Michael Lord-Castle, the leader of the controversial Global Protection Committee, has vowed to return to the Maldives in defiance of a life-time ban. Speaking in a rare interview in southern England, he said he had received assurances from the Maldivian Democratic Party that the GPC’s operation in MalÃ© in November had been a great success and he was confident the MDP would be inviting them back.
Lord-Castle and four of his associates were deported from Maldives and banned for life. He indicated that several of the GPC personnel involved were citizens of Qatar. Others were from Great Britain.
However the mystery of GPC team’s purpose in travelling to Maldives deepened when he revealed that MDP leader, Zaki, had appealed to him to retract a statement given to police that the MDP had invited them. That statement is now part of the evidence submitted to the court trying Zaki on charges of sedition and creating disharmony. Lord-Castle had previously stated in the Maldives media that his statement was deliberately falsified and he signed it with the name “Donald Duck”, the Walt Disney comic cartoon character, as a means of undermining the statement’s credibility.
When pressed about the government’s assertion that the GPC had been sent by Nirj Deva, the Sri Lanka born British member of the European Parliament, he said this was not true either. But he revealed that Nirj Deva had introduced the GPC to the MDP â€“ but only at a party in Colombo some five years ago, a social event attended by officials of the British High Commission and businessmen based in Sri Lanka.
He then confirmed that the MDP had indeed invited GPC to Maldives this year as observers of the events leading up to the aborted 10 November demonstration.
He also claims to have been commissioned to produce a report to the European Parliament on the political situation in Maldives, but the European Parliament has denied this, and Lord-Castle refuses to say which part of the European Parliament has received his report, which means it has not been possible to verify his claim.
The conclusion of his report is a recommendation that there should be a total boycott of tourism to Maldives, to put pressure on President Gayoom to resign. He does not say how this would work.
He denied that the GPC’s purpose was to foment violence or bring about a coup in November. “Believe you me, if we had intended to bring about a coup, there would have been a coup,” he said.
Nirj Deva MEP also vigorously denied being behind the GPC’s presence in MalÃ©.
In a statement he said, “I did not, at any stage, request for Michael Lord Castle and/or the Global Protection Committee to enter the Maldives. The very suggestion that I have a legion of private mercenaries under my command is flattering, yet false. The suggestion, as reported by some pro-Government groups in the Maldives that I seek to profit from his involvement with the Opposition is false.”
Michael Lord-Castle denies that his group are mercenaries, despite terminology on the GPC’s web site that is semi-military in nature and boasts of providing physical protection and military training. Its personnel are freelancers from various countries that are available for hire to go into trouble spots around the world.
Global Protection Committee describes itself in promotional materials as a multi-government controlled and funded organisation that specialises in intelligence gathering, monitoring of money laundering and asset transfers, surveillance and tactical weapon and combat training. Its diverse portfolio of activities also includes the tracking of narcotics and munitions movements.
The primary role of the GPC is the provision of “protection” to member and participating countries by promoting the flow of high security information. Lord-Castle again denies that this protection, provided by foreign freelance security personnel under his command, is anything to do with being mercenaries.
GPC started its operations in the 1950s. While much of their work is semi-military in nature, the majority of its personnel are from a civilian background with full-time jobs in industry who can be called upon to participate in operations. “Instead of charging through the desert or hacking our way through the jungle, we are more at home behind a computer analysing the movement of assets â€“ those assets being people, money, narcotics, munitions, equipment and transport. Nonetheless we will always have our specialist divisions that can do the charging through deserts and hacking their way through jungles when needed” says the GPC.
Michael Lord-Castle denies that this implies they are mercenaries. “Mercenaries destabilize, but we go in to stabilize dangerous situations,” he claims. He describes GPC as “a highly focused intelligence gathering organisation”.
The GPC claims to consist of current and past world leaders, and security and military specialists. It provides no information to verify who these may be. It says they provide the local knowledge that other organisations lack. “Although private in nature, we are a multi-government controlled and funded organisation.”
Lord-Castle says GPC’s role is to train, monitor and provide recurrent training for teams consisting of between 150 and 500 personnel, being a mixture of civilian, police and military in all forms of intelligence gathering and the dissemination of information.
Another key area of GPC activity is guarding VIPs. “Any visiting dignitaries naturally expect to be protected, especially heads of state and diplomats. Consistent training brings your GPC unit to a constant state of readiness to provide such protection. Unit members are trained in all aspects of close protection including driving and aerial activities,” says the GPC promotional material. “Should you require urgent back-up or tactical support for specialised operations, indeed any form of emergency, other member countries can supply the GPC personnel required.”
Again, when pressed, Lord-Castle denies that such a range of semi-military activity defines GPC as mercenaries. He is reluctant to give any details of past operations or to supply contacts who could provide testimonials to their supposed success. Under further questioning, Lord-Castle admitted he had worked in both Palestine and Israel, also in Uganda, Afghanistan and numerous other world trouble spots. He gives no details that can allow his claims to be verified.
Since the controversy over the GPC’s presence in Maldives broke and has come under intense scrutiny, the Global Protection Committee’s web sites have disappeared from the Internet.
In his latest interview, Lord-Castle cited the GPC’s investigation of advance fee fraud, which took his teams all over the world, but eventually identified the source in a location in Nottingham in England. His clients had lost thousands of pounds to the fraudsters. GPC failed to get any money back for them.
This type of investigation is closer to Lord-Castle’s basic daily work. He has no military background himself, and is by profession an insolvency practitioner, advising individuals and small businesses who have got into financial difficulties and helping them to go bankrupt.
In a famous case in England, he helped a haulage trade client recover money owed by the supermarket giant, Tesco. The company’s headquarters were blockaded by 25 trucks until Tesco paid the outstanding invoices.
Lord-Castle also angered the authorities in France over the closure of a client’s fibre optics factory near Paris. His team removed valuable high-tech equipment from the premises during the night to avoid its being seized to pay off creditors. Lord-Castle told the BBC that he had acted in accordance with British law on company failures. He had clearly overlooked the fact that French law is different, and the fact that assets of a failed company belong to the administrators whose job is to pay those who are owed money, including the factory’s employees.
In 2001, Lord-Castle lost a lot of his own money in a failed attempt to create a business class airline, Blue Fox, with the former British Conservative cabinet minister, Lord Tebbit, on board as chairman. The airline failed to take off when the bottom fell out of the market for travel between the UK and USA in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist bombings. Two other companies, MaxJet and Eos have succeeded in the market since then, and a third is due to start up business class only air travel in 2007.
Lord-Castle’s assessment of Maldives politics and the call for a tourism boycott has been dismissed by the British travel industry as naÃ¯ve and amateurish. It remains to be seen what the MDP thought they were getting from GPC by inviting them to observe the aborted 10 November demonstration. They do not want a travel ban and a wrecked Maldivian economy that would result. “A tourism boycott would be a bad hit for our economy,” said Zaki when asked for his reaction to Lord-Castle’s recommendation.