Joined: 25 Jul 2005
Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
|Posted: Thu Jun 07, 2018 10:42 pm Post subject:
|Bilderberg 2018: new tech helps oil the wheels of the global elite
Secretive meeting in Turin embraces AI and Silicon Valley with globalisation under threat
Charlie Skelton Thu 7 Jun 2018 19.06 BST
With AI high on the agenda, Demis Hassabis, who runs Google’s DeepMind project, has been invited back. Photograph: Lee Jin-man/AP
This year’s Bilderberg conference has begun in Turin, and as well as billionaires and bank bosses the attendees include four prime ministers, two deputy prime ministers, the Nato secretary general, the German defence minister, the king of the Netherlands and the indefatigable 95-year-old Henry Kissinger.
Like Kissinger, Bilderberg shows no signs of slowing down or complacency. Its recent flirtation with artificial intelligence and Silicon Valley seems to have blossomed into a full-blown affair. This year a Twitter board member, Patrick Pichette, has got the nod, and returning for the second time is Divesh Makan, who has links to Mark Zuckerberg and whose clients include Reid Hoffman, the LinkedIn co-founder and Bilderberg veteran.
With AI high on the agenda, Demis Hassabis, who runs Google’s London-based DeepMind project, has also been invited back. He will be joined by his fellow AI luminary Hartmut Neven, the head of Google’s Quantum Artificial Intelligence lab.
The guest list also features researchers from the fields of biotech, robotics, stem cell research and human-machine bio-integration.
It means the conference has both a futuristic feel and a nostalgic air, with “quantum computing” on the agenda alongside “US world leadership” and “Russia”. So even as Bilderberg races into a bio-integrated smart future, there is a simultaneous resurgence of one of the group’s traditional power cliques: big oil. Royal Dutch Shell is represented in Turin by its chief executive, Ben van Beurden, and the French oil and gas giant Total has sent its chairman and chief executive, Patrick Pouyanné, who will be welcomed to the conference by the Bilderberg insider and Total board member Patricia Barbizet.
Sitting alongside Barbizet on Bilderberg’s steering commitee is the BP director Sir John Sawers. The former head of MI6 has this year invited BP’s chief financial officer, Brian Gilvary, who can chat about fracking with Dambisa Moyo, a director at Chevron.
The presence of Ben van Beurden, the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, is part of a big oil resurgence at Bilderberg. Photograph: Bart Maat/EPA
The veins of Bilderberg run with oil, and its beating heart is the Dutch royal family and its oil interests. The founding president of the group was Prince Bernhard, the grandfather of the current king, Willem-Alexander. In his inaugural speech at the first conference in 1954, Bernhard set out the purpose of Bilderberg: “Because the free countries of Europe, the United States and Canada must act as a unit, they must try to think the same way. This is a long-term process.”
Out of this consensus emerged the EU, for decades nurtured around the Bilderberg conference table. And yet now, as they stand on the brink of a brave new algorithmic age, everything they have worked so hard to achieve is under threat.
At the top of the conference agenda are the dire words: “Populism in Europe.” The EU, already given a black eye by Brexit, is facing another thumping from Italy’s populist coalition, and the transatlantic alliance is groaning under the strain of Trump. Which is why Turin is the perfect choice for the 2018 summit.
The city is the spiritual home of Fiat and the Agnellis: the flamboyant Gianni Agnelli was a mainstay of Bilderberg throughout the last few decades of the 20th century, and a close friend of Kissinger (not, in this instance, a euphemism). His grandson, John Elkann, runs Exor, the holding company for the Agnelli billions, and sits on Bilderberg’s steering commitee.
Agnelli attended 37 conferences: his spirit will loom large over the Turin gathering, which is being held at the old Fiat HQ. It offers a chance for Bilderberg to reflect on its past, remember its victories and gather courage, so that it can hurl itself back into the battle for globalisation.
