The Lord, the gold and “Foundation X”
This is not a proper post at all; just a signal boost, really, of something that hit the interweb yesterday and doesn’t appear to yet have made the mainstream news. I’m not entirely sure if it even is mainstream news, actually; there’s a strong possibility that the whole business is a storm in a teacup. If it is serious, then it needs to be out there. If it turns out to be a misunderstanding or a hoax, then it’s still a hilarious one, and should be preserved.
Regular reader Paul dropped me a link yesterday night to two things: firstly to the Hansard record of 1 November, and secondly to Charles Stross’ (yeah, the author, he of Accelerando and The Atrocity Archives) slightly confused blog post about it.
In a nutshell, Lord James of Blackheath – a Conservative life peer and long-time corporate consultant – stood up in front of the Lords in the late hours of November 1, and laid out in careful but cagey detail the circumstances which had led to a mysterious organisation, which he referred to as “foundation X”, offering the UK government £5 billion, no strings attached, and that this money was guaranteed real because it was backed by bullion – a quantity of bullion that would have to be greater than that known to exist.
I’m fully aware that my crappy summary makes it sound like a job for James Bond, but please: go to Stross’ blog – or, better still, Hansard, which prints Lord James’ entire fifteen-minute spiel instead of selected excerpts; the good stuff starts at Column 1538 – and see for yourself. He actually said this, and whether there’s any substance to it or not, I think that in itself is a wondrous fact.
I had pretty much the same reaction as Stross did:
I am left rubbing my eyes.
Did a not-obviously-insane member of the government — a corporate troubleshooter and Conservative life peer — really just stand up in the House of Lords and announce that a shadowy Foundation (that might or might not represent the Vatican) was offering the British government an investment of umpty-billion pounds in order to reboot the economy — free, gratis, with no strings attached?
Or am I just imagining the “no strings attached” clause?
The comments over at Stross’ place are generally of the opinion that, in one way or another, this is a false alarm. On the one hand, Lord James has something of a parliamentary history of saying strange things in the House, it turns out. Various people have also brought up OITC – the Organisation for International Treasury Control, a fake company that has tried on hoaxes in several countries.
So perhaps Lord James is ill, or deluded, or has been the victim of what would be essentially the world’s biggest 419 scam. Or perhaps a shady company with a Vatican-level bullion stash just offered to buy the British government. You heard it here first.