo” following a dispute with a former employee. He’s the fifth sitting MP to have had the Conservative whip removed. 

Our planet CLIMATE AND geopolitics

Griner for Bout

There are two conclusions to be drawn from the simultaneous release of Brittney Griner, the US basketball star, and Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer known to Hollywood as the Lord of War. One is that President Biden stared at a difficult dilemma for ten months and blinked, handing Putin a victory in the freedom of a merchant of death who should never have been freed. Another is that Putin has shown his hand as a hostage-taker who attaches great importance to being seen to be loyal to Russia’s most ruthless ambassadors. Both can be valid at once, although the criticism being aimed at Biden today for selling Bout cheap (he was serving a 25-year term in the US for conspiring to kill Americans) will fade. It matters on Main Street that the president doesn’t leave US citizens to rot in Russian jails after being arrested on the flimsiest of pretexts. As for Putin, the WaPo says he’s rumoured to have a personal connection to Bout via his de facto deputy, Igor Sechin. Will Bout now secure weapons for the war on Ukraine that Russia hasn’t already been able to obtain? Unlikely. He was more into sales than procurement.  


A new Peru?

If only. The land of rich copper mines, soaring Andean peaks and Machu Picchu is becoming a byword for political instability as well. President Pedro Castillo’s replacement with his deputy, Dina Boluarte, after a failed coup on Wednesday was a farce whose roots in Peru’s constitution and recent history unfortunately make more of the same all too likely. Castillo came to power saying there should be no poor people in a rich country, and lost it after trying to suspend Congress without the support of the army, police or people. The constitution does give the president broad powers to dissolve Congress. Equally, as Michael Stott explains in the FT, Congress can suspend the president for “moral incapacity”. Peru is now on its sixth president in four years. That constitution needs an overhaul. 

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Paul Caruana Galizia

Additional reporting by Giles Whittell and Catherine Neilan.

Portrait Harry Borden, other photographs Getty Images

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