Also at the conference will be George Osborne, who was recently given a job at Exor, chairing a council of business advisers. The Evening Standard editor has recently been criticised for allegedly selling positive news coverage to big business. Is Osborne going to be inking some juicy cash-for-content deals in Turin? Or might he grit his teeth and report on what is discussed?
Of course, Osborne is not the only representative of the media at Turin. In fact it is a bumper year for journalists: there are columnists, editors, TV anchors, from the editor-in-chief of Bloomberg to the president of Turner International. Elkann is on the board of the Economist Group (Exor has the majority share).
Scratch an industrialist at Bilderberg and you will find a media magnate. Antti Herlin, the Finnish delegate who runs Kone Corporation – “a global leader in the elevator and escalator industry” – also happens to be the vice-chair of the company that owns the daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.
And yet with all these media representatives, we will learn little of what is said in Turin.
"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
Trustworthy Freedom Fighter
Joined: 13 Jan 2007
Location: Westminster, LONDON, SW1A 2HB.
|Posted: Mon Jun 11, 2018 4:08 pm Post subject:
|Will Bilderberg still be relevant as the future of war is transformed?
This year’s summit is all about war – but what they all want to conquer is artificial intelligence
Charlie Skelton Mon 11 Jun 2018 07.00 BST
This year’s Bilderberg summit is a council of war. On the agenda: Russia and Iran. In the conference room: the secretary general of Nato, the German defence minister, and the director of the French foreign intelligence service, DGSE.
They are joined in Turin, Italy, by a slew of academic strategists and military theorists, but for those countries in geopolitical hotspots there is nothing theoretical about these talks. Not when the prime ministers of Estonia and Serbia are discussing Russia, or Turkey’s deputy PM is talking about Iran.
The clearest indication that some sort of US-led conflict is on the cards is the presence of the Pentagon’s top war-gamer, James H Baker. He is an expert in military trends, and no trend is more trendy in the world of battle strategy than artificial intelligence. Bilderberg is devoting a whole session to AI this year – and has invited military theorist Michael C Horowitz, who has written extensively on its likely impact on the future of war.
Horowitz sees AI as “the ultimate enabler”. In an article published just a few weeks ago in the Texas National Security Review, he quotes Putin’s remark from 2017: “Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”
Horowitz says “China, Russia, and others are investing significantly in AI to increase their relative military capabilities”, because it offers “the ability to disrupt US military superiority”. Global military domination is suddenly up for grabs – which brings us to the most intriguing item on this year’s Bilderberg agenda: “US world leadership”.
Bilderberg’s most eminent geopolitical sage, Henry Kissinger, will growl this ominous phrase with ancient delight. He has been clanging the funeral bell of American world leadership for decades. Back in 2005 he wrote about how the rise of China would bring about “a substantial reordering of the international system”.
The White House is clearly concerned: sending to Bilderberg the National Security Council’s director for China, Matthew Turpin. Not that this “gravity shift” to the east is something Turpin could talk about in earshot of Trump.
But here’s the thing: this tectonic reshaping of power, in which “the centre of gravity of world affairs” moves from America to China, is a pre-AI concept. The chief executive of Google recently described AI as more significant for humanity than “electricity or fire”. What this “all-encompassing revolution” means for traditional power structures is the possibility of utter transformation. It is not just that world leadership will be passed from the US to China like a baton. It is that the whole structure of world leadership might just melt away, or take a form that no one, not even Kissinger, could foresee.
What this means for Bilderberg is that the system of transatlantic influence and opinion-shaping that the group has spent more than six decades refining might vanish overnight. All the diplomatic machinations of Józef Retinger and Étienne Davignon, all the Rockefeller, Agnelli and Wallenberg power, rendered irrelevant by the disruption of AI.
Little wonder that Bilderberg, in this state of existential angst, is trying desperately to keep up with the latest tech developments: this year discussing “quantum computing” in a session led by Hartmut Neven, the director of Google’s Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab. The Turin guest list is littered with folk from Google. AI expert Demis Hassabis, who runs Google’s DeepMind project, is already a conference regular. Bilderberg knows that the future lies in hi-tech, so it is grabbing Google with both hands.
In the meantime, having a few proxy wars with Russia is a pleasant way to pass the time. Especially if you run a giant arms company, as several at Bilderberg do. Marcus Wallenberg is chairman of Saab, which makes fighter jets. Giampiero Massolo is chairman of Fincantieri, which makes frigates. And Thomas Enders is chief of Airbus, the seventh biggest arms company in the world. Skirmishes in Estonia would be good for business, if not for Estonia.
Still, the biggest ethical question faced by the summit is not whether to milk the madness of war for profit. Bombing and rebuilding countries, missiles and debt, that’s all fine: that’s just how neoliberalism works. What’s tougher to justify, within a democratic framework, is the practical process whereby conflicts are being debated, behind closed doors, by top policymakers in concert with billionaire industrialists and private sector profiteers. The prime minister of the Netherlands discussing global flashpoints in luxurious privacy with the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell and the chairman of Goldman Sachs International. It’s horrible optics.
At Bilderberg, you’ve got the secretary general of Nato discussing Russia with financiers whose job it is to turn knowledge into dollars. Bilderberg member Sir John Sawers used to run MI6. Now he runs Macro Advisory Partners, helping his clients to navigate “a volatile and fragmenting global landscape” while “maximising opportunity and minimising risk”. He does the same for BP, as a member of its board of directors.
This is what Kissinger has been doing for decades through Kissinger Associates: leveraging information for money. This isn’t how representative democracy is meant to work. It’s how Wall Street works. It’s the geopolitical version of insider dealing: private access to non-public information.
What the politicians at Bilderberg ought to realise, when they take a break from brainstorming war to enjoy the buffet, is that they are the buffet. There’s not much dignity in undermining democracy. But there is a huge pile of money, and for many people that’s enough.
'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
Joined: 25 Jul 2005
Location: St. Pauls, Bristol, England
|Posted: Sat Jun 16, 2018 12:42 pm Post subject:
|Undercover at the world's most secretive society: Mail reporter infiltrates shadowy Bilderberg summit where the West's power brokers 'set the world to rights'
Secret conference of the global liberal elite held in luxury hotel on police lockdown for three days
Elusive annual ‘Bilderberg Conference’ is always protected by anti-terror police, military and a no-fly zone
Attended by figureheads of politics, business, banking, academia, royalty, telecoms, technology
For the first time in its 66-year history a journalist penetrated security to go undercover at the hotel
2018 agenda items included Populism, where populist political parties threaten to withdraw from EU
Conspiracy theories have surrounded Bilderberg for years, such as claims that it selects world leaders to impose a ‘New World Order’
By SIAN BOYLE, INVESTIGATIONS REPORTER FOR THE DAILY MAIL
PUBLISHED: 22:48, 15 June 2018 | UPDATED: 10:19, 16 June 2018
On the first day of my new job as a hotel waitress before I have a chance to polish a glass or proffer a canapé I’m primed in detail about how to enter the building. Not via the front foyer, but circuitously through a ‘secret staff entrance’.
It is imperative I memorise the route, I’m told by the briskly efficient restaurant manager, who steers me through it, via an obscure door by a KFC outlet in a low-rent shopping mall.
We then travel up two floors in a shabby service lift, past a phalanx of security men, through an underground delivery area, past bins, a staff canteen and along a harshly lit subterranean corridor that smells of urine.
Another staff lift disgorges us into the hotel kitchen, through two swing doors and finally into the light and bustle of its restaurant and gleaming lobby.
Undercover Mail reporter infiltrates Bilderberg secret society
Bubble rooftop meeting room and helipad designed by Renzo Piano
Bubble rooftop meeting room and helipad designed by Renzo Piano – it is unknown if there were any meetings held here
A freelance journalist, who posted footage online of the empty garden marquee where the Bilderberg banquet was due to be held, reported that Italian police stormed his hotel room at 4.30am breaking down his door and ‘pointing a gun’ at him
It is vital that I take this labyrinthine route in and out of the hotel for the next five days, I’m told, as there is a ‘top secret event’ taking place. ‘The whole hotel is closed to the public,’ says my boss. ‘It’s very important you remember you cannot go in and out of the main entrance. You must use the secret one.’
Although I feign meek subservience, I know very well why levels of security have been ramped up to such histrionic levels at this unassuming four-star hotel in northern Italy, because I am here undercover. My mission is to covertly observe the most secretive gathering of the influential and powerful in the world, known as the Bilderberg Group.
This cabal of the global, largely liberal, elite with strong ties to the EU meets every year amid a cloak of secrecy.
At this year’s gathering? With so-called ‘populism’ high on its agenda, passionate Remainers, including former Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and former Chancellor George Osborne, all took time out of their busy schedules to attend.
Over drinks receptions and lavish meals, they rubbed shoulders with former president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, three serving EU prime ministers and a current European Commissioner in charge of the bloc’s budget.
Last weekend, the Mail became the first newspaper in the 64-year history of Bilderberg to penetrate its formidable security, gaining insight into the extreme paranoia of this most elusive of clubs.
I watched as military police guarded the hotel perimeter and sniffer dogs checked for bombs outside. Last week, one freelance journalist, who posted footage online of the empty garden marquee where the Bilderberg banquet was due to be held, reported that Italian police stormed his hotel room at 4.30am breaking down his door and ‘pointing a gun’ at him.
Armed police present at the Turin airport, near to where the Bi
Armed police present at the Turin airport, near to where the Bilberberg conference was held this year
So clandestine are the Bilderberg gatherings that no minutes are taken, no press conferences given and no reports published.
The conference operates under ‘Chatham House Rules’, which means participants can use and report information exchanged there, but not disclose the source. But with no record of what goes on Bilderberg was held on exactly the same weekends as G7 and NATO defence meetings, allowing opportunities for conference calls critics have said it should be much more transparent. Many argue that the event exists solely to serve as a networking and lobbying opportunity for its attendees.
The Bilderberg Group so called because it first met in 1954 at the Hotel Bilderberg in the Netherlands is made up of at least 120 self-proclaimed ‘leading citizens’ of Europe and the U.S., who meet annually to discuss ‘issues of common interest’.
Every summer, figureheads from politics, business, academia, finance and defence lock themselves away in a closely guarded hotel for three days to discuss topics of vital global significance about which the rest of us can only speculate.
Hypothesis and conjecture about the content of their talks inevitably abound. At one extreme there are conspiracy theorists who believe that the hounding from office of Margaret Thatcher, the downfall of U.S. President Richard Nixon and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy were all secretly orchestrated by the Bilderberg Group.
Such claims are, of course, outlandish, but mystery fosters extravagant speculation.
The roll-call of attendees is invariably auspicious. Prime ministers, royalty Prince Charles and Prince Philip have both attended army generals, corporate CEOs and bank governors all make time in their busy schedules to be there.
THE BILDERBERG CONFERENCE 2018 AGENDA AND ATTENDEES
TOP of the Agenda at this year’s Bilderberg Meeting was ‘Populism in Europe’ – evidence of populism’s impact as it’s swept across Europe and America. It is surely no coincidence that Bilderberg took place in Turin, Italy, where the populist Five Star Movement and anti-immigrant League parties’ coalition threatens the stability and future of the European Union altogether. And as Donald Trump continues to blaze a trail through his Presidency, the Bilderberg group was also keen to discuss ‘US world leadership’ and ‘The US before midterms’.
There was a significant European Union representation in Turin last week, with Jose Manuel Barroso, former president of the European Commission (and now non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs) toasting his membership in the Bilderberg club with four serving EU Prime Ministers – Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Ana Brnabic, Prime Minister of Serbia, Charles Michel, Prime Minister of Belgium and Jüri Ratas, Prime Minister of Estonia. They were joined by Spain’s deputy PM, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría and Turkey’s deputy PM, Mehmet Simsek. Former Prime Minister of France, Bernard Cazeneuve, also flew out for the shindig, as did Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for budget and human resources at the European Commission.
Bilderberg says it exists as ‘a forum… to foster dialogue between Europe and North America’, and American VIPs always take time out of their busy schedules to attend Bilderberg. Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, has been attending Bilderberg on and off since 1957. Last weekend he made the trip out to Turin, in a wheelchair accompanied by minders, at the age of 95. David Petraeus, former director of the CIA, made an appearance alongside him, as did John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado. Representing the incumbent United States government were Matthew Turpin, the National Security Council’s Director for China, and James H. Baker, the director of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Many of America’s most prestigious universities attended the Bilderberg meeting including the Universities of Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Pennsylvania, Princeton, New York University and the American University. Think-tanks included the Hudson Institute and the Hoover Institution.
Figureheads from many industries including defence, communications, finance, business, politics, banking and academia are always represented at Bilderberg, but this year has truly been that of the technology titans. Bilderberg seems exceptionally keen to explore automation and the robotics, listing ‘The future of work’, ‘Artificial intelligence’ and ‘quantum computing’ as events on its Agenda. The 2018 cohort included the co-founder of LinkedIn, the CEO of Vodafone and the director of Harvard-MIT Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative.
Eric Schmidt, the former executive chairman of Google, has attended Bilderberg before and Google was the star of the show this year. Hartmut Neven, director of engineering of Google Inc. was in attendance alongside Demis Hassabis, the British co-founder and CEO of its AI branch DeepMind. They were joined by Jared Cohen, founder and CEO of Jigsaw at Alphabet (Google’s parent company). Cohen was formerly US on the Secretary of State's policy planning staff as an advisor to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. Bilderberg also invited experts and consultancies in the wider fields of Artificial Intelligence, such as Harvard-MIT Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative and PA Consulting Group, which specialises in AI.
Shifting sands in the Middle East and recent furore surrounding Russia were enough to garner places on the Agenda, with ‘Saudi Arabia and Iran’ and ‘Russia’ both listed. The Bilderberg Conference took place on exactly the same weekend as the G7 summit and the NATO Defence Meeting this year. Some speculate that conference calls took place between the three, but Bilderberg never releases details, minutes or reports of what is discussed other than its vague agenda list.
This year’s cohort of Britons included Sir John Sawers, former head of MI6, and Marcus Agius, who resigned from Barclays Bank following the Libor rate-fixing scandal both former trustees of the Bilderberg Association.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary flew in alongside academics from Oxbridge, UCL and the LSE. They mingled with heads of international bodies including NATO, the World Economic Forum and UNESCO and, for the first time in its history, a Vatican representative.
Sitting cheek-by-jowl with the traditional establishment is the new power elite: the technology titans. The 2018 cohort include the co-founder of LinkedIn and the CEO of Vodafone. Google is well-represented: present this year are its director of engineering, the founder of its sister company Jigsaw and the CEO of DeepMind, a British artificial intelligence company.
I’m told by a manager on my first day: ‘It is a top event. It is like the G7 people from all over the world. The Fiat boss. You can’t tell anyone what goes on here, all the staff are completely sworn to secrecy.’
I’m told not to engage in conversation with these special guests and instead to ‘look down’.
Last week’s meeting in Turin was hosted by Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, owned by the wealthy Agnelli family dynasty, which housed delegates in a hotel converted from its former Fiat car factory.
Unlike previous Bilderberg meetings, which have been held high up in the Alps or in remote chateaux, this year’s conference is, audaciously, hidden in plain sight.
The NH Lingotto shares space with a run-down shopping centre the location of that secret staff entrance itself surrounded by 10ft concrete walls, and the main hotel entrance is accessible only through a police check point. Inside, as guards swarm the lobby and staff are kitted out with walkie-talkies, I’m frequently left to my own devices. Nevertheless, the NH Hotel Group said it ‘takes the security of its guests very seriously’.
I wander around, exploring the store rooms, staff areas and the main switchboard for the entire hotel, surveying wires and buttons from floor to ceiling.
In spite of ferocious security efforts, if I was someone with nefarious intentions I could have done something pretty terrible by now.
On my first day, I’m given a staff master-key with access to all 240 guest rooms.
As I work methodically through each, supplying it with mineral water and a fruit bowl ready for the arrival of its VIP inhabitant, I wonder could I be preparing this for Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands? Or perhaps Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary? Or even for American statesman Henry Kissinger? On Thursday afternoon at the hotel, minutes before the first delegates arrive, the tension in the foyer is palpable.
Outside, I survey the dozens of suited security and hotel staff, many with ear pieces, some virtually bouncing on the soles of their shoes. No one speaks. They all just wait in position.
Many of the VIPs arrive in private jets at Turin private airport, from where they are driven with police escorts blue lights flashing, but no sirens to the hotel.
A flurry of hotel staff greet the disembarking VIPs, while more staff with hotel-branded umbrellas shield them from the lashing rain.
A polite American man approaches me. ‘Excuse me, where’s the bar around here?’ he asks. I clock his name badge: David Petraeus, former director of the CIA and commander of the United States Central Command, as I ask him what he’d like to drink.
‘Which red wines do you have?’ he asks, at which point I remember I’m not actually bar trained; I’ve no idea where the wine was even kept, let alone which vintage to recommend. I have to summon help.
Then a room service errand takes me up to an Italian delegate’s room. He has ordered five bottles of mineral water and one glass to use for each bottle. As soon as the door is halfway open, he barks: ‘Still, I ordered still! Not sparkling!’ I’m relieved I have a colleague with me who assures him: ‘But this is still, sir.’
One of the yellow cards given to guests, where they talked about 'populism in Europe', 'Whither free trade' and other subjects. In each ‘evaluation form’, the delegates must rate each talk on a scale of one to five on factors including ‘importance topic’, ‘quality panellist’, ‘interaction’ and so on
I arrive back downstairs to see a much-diminished Henry Kissinger being escorted in a wheelchair across the marbled floor by two suited men.
At 95, Mr Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State, is one of Bilderberg’s oldest and most regular delegates. The alleged war criminal has been attending intermittently since 1957.
Demis Hassabis, the British computer game designer behind Google’s DeepMind, then asks me for directions to the ‘dinner’. Improvising, I direct him vaguely down the corridor.
A jovial man in glasses also approaches me to ask where ‘the conference’ is. It is Jose Manuel Barroso, former president of the European Commission, now chairman of Goldman Sachs International. He is surrounded by four people all clamouring to talk to him, and he looks like the cat that got the cream.
All attendees are also given yellow paper ‘score cards’ on which they must give TripAdvisor-style self-evaluation assessments of talks. On each form delegates must rate discussions on a scale of one to five including ‘importance of topic’, ‘quality of panellist’, ‘interaction’ and so on.
The discussions include such subjects as: ‘Populism In Europe’, ‘The U.S. Before Mid-Terms’ (in other words, Donald Trump) ‘The Future Of Work’, ‘Jobs, Skills, Wages’ and ‘Whither Free Trade?’ plus the more ambiguous ‘Where Are We?’
One hot topic currently dominating the agenda in Europe immigration was noticeable by its absence. And, as with so many corporate jamborees, each attendee is given a blue-and-white goodie-bag at the end, tagged with the message: ‘A gift from the Italian hosts of Bilderberg thanks to the generosity of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.’
Inside are Italian toiletries, a coffee-table art book with foreword from the Agnelli family, and mints branded with sketches of the Lingotto Fiat building.
The Bilderberg hotel
The NH Lingotto hotel, location of this year’s Bilderberg Conference, is housed within the Lingotto building – the site of the former Fiat factory, with a rooftop racetrack seen in The Italian Job.
The colossal building, with views of the Alps, features a distinctive ‘bubble’ rooftop meeting room and helipad designed by architect Renzo Piano, as well as a ‘sunken auditorium’ concert hall elsewhere in the old factory.
The Lingotto building is owned by the wealthy Agnelli Family Dynasty, the industrialists who created Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Gianni Agnelli reportedly attended Bilderberg 37 times before his death and was good friends with Henry Kissinger, seen as a ‘Bilderberg ringleader’.
Kissinger once said: ‘During the last two decades of his life, no one was closer to me than Gianni Agnelli.’ Kissinger is the godfather of John Elkann, Agnelli’s grandson.
The 42-year-old heir to the Fiat Fortune was the host of the 2018 Bilderberg Meeting and sits on its decision-making Steering Committee. Elkann is chairman and chief executive of Exor, the Agnelli family’s investment company, to which former Chancellor of the Exchequer and current Editor of the Evening Standard George Osborne was recently appointed just days ago. John Elkann also sits on The Economist board alongside Eric Schmidt, former executive chairman of Google, and Sir Simon Robertson, the Deputy Chairman of HSBC.
Simon Robertson Associates LLP is the registered address of The Bilderberg Association, a tax-exempt charity and the UK financial arm of Bilderberg. The most recently listed trustees of Bilderberg Association were Zanny Minton Beddoes, editor-in-chief of The Economist, and Lord John Kerr of Kinlochard, deputy chairman of Royal Dutch Shell. Last night the Charity Commission said it had ‘opened a case’ into Bilderberg Association to ensure it was complying with its transparency criteria.
Bilderberg presents an abundance of networking opportunities for those lucky enough to be chosen to attend. Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, is due to step down from his role next year and has ambitions to head the International Monetary Fund. Michael O’Leary’s contract with Ryanair also ends next year.
George Osborne, the editor of the Evening Standard, possesses seven other job titles. At Bilderberg, he will have had ample chance to speak to his business contacts.
He was recently appointed chair of a business council at Exor, the holding company for the Agnelli family billions. John Elkann, the Agnelli heir who hosted this year’s Bilderberg, sits on the Economist board alongside Eric Schmidt of Google. A spokesman for Bilderberg Meetings said that ‘participants take care of their own travel and accommodation costs’.
He added: ‘The expenses of maintaining the small secretariat of Bilderberg Meetings are covered wholly by private subscription. The hospitality costs of the annual meeting are the responsibility of the steering committee member(s) of the host country.’ But it would not confirm who pays into this ‘private subscription’.
Amber Rudd, a member of the Queen’s Privy Council, refused to answer any of our questions including whether she divulged state-secret information at the conference. Nor did she say whether she will fully declare her attendance at Bilderberg, both financially and as a potential conflict of interest, as stipulated in the House of Commons Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament.
Last night, the Charity Commission said it was probing the UK financial arm of Bilderberg following the Mail’s investigation. As a registered charity, the Bilderberg Association is exempt from tax, but the Commission said it had received a ‘number of complaints about its activities’.
The charity’s most recently listed trustees are Lord John Kerr of Kinlochard, deputy chairman of Royal Dutch Shell, and Zanny Minton Beddoes, editor-in-chief of The Economist which yesterday published an editorial leader entitled: ‘A hard Brexit seems ever less likely: Good.’
To legally qualify for charity status, the organisation must overwhelmingly serve a ‘public benefit’, and not a political purpose.
The Bilderberg Association says its purpose is ‘the education’ of ‘mankind, the public’. But because no public reports are published into what actually happens at the conference, there is no way of proving this charitable public purpose.
The Commission said it was opening a case into the Bilderberg Association ‘to ensure its activities are in line with its charitable objects and its legal duty’ and remind it of ‘the importance of transparency’.
A spokesman said it was a criminal offence to knowingly or recklessly provide false or misleading information to the Commission.
Lord Kerr said he was ‘not a trustee’ and directed queries to the address where the charity is registered, Simon Robertson Associates, a financial advisory group run by the former director of Goldman Sachs. Sir Simon Robertson is also on the board of the Economist.
The Bilderberg Association declined to comment, while Ms Minton Beddoes referred us to Bilderberg Meetings, the global company.
For three days I’ve stood on the periphery watching, listening. But ultimately the world’s most secretive meeting remains elusive; a distant babble of voices a few metres away from me along a corridor in a closed room. Near, but infuriatingly just too far away to discern.
So for another year Bilderberg has retained its mystique; its impenetrable secrecy; its elitism. And we mere mortals, unseen and unremarked, are none the wiser.
The Bilderberg conference: Military-level security and hostility to press
The Bilderberg Group holds its meetings cloaked in secrecy far away from the prying eyes of the general public. Local police, state police and even the military of whichever country has been selected to host the Meeting are on hand to keep out the riff-raff. Fences, barricades and police checkpoints are erected, and metal detectors and X-Rays search anyone attempting to enter the ‘Bilderberg Hotel’. As one reporter who covered the event says: ‘You know Bilderberg’s about to begin when you start seeing the guns.’
The Bilderberg Group are notoriously camera shy, and take extreme measures to prevent journalists from capturing what it discusses – including following them, intimidating them and detaining them. In 1999, journalist Jon Ronson attempted to report on Bilderberg in Sintra, Portugal, and managed to get inside the Conference’s perimeter. Ronson later found himself ‘chased by mysterious men in dark glasses through Portugal’ and described being scared for his safety.
‘When I phoned the British embassy and asked them to explain to the powerful secret society that had set their goons on me that I was essentially a humorous journalist out of my depth, I wasn't being funny’, he wrote. ‘I was being genuinely desperate.’
The British Embassy told him they there was nothing they could do. Ten years later, journalist Charlie Skelton was arrested half a mile from the Bilderberg hotel in Vouliagmeni, Greece.
He described being approached by a ‘man with the machine gun’ and a group of police who ‘circled round me… prodding me in the shoulder, and shouting: "Give the camera! Just give the camera!" He was driven to the local police station and released after they’d verified his identity. Later, he was arrested a second time for taking more photographs, and said he was followed in Greece for days by plainclothes policemen.
Last Tuesday freelance journalist Josh Freidman entered the oasis-garden of the NH Lingotto Hotel where the Bilderberg Meeting was due to be held, and posted online footage of the empty marquee before the conference. He described how days later, Italian police burst into his hotel room at 4.00am, demanding to see his documents.
He said: ‘I was lying in bed, it’s dark, I heard a lot of noise coming up through the stairwell… Then suddenly my door flew open and five officers burst into the apartment.
‘They flicked on the light switch and at least one was pointing a gun at me as I was lying in bed.’ He said the police asked him for his name and documents. Later they apologised and said they been looking for a ‘suspect’ who they believed had been in Freidman’s room. When the Bilderberg Conference was held at the five-star Grove hotel in Watford, Hertfordshire in 2013, Hertfordshire Constabulary revealed that policing alone cost £1million.
There was also a large G4S presence, fences, a no-fly zone and further anti-terror measures. Bilderberg offered to pay up to £500,000 towards this cost, but Hertfordshire Police appealed to the Home Office – and the taxpayer - to cover the shortfall. Bilderberg says that attendees cover their own cost of transport, and that the Steering Committee and host country pays for the Conference each time it is held there.
But it is unclear how publicly-funded figures, such as elected politicians and Royalty, pay for and declare their Bilderberg attendance. Bilderberg also states that ‘Bilderberg Meetings are covered wholly by private subscription’, but does not give further details as to who pays this private subscription nor by how much.
"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